Collaboration, Coteaching, and Coaching in Gifted Education: Author Q&A
Collaboration, Coteaching, and Coaching in Gifted Education: Author Q&A
PUBLISHED: Monday, July 27, 2020 by Andilynn Feddeler

Collaboration, Coteaching, and Coaching in Gifted Education: Sharing Strategies to Support Gifted Learners provides gifted educators with methods and strategies for facilitating and maintaining collaborative work in order to challenge and support gifted students all day, every day. Learn more about the book and collaborative professional learning in this interview with the authors, Emily Mofield, Ed.D., and Vicki Phelps, Ed.D.

Q: How do collaboration, coteaching, and coaching benefit both teachers and students?

A: Collaboration at the classroom level allows for differentiation to be more manageable and effective for the classroom teacher. When students are appropriately challenged and engaged, they can show and grow their giftedness. Differentiation in the regular classroom is difficult, but with deliberate coplanning and/or coteaching, there is a shared responsibility for student learning. In this context, the teachers are “thinking partners” who actively reflect on how their practices impact learning. We view collaboration as a means for capacity building in which other educators develop skills and knowledge for supporting gifted learners. Collaboration embraces the expertise of all team members involved in supporting gifted learners (e.g., gifted education teacher, classroom teacher, school psychologist, educational specialists, etc.). Ultimately, successful collaboration, coteaching, and coaching result in educators and students feeling valued for their strengths.

Q: When and in what settings might collaboration, coteaching, and coaching be most beneficial?

A: We see collaboration as a way to supplement other types of gifted services. For example, many schools enhance pull-out service models with collaborative teaching in the regular classroom or provide collaborative support to regular education teachers who teach cluster groups. We all know there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching gifted learners. This is why collaboration, coteaching, and coaching in gifted education are so important as we continue to learn and build capacity in others for improving instructional practice. Not only do these practices benefit teachers, but they also benefit student learning, motivation, and engagement. This is especially important when working with students with diverse needs (e.g., profoundly gifted; twice-exceptional; culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse; underachievers; perfectionists; etc.). In taking into consideration the complexity of gifted learners and current circumstances that have mandated distance learning in many places, collaboration becomes even more important as gifted students’ needs exceed what is often provided through online coursework.

Q: How might this book be used in professional learning sessions?

A: Teachers may use this book as a platform for sharing curricular resources, reflecting, and determining next steps for collaboration. This book provides guidance for gifted education and regular education teachers coming together in communities of practice for ongoing support. Part of this involves discussing the various interpersonal dynamics that relate to starting positive collaborative relationships. Collaboration is personal. In our book we offer a framework for building the foundations of positive collaboration through what we call the TEAM frame (Trust, Engage, Align, Maintain). During professional learning sessions, teachers can discuss various threats to collaboration (e.g., status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness) along with ways to address them. For example, we emphasize communicating through presuming positive intent, and professional learning sessions offer opportunities to practice this way of communicating. Teachers can also discuss the various coteaching models and strategies, brainstorming ways to use them with specific content in the regular classroom.

Q: How does the book aid teachers in planning and implementing the strategies suggested?

A: We offer several tools along with explanations of how to use them based on our experiences in facilitating collaborative work in schools. For example, we provide a number of strategies that are often used with gifted learners (e.g., elements of reasoning, Kaplan’s thinking tools, creative thinking strategies applied to content), but do so in a way that works in a collaborative context. These models are explained as they can be applied to various coteaching models in gifted education, such as Scout teaching, Carousel teaching, or Stretch teaching. Other resources are useful when a gifted education teacher may model a lesson. As a gifted education teacher presents a strategy, the classroom teacher can reflect on the impact the strategy has on student learning. The reflective process leads to capacity building in which classroom teachers learn to use what we call “vertical differentiation” in the classroom. Other templates are provided for coplanning, coteaching, and engaging in reflective coaching conversations. Additionally, we include tools to support the first steps in collaboration, such as developing the interpersonal partnerships that are so crucial to the collaborative process.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

A: Beyond gaining a greater understanding of the what, why, and how of collaboration, we hope our readers continue to embrace the ongoing, reflective “co-thinking” and “co-laboring” that is necessary to challenge and support gifted learners all day, every day. Collaboration is a process, and it takes time. Although there are many collaborative strategies and avenues to explore within our book, we also want our readers to recognize that even the small, initial steps to collaboration make a positive impact and lead to larger, next steps.


Emily Mofield, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of education at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, with 15 years of experience teaching and leading gifted services. Vicki Phelps, Ed.D., is the Lead Consulting Teacher for Gifted Education in Sumner County, TN, with 20 years of experience teaching and leading gifted services.