Whatever Happened To Team Teaching?

Teaching as a team isn’t uncommon at the planning stages of meeting together but actual team teaching in the classroom certainly is.

Some teachers haven’t ever tried team teaching and that is a missed opportunity.

Why is it such an under-used way of teaching? I mean what could better than two teachers coming together with the joint mission of enhancing their own teaching and developing their students’ learning?

But team teaching comes in many guises (and some prefer to call it co-teaching instead):

1. Traditional

One teacher teaches while the other constructs a concept map on the whiteboard to support her colleague.

2. Collaborative

Several teachers devise the content as a discussion in the presence of the learners so that the lesson construction itself becomes a learning process.

3. Complementary/Supportive

One teacher teaches while the other looks after follow-up activities or provides study skill support.

4. Parallel

The class is divided into small groups and each teacher teaches identical material.

5. Differentiated split class

Each teacher teaches the same topic but the class is divided into ability groups.

6. Monitoring

One teacher teaches, the other monitors behaviour or checks understanding of individuals.

7. Tag-team teaching or turn-teaching

Where each teacher takes the lead in different aspects of the lesson and handles them single-handedly.

8. Station teaching

Teachers are responsible for different parts of the lesson plan which allows them to play to their teaching strengths.

9. Coordinator model

Where the team is a single coordinator who invites specialists to give a one-time presentation of specific material that fits in the scheme of the course.

Which ‘flavour’ of team teaching appeals to you and which one can you plan for with a colleague?

The advantages of team teaching are many and include:

  • the value of children being exposed to different teaching styles, approaches and strategies
  • the opportunity for children to get to know different teachers
  • opportunities to share ideas, planning, teaching and evaluation
  • reduce workload
  • more effective and reliable assessment as ‘two heads are better than one’
  • the value of children being exposed to children of different abilities and so having to ‘tune in’ to their needs
  • sharing the responsibility for behaviour management
  • sharing subject knowledge, background knowledge and expertise
  • allowing for active reflection and analysis
  • teacher get a better awareness of themselves as teachers
  • presenting a good role model to children and developing team working between children
  • boosts morale, improves confidence and contributes to a school of skilled teaching staff

The value of team teaching for teachers’ own professional development of skills, knowledge and understanding is huge.

It improves the quality of scholarship and classroom craft and teacher weaknesses can be identified and worked through.

Teacher strengths are powerfully combined and there can be a constant simmering of ideas, nudging and progress as teachers can be more creative and learn from one another.

Team teaching might be good for some but not for others because of concerns related to professional autonomy, power, and recognition.

Some teachers might even be prejudiced against team teaching and the practicalities of it but my experience tells me that these fixed mindsets change when colleagues are brave enough to try it a few times. They soon realise that working together makes a big difference on many levels. It should be part and parcel of training to be a teacher and be a requirement for teachers to team teach once qualified.

Rather than being fragmented and tenuous, team teaching should occupy a central place in school development and teacher PD.

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