Home Programs Breaking Down the Monolingual Wall V: Collaborate to Thrive

Breaking Down the Monolingual Wall V: Collaborate to Thrive


Let’s Start Here

Educator collaboration is an essential component of dual language education across all program models. By design, many dual language programs are based on a partnership between and among two or more educators who come to the practice with language, [multi]literacy, content expertise, and cultural knowledge and skills in their respective languages and combine their fortes through regular collaboration and co-planning. At other times, dual language teachers forge additional partnerships and collaborate with English Language Development (ELD) teachers who may provide additional language instruction, or special educators (such as Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy providers, speech-language pathologists, and other support personnel), who may offer in-class support to ensure that students’ complex academic, linguistic, sociocultural, and social-emotional needs are met. Given the diversity and momentum of growth within dual language programs, we’re urgently called to make collaborative partnerships a top priority of practice.

Why Collaborate in Dual Language Programs?

Dual language educators are in a critical position to support Pre-K-12 dual language learners’ multilingual development while simultaneously offering instruction that builds racial and ethnic identities, empowers home languages and cultural heritages, and debunks patterns of marginalization and minoritization. Given the many complexities of dual language schools’ programmatic formats and the communities where they are situated, dual language educators (teachers, paraprofessionals, instructional assistants, coaches, and leaders) now more than ever are well-positioned to collaborate in strategic ways within the context of the classroom, the school, the district, and the larger neighborhood community. This article offers some insights on how to tear down silos and dismantle segregated learning experiences for multilingual learners. We believe in and strongly advocate for educators forging partnerships and all members of the school community collaborating for the sake of their multilingual learners. Simply stated, everyone benefits from collaboration.

How do We Know it Works?

It is well-established in the professional literature and well-documented in evidence-based practitioner accounts that the intentional implementation of the collaborative instructional cycle consisting of collaborative planning, instruction, assessment and reflection yields impactful teaching and learning experiences (Lachance & Honigsfeld, 2023). While coteaching is not always feasible, educators may be engaged in co-planning, co-assessing and co-reflecting. In configurations that do include co-delivery of instruction either via coteaching or partnership teaching, co-planning, co-assessing and co-reflecting are essential pre- and co-requisites (see Figure 1)

Figure 1. The Collaborative Instructional Cycle

Adapted from Honigsfeld & Dove, 2019

Applying The Collaborative Instructional Cycle to the Dual Language Classroom

For teaching pairs, trios, or quads who are either co-teaching or partnership teaching, and collaborative teams who devise and implement instruction for dual language learners, we recommend that all members develop a clear plan of action based on the collaborative instructional cycle—co-planning, co-teaching or partnership teaching, co-assessment, and co-reflection.


Co-planning is an essential activity; it provides teachers the opportunity to set general learning goals for students based on educational standards, to maintain continuity of instruction, to integrate curricula that include partner language and content objectives, to dialogue and discuss effective ways to leverage students’ home language and cultural assets within instruction and assessment processes, and to co-create authentic multilingual, multidimensional materials that give all students access to content while developing both their basic and disciplinary multiliteracies. Without co-planning, there is no co-teaching or partnership teaching, the second element in the integrated instructional cycle. On the flip side, teachers do not have to co-deliver instruction and still can and should engage in co-planning.

Collaborative planning for strategic use of translanguaging in lessons is a beneficial example of collaboration that ensures the creation of a classroom that is a safe and supportive space where students’ multilin­gual talents are used authentically, regularly, and with purpose. With these practices like these we can also ensure equitable use of both program languages rather than any greater emphasis given to the majority language with English-dominant learners. Some edu­cators might perceive translanguaging pedagogy as the sole responsibility of the bilin­gual educator, especially in classrooms that are serving emergent bilingual students with different abilities. Our stance is more focused on collaboration between all educators of MLs.

Built on the four pillars of dual language education, we invite you to use a four-dimensional collaborative planning framework (see Figure 2). When all four dimensions noted are considered together, collaborative planning maximizes teacher effectiveness and meaningful impacts on students’ language acquisition and biliteracy learning in both languages. In addition, students’ grade-appropriate core content knowledge and skills develop along with sociocultural understanding and critical consciousness. Collaboration is vitally important whether the team includes dual language partnering teachers or additional service providers such as special educators with or without the opportunity to co-deliver instruction. As such, collaborative planning upholds multilingual practices brought to life in the dual language classroom.

Figure 2

Integrated Focus on Planning for Dual Language Teaching 

Focus Key Questions Planning Notes
        Language Expectations and Opportunities for Bilingualism and Biliteracy   What language learning standards do we target?  
What academic language—general and subject-specific—are embedded in the target content in both languages?  
What opportunities do our students have to practice the four key language uses (narrate, inform, argue, explain) across both their languages?  
    Academic Content Development What content standards do we target and assess?  
What scaffolds are needed to support comprehension of content and language through interpretive modes of communication (listening, reading, viewing)?      
 What scaffolds are needed to support application of content and language through expressive modes of communication (speaking, writing, visually representing)?      
Cultural Competence What materials can help students develop cross-cultural competence?  
What learning tasks and activities can students engage in to demonstrate cross-cultural competence?  
        Critical Consciousness How have we ensured that both program languages are given equitable attention?  
What aspect(s) of critical consciousness have we woven into the lesson content and/or materials?  
What opportunities have we planned for our minoritized dual language learners to serve in linguistic leadership roles?  

Adapted from Lachance and Honigsfeld, 2023

Co-Delivering Instruction

   Co-delivering instruction takes on various forms and involves a range of educators in the dual language context. Co-delivery requires coordinated purpose, equal teaching partnerships, and shared responsibilities for a class community of learners who are not separated for instruction by their labels. Rather, co-delivery involves the thoughtful grouping of students for learning, clear and shared agreements regarding one’s roles and responsibilities during the co-taught lesson, and the coordination of teaching efforts. Co-delivery also invites challenges teachers to remain flexible, to be open to new ideas, and to trust one another to problem-solve together.

Depending on the program model implemented in schools, we differentiate between two major approaches to collaborative instructional delivery in the dual language context: partnership teaching and co-teaching. There are many unique similarities and difference between these two main approaches to co-instruction, but let’s start with some straightforward, simple definitions:

  1. Partnership teaching happens when two teachers systematically align their instruction, work with the same group of students, but do not (or rarely) co-deliver instruction in the same physical setting.
  2. Co-teaching takes place when two teachers physically share the classroom space, responsibility for all students through integrated instructional practices.

Partnership teaching and co-teaching partnerships may also include ELD (English Language Development) teachers, special educators, literacy or math intervention providers, and other educators, such as paraprofessionals or instructional aides (also referred to as paraprofessionals, or teaching assistants). Two-way programs are frequently designed to rely on two teachers collaborating and coordinating instruction for two groups of students. Do you recognize any of these basic configurations for partnership teaching? How do they compare to your context?

Scenario 1:

Group 1/Class 1 begins the day with Teacher 1 in Language 1

Group 2/Class 2 begins the day with Teacher 2 in Language 2

         Halfway through the day, the two groups are swapped: 

Group 1/Class 1 finishes the day with Teacher 2 in Language 2

Group 2/Class 2 finishes the day with Teacher 1 in Language 1

Scenario 2:

Group 1/Class 1 spends an entire day with Teacher 1 in Language 1

Group 2/Class 2 spends an entire day with Teacher 2 in Language 2

         The groups and teachers switch every day

Scenario 3:

Group 1/Class 1 spends an entire week with Teacher 1 in Language 1

Group 2/Class 2 spends an entire week with Teacher 2 in Language 2

         The groups and teachers switch every week

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Co-assessment provides teaching partners with opportunities to consider their students’ individual strengths and needs by reviewing available student assessment data to establish shared instructional goals and objectives. Collaborative assessment practices allow teachers to decide the need to further build students’ background knowledge or the requisite for re-teaching and review in either or both partner languages. Although the analysis of standardized assessment scores provides some information, for teaching teams to establish pertinent learning objectives, we urge the examination of additional data such as local school assessments in both partner languages, unit tests in both partner languages, bilingual project-based outcomes, bilingual writing samples, learning summaries, bilingual journal writing, student observations, and other formal and informal evaluations. Comprehensive data collection and analysis reveal a more holistic picture of students’ progressions to then determine individual student needs which may be used more effectively for dual language linguistic, instructional, and programmatic bridging, planning follow-up, and continued instruction for biliteracy.


Co-reflecting on educational practices has many aspects, and it frequently sets the parameters for the next collaborative instructional cycle. Reflection provides insight into whether strategies and resources used during lessons are affecting student learning and can be particularly useful when teaching teams want to hone their collaborative skills. Successful teaching partners often reflect on both their challenges and successes to refine instruction. As we transform our collaborative practices in dual language education to be truly multidimensional, we must also shift our actions to increase our collaborative reflections. Biliteracy development is based on the intertwining of both languages, a process we all agree to describe as deeply complex. Stephen Brookfield (2017) suggests that we view what we do and how we form assumptions about the teaching-learning process that takes place in our classrooms through four different lenses. We’ve adapted them for the dual language context:

  1. The students’ eyes:
    What are the students seeing and experiencing as they assess their own and each other’s multilingual/multiliteracies development?
  2. Our colleagues’ perceptions:
    What are our colleagues seeing and experiencing within the collaborative assessment processes that are reflective of sociocultural competencies?
  3. Our own personal experiences:
    What have we experienced in the past that is similar or different than our MLs’? What connections can I make my own sense of critical consciousness?
  4. Relevant theory and research:
    What do related educational theory and research have to say about these experiences as they align with all four pillars of dual language education?

We recognize that collaborative educators dedicate significant time and resources to the three aspects of the collaborative cycle: co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing. We take the stance that co-reflection is a must-have, a critical aspect of the cycle whereby experiences provide empowering motivators to consistently renew the full instructional cycle.

What’s Next?

We remain steadfast to continue our efforts for breaking down the monolingual wall and, we advocate for dual language educators to collaborate with national- and state-level policymakers, community and school leaders, immigrant students and families, and others seeking multilingual schooling for integrated collaborative instruction. Dual language programs and instructional practices must be based on based on the equity principle that multilingual learners avoid isolation from their English-speaking peers for biliteracy development. For students to have a welcomed sense of belonging and thrive academically, they need to be taught by subject-specific experts, that is the dual language content and grade-level teachers who are committed to promoting biliteracy development along with developing MLs’ English-language skills. Therefore, strategic multilingual collaboration practices between dual language teachers and ELD specialists ensure instruction is provided by language-development professionals for students to learn the core curriculum in both program languages. A conclusive representation of what we embrace and honor for success may be demonstrated through the words of Margarita Calderón and her colleagues as they claim, “the success of dual language programs depends on collaboration between teachers, administrators, and students. In a dual language school, teachers are well-prepared to co-teach and students to co-learn” (p. 163). Thus, collaboration is perceived to be the norm, simply stated, a solid necessity for breaking down the monolingual wall.


Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Calderón, M., Espino, G., & Slakk, S. (2019). Integrating language, reading, writing, and content in English and Spanish. Velázquez Press.

Honigsfeld, A., & Dove, M. G. (2019). Collaborating for English learners: A foundational guide to integrated practices. Corwin.

Lachance, J., & Honigsfeld, A. (2023). Collaboration and co-teaching for dual language learners: Transforming programs for multilingualism and equity. Corwin.

Andrea Honigsfeld is a TESOL professor at Molloy University, NY, author/consultant, and sought-after international speaker, whose work primarily focuses on teacher collaboration in support of multilingual learners. She is the co-author/co-editor of over 30 books, eleven of them bestsellers.

Joan Lachance is an Associate Professor of TESL at UNC Charlotte, NC. author/consultant. As the co-author of the National Dual Language Education Teacher Preparation Standards ©️ she designs and delivers professional learning on teacher preparation nation-wide which primarily focuses on dual language educator collaboration, especially for multilingual learners. She is the author/coauthor of numerous manuscripts and books.

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