Teaching Methods

If you’re interested in adopting a team teaching approach, here are some tips … and some pitfalls to watch out for.

Team teaching can broaden learning opportunities for students. If you’re thinking about adopting the approach, what should you be thinking about before entering into a team teaching relationship?

Dr Stephen Keast and Dr Bec Cooper are science teacher educators in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. ‘It's important to go in from the outset with an understanding of what each other is expecting from the relationship. Particularly in terms of the planning, the implementation of that plan, so the actual teaching, the assessment,’ Cooper says.

How will you divide the class up to assess them? How will that impact on reporting, parent-teacher interviews and long-term learning for the students? Some students may respond better to the consistency of feedback from just one teacher.

Keast says you also need to think about ‘who does the student come to for support and help? Whether it's emotional, or whether it's academic.’ What does this mean for your teaching load? Keast adds it’s important to work with someone you have similar values to, and be honest with each other. ‘If one of you was saying “Oh no, we must follow the lesson plan” and somebody else wants to change, and they go off track, then the other person gets frustrated.’

Ultimately that’s about building good relationships. Cooper suggests those just starting out should ‘plan a half lesson each and swap over, watch the other person, be a bit critical, and let it develop into a team teaching approach’. She adds you need to make sure there’s an understanding of ‘team’. ‘I think it’s very, very easy for one teacher to dominate and for the other teacher to be left quite lost with: What is my role, What is my identity in this team? And, how they can be seen in the eyes of the students as still being a teacher of the class.’

A major pitfall is having one person take over all the planning – even if they’re not doing all of the teaching, the learning journey, lesson connections and assessment structure will be from one viewpoint. Keast says that doesn’t allow the other team member to show their personality, possible ways of teaching the topic and routes into student engagement.

The final piece of advice (apart from picking a good teammate!) is to reflect together. Take time to discuss how the lesson went, maybe keep a professional learning journal. Be willing to hear criticism – it’s about the students’ learning, it’s not personal.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.