Central to this study is the impact of the implementation of coteaching on students’ language learning experience. Coteaching is conducted to encourage students to take active participation in their learning process by acting as coteachers in groups. Their involvement in teaching demonstrates how they work cooperatively within coteaching groups and foster a mutual relationship with the peer learners they teach. Learner autonomy is associated with the implementation of coteaching. Its key components relevant to this study are learner responsibility and interdependence. Both coteaching and learner autonomy are underpinned by the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (Vygotsky 1978) whereby the process of preparing to coteach generates a linguistic distance between coteachers and peer learners, allowing peer teachers to play a guiding role in their peers’ learning.
Coteaching has been defined in the field of language learning with a number of different emphases. However, Murphy and Scantlebury’s (2010) definition is representative and relevant to the current study in particular. According to them, coteaching is when two or more teachers teach together and share responsibility for meeting the learners’ needs. They argue that coteaching includes two dimensions. First, coteachers work cooperatively while seeking to help students to learn. Second, the process of coteaching enables coteachers to learn from each other and share valuable ideas with each other. Effective coteaching depends upon a number of key elements, such as face-to-face interactions, positive interdependence, interpersonal skills, monitoring coteacher progress, and individual accountability (Villa, Thousand and Nevin 2008). Coteachers’ group solidarity is another essential element of coteaching. According to Gallo-Fox (2010), it helps coteachers to come to an agreement about how they would conduct their coteaching practices in the classroom.
Research suggests that coteaching benefits both coteachers and learners. From coteachers’ perspectives, coteaching increases their subject knowledge and develops their teaching skills (Roth and Tobin 2005), encourages them to reflect on teaching (Murphy and Scantlebury 2010), enables them to share ideas and learn from each other (Tobin and Roth 2006) and develops mutual trust among coteachers over time (Honigsfeld and Dove 2010). Villa, Thousand and Nevin (2008) point out the benefits of coteaching for learners. They argue that coteaching enables learners to experience coteachers’ cooperative skills which they may then imitate. Learners also enhance their subject knowledge when coteachers present knowledge and skills using different approaches.
Within this study and within the literature, coteaching led by students at the whole class level is operationalised in teaching groups. Students take turns, as a group, to teach the whole class. The rationale for this is to ensure that students cooperate with each other and support each other in the role of coteacher or peer learner. The studies by Assinder (1991) and Carpenter (1996) include the key features of coteaching within the context of language learning for European languages. Assinder (1991) involves 12 students in her project and concludes that the coteaching experience helps students to have a more accurate and in-depth understanding of subject knowledge, increases their motivation and confidence and facilitates them taking greater responsibility for their own learning. Similarly, Carpenter (1996) in her case study of 60 students discovers that the intervention encourages students to take greater responsibility for their learning. She also points out that coteaching generates a strong group dynamic in the class. These studies reveal the benefits of coteaching in classroom settings and provide practical implications for the current study.