How can schools embrace team teaching as part of a continued professional learning agenda?
What is team teaching?
As the name suggests, team teaching indicates a group of educators, teaching in a team. It may be comprised of 2 to 5 teachers who will prepare individual lesson plans and teach a topic, using the same activities and resources to the same group of students. It is also called ‘shared teaching’ or ‘co-teaching’. Team teaching is most beneficial when educators are collaborating effectively with one another and share a common purpose. Teaming an experienced teacher up with an early career member of staff certainly brings with it some distinct advantages such as being able to elaborate on the thought process when certain decisions are made. This sort of modelling enables newly qualified teachers to get the inside picture of how an expert member of staff approaches certain tasks. These sorts of competencies can remain hidden away from the rest of the education community.
We have been utilising team teaching for creating inclusive classrooms. When staffing timetables allow it, we are encouraging our partner schools to facilitate their action research projects in the presence of their colleagues. We have found that together, these teams develop much more objective observations. This has helped our community of teachers who are utilising their new classroom resources to understand their student's needs in greater detail. This does however require more time, a luxury that many schools don't have but when they do, we think the benefits of facilitating together are really powerful. Many schools make the best use of their teaching assistants in this way. In this article, we will provide an outline of how schools can go about incorporating this type of instructional practice as part of a professional learning agenda.
What are the main objectives of team teaching?
There are many benefits of this approach to instructional practice. Classrooms can be lonely places for early career teachers. The following are some of the main objectives of team teaching:
1. To improve the quality of teaching;
2. To modify the classroom teaching according to the abilities and interests of the students;
3. To best utilize the teaching style, interests and expertise of teachers in the teacher’s community.
What are the main characteristics of team teaching?
Below are the main characteristics of Team-Teaching:
- Team teaching involves two or more teachers participating in the process of teaching;
- The team-teaching activities are decided by the teachers themselves;
- The team-teaching plan is flexible;
- The team teaching is based upon the collective responsibility of teaching given to a small group of teachers rather than giving the entire responsibility of teaching to one teacher only. The responsibility is shared by all the the members of staff.
- In the team- teaching different aspects of any topic are taught by an individual teacher turn by turn.
- In the process of team-teaching, the needs of the students, schools and currently used exciting variety of resources are considered.
- Every teacher involved in the team-teaching process teaches and executes the team teaching process cooperatively.
- Team-Teaching involves collaborative teaching and every teacher taking part in the team teaching applies his/her experiences, abilities and exciting variety of resources.
What are the different aspects of team teaching?
- Role Differentiation: More than two teachers perform different roles in team teaching. The teacher performs an active role of a:
(i) Diagnostician: The teacher needs to assess the impact of different conditions on students’ learning outcomes and they find out the causes of failure.
(ii) Facilitator: The teacher must use group dynamics to facilitate learning.
(iii) Technician: The teacher needs to observe changes in behaviour and assess the success of teaching. In some cases, a teacher needs to function as a decision maker, strategist or guide.
- Regrouping of students: Normally, class sizes occur between 35 and 55 students. For team teaching, learners of two to three classes are grouped thus creating a larger group of 100 to 120 students together in one place. Students may also be grouped based on the subjects.
- Rescheduling of time: For team teaching, a small group of educators teach a large group of students. Due to this, a new schedule is needed according to the need of the subject. Team teaching is not feasible in the regular single-subject classroom in the school.
- Redesigning Teaching Spaces: Generally, the size of the classroom is according to the number of students in regular classes. Due to the larger group size, there is a need for larger teaching spaces for team teaching.
- Common time to plan activities: The group of teachers needs a common planning time to design their activities for team teaching. For example, they may choose to utilize audio-visual aids for team teaching. It is significant to have a common time to plan these activities.
- Teaching in a meaningful manner: The team structure provides opportunities for creative and reflective work. In team teaching, teachers must offer student development opportunities in a meaningful way. It is recommended to make a group of teachers with different talents. By doing so, the group of teachers will be able to develop concepts such as critical thinking and independent study skills.
- Resource centres: For team teaching, resource centres are created in primary and secondary school.
What are the major advantages of team teaching?
The concept of Team Teaching was derived in the USA in 1954. Advocates of team teaching believe that there is a wide range of benefits of team teaching, such as improving the:
- Job satisfaction, staff morale, staff retention and work environment;
- Secondary and Primary teachers learn from primary supply teachers;
- Performance of underprepared students improves due to learning more effectively from different teachers;
- Teachers' workload is decreased with regards to times for planning, marking and using practical applications for teaching;
- There are more chances to seek expert opinions in a structured environmen For example, tips regarding study skills in an education classroom;
- Interaction between teachers of varying teaching proficiency leads to an increased quality of teaching;
- Thinking from students viewpoint, students can get benefit from being taught by a small group of teachers or teaching assistants using alternative teaching approaches;
- Benefit from joining or pairing of teachers, teaching assistants or primary supply teachers with a unique teaching approach (for instance, language teachers with poor artistic skills pair up with a language teachers with good artistic skills);
- Modelling cooperation and teamwork to students;
- When a teacher is absent, there is a possibility of seeking advice or support from other secondary or primary teachers in the team teaching group for various issues;
- Opportunities for a struggling or inexperienced teaching team to get tips for team teaching and learn from other teacher strengths;
- When a group of teachers is working with primary supply teachers with the shared expectations, they are more likely to develop conflict-resolution skills.
What are the challenges of using the Team-Teaching Method?
Following are some of the demerits of using the team-teaching approach in a variety of environments:
- It is difficult to fulfil team teaching demands on time and money;
- It is not always successful to use a single method of team teaching in a school day;
- Team teaching is not suitable for nonprofessional staff or people with rigid personality types;
- Some primary supply teachers with a lack of content knowledge, and fear that they will have to do more work during a school day for the same salary.
- Some adults - teachers do not want to lose total control or share their pet ideas or the spotlight;
- It can be difficult to decide mutually agreeable times during the school day for preparing lesson plans, and for evaluation and planning carried out by the school teams;
- Team teaching approaches around teaching can take longer and can be draining;
- It can be inconvenient to redo the presentation of content according to the team-teaching method.
While implementing team teaching, team leaders and skilled management must keep in view the teaching assistant qualification and creation of a team balance. From education classroom to inclusive classrooms and from open-plan classrooms to accounting classrooms, team teaching is not only beneficial for students but it offers a great opportunity for preservice teachers to learn from the experience of veteran teachers.