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Team Teaching

What is Team-teaching?

The sum of the parts should be greater

Team teaching involves a group of adults - teachers and teaching assistants - working purposefully, regularly, and cooperatively to help a group of children learn. Team teaching also known as collaborative teaching or co-teaching.

Our teaching-teams are interdisciplinary, collegial, school-within-a-school teams that work with two-year groups of children. They support our holistic approach to learning. Working within and as a part of a team is a vital part of life-long learning. They are driven by enthusiasm, offer ongoing staff development around experience-centred work outcomes. New teachers may be paired with veteran teachers; all teams are mixed gender. Innovations and creativity are encouraged, modifications in delivery, group size, location and time are acceptable. Different personalities, voices, values, and approaches spark interest, keep attention, and prevent boredom and are more fun.

The team-teaching approach allows for more interaction between teachers and children; we want to ensure that no child ‘drops through the net’ with multiple adults taking an interest and supporting. Different relationships develop. The children tell us they like to work alongside different adults ‘there’s always someone who gets me’.

The team evaluate children on their achievement of the learning goals; students evaluate Staff members on their teaching proficiency. Emphasis is on collegiality, student and teaching-team growth, balancing initiative and shared responsibility, specialisation and broadening vistas, the clear and interesting presentation of content and student development, democratic participation and common shared expectations, cognitive, affective and behavioural outcomes. This combination of analysis, synthesis, creativity, critical thinking and practical applications takes place in four teams from Preschool to yr6.

There are two approaches used in our team-teaching method at Black Firs because teachers are ultimately accountable individuals within the team for the children’s learning. Sometimes we use Hierarchic team-teaching where the teachers work together, agree the parts of School curriculum to be delivered each term, create the planning and are accountable for the assessment, achievement and attainment of the children. They prepare individual lesson plans, meet parents, write children’s reports. They then deliver this learning by either co-teaching with the teaching assistants or each staff member will deliver the learning to different groups across the team.

We also do some Synergetic team-teaching delivery. This means there is no differentiation between teachers and the teaching assistants’ delivery. They all cooperate working together, share insights, argue with one another, and perhaps even challenge students to decide which approach is better. For example, we have synergetic team-teaching groups for phonics, guided reading and guided maths.

Six approaches observable in Black Firs co-teaching - One teach, one observes; One teach, one assists; Parallel teaching of the same material; Station or Assignment teaching of different learning outcomes; Alternative delivery teaching where a task or objectives are taught in different styles depending on the needs of the children; Full Team-teaching with everyone teaching and learning the same objectives at the same time.

Working as a team, staff colleagues model team-work, respect for differences, interdependence, conflict-resolution skills, creativity and the importance of different approaches. Team members together set the learning goals and content, select common resources, such as texts, materials, suitable educational visits and develop end of unit tests for all children. They agree the class book for our literacy-based approach and set the sequence of assignments. Importantly, they interpret the shared resources in their own teaching style. The greater the agreement on common learning objectives, the more likely that teaching will be interdependent and coordinated.

Teaching sessions are scheduled side-by-side. Teachers teach similar core subject areas at the same time. Due to the developmental age of our children, they concentrate better in the morning sessions, so teams would teach maths and English learning objectives relevant to the current learning assignments being deliver the remainder of the day. For some of the day, children may work in six groups, at other times there maybe three different assignments being taught and children will rotate around the teaching delivery. Staff may team up during the same sessions so that each teacher may focus on that assignment that they can best deliver. Children can sometimes meet all together, sometimes in small groups supervised by individual teachers or teaching assistants, or they can work singly or together on projects in different areas of the school or outside.

Breaking out of the taken-for-granted single-subject, single-course, single-teacher pattern encourages creativity, innovation and experiment. For example, children can be organised along or across lines of gender or other interests, then recombined to stimulate greater reflection. SEND support programs and greater-depth challenge provide other opportunities to make more targeted, appropriate and effective support for children. Through these, we can address different study skills and learning techniques. Team teaching can also offset the danger of imposing ideas, values, and mindsets on minorities or individuals; staff with different outlooks, backgrounds, training and interests can culturally enrich one another and our students.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Team Teaching

Advantages Disadvantages
Lower cost Acceptance of change by teachers
Closer support for children Rigidity in teachers
Support for teachers  Personality conflict
Closer integration of Staff Poor team management
Creativity & variety of ideas Going overboard
Better involvement of children Time for coordination and planning
Mental stimulation to children Hard to keep track of assessment
Breaks traditional lecture boredom Takes time to develop
Better bonding between children and teacher Resistance from parents & external agencies
Provokes participation & interaction Staff expectation of higher compensation
Models the lesson of team management The worst teacher is shared by all
Develops interpersonal skills & logic of children Teachers fail to do justice to the topic
Children get more individual attention  
Staff development  
Long-term knowledge retention  
its with life-long learning, holistic delivery & open-plan classrooms  

Advantages

We can get an efficient form of learning at a lower cost. Different grades of staff provide more learning support for children at lower cost. Paraprofessionals also bring a different skill-set, greater variety and a different culture. Resources are shared, more consistent and not endlessly re-produced. Humans bond when they interact, it is as simple as that. The bonding increases when staff ask questions and listen to what children have to say. People when heard and appreciated, will ultimately be more engaged. Internal cover is supplied. Staff don’t like to let down their colleagues so make more effort to be present. There’s no extra cost to start team teaching.

With different styles of delivery, more dynamic and interactive sessions and greater individual interaction children they learn better. Research shows that children’s knowledge retention has been much higher in team-teaching scenarios than the traditional learning approaches. Children do not all learn at the same rate. The same sessions of equal length are not appropriate for all learning situations. Educators are no longer dealing primarily with top-down transmission of the ‘tried & true’ by the mature and experienced teacher to the young, immature and inexperienced child in the single-subject classroom. Schools in the 21st century should be moving toward the inclusion of another whole dimension of learning: the lateral transmission to every sentient member of our society of what has just been discovered, invented, created, manufactured, or marketed.

It would also seem that one of the greatest life-long learning skills we can help our children develop is greater internal drive and motivation. The perseverance and ‘grit’ to apply one’s self now and defer gratification, is one of the keys to a successful and contented life. A key skill in achieving this, is appreciating and achieving self-regulation. For this to happen, team members with different areas of expertise are invaluable.

Team teaching is not the only answer to all problems plaguing teachers, students, and Governors. It requires planning, skilled management, willingness to risk change and even failure, humility, open-mindedness, growth-mindsets, imagination and creativity. But the results are worth it.

Teamwork improves the quality of teaching as various experts approach the same learning objectives from different angles: theory and practice, past and present, different genders or ethnic backgrounds. Teacher strengths are combined and weaknesses are remedied. Poor teachers can be observed, critiqued, and improved by the other team members in a nonthreatening, supportive context. The evaluation done by a team of teachers will be more insightful and balanced than the introspection and self-evaluation of an individual teacher.

Working in teams spreads responsibility, encourages creativity, deepens friendships, and builds community among our Staff faculty; they complement one another. They share insights, propose new approaches, and challenge assumptions. They learn new perspectives and insights, techniques and values from watching one another. Children enter into conversations between them as they debate, disagree with premises or conclusions, raise new questions, and point out consequences. Contrasting viewpoints encourage more active learning participation and independent thinking from students, especially if there is team balance for gender, race, culture, and age. Team teaching is particularly effective with older and underprepared students when it moves beyond communicating facts to tap into their life experience.

A successful team reduces and shares teaching burdens boosting morale. It encourages colleagues to have less time off because they know, if they are slightly under-the-weather, a colleague will ‘take the strain’ that day. The presence of another teacher reduces possible child-teacher personality clashes. In an emergency one team member can attend to the problem while the class goes on. It provides an element of short-term cover for staff to engage in CPD. Sharing in decision-making bolsters self-confidence. As teachers see the quality of teaching and learning improve, their self-esteem and happiness grow. This aids in recruiting, keeps continuity and helps retain staff.

For Black Firs team-teaching complements our Mission Statement and Values. It ‘fits’ with our approaches to life-long learning, our belief in holistic learning and our School building with open-plan classrooms.

Disadvantages

Team teaching is not always successful; some individuals have a closed mindset. These teachers are rigid personality types or may be wedded to a single method. Some simply dislike the other teachers on the team. Some do not want to risk humiliation and discouragement at possible failures. Some fear they will be expected to do more work for the same salary. Others are unwilling to share ‘their children’ or the spotlight or their pet ideas or to lose total control.

Team teaching can make more demands on time, energy and communication. Members must arrange mutually agreeable times for planning and evaluation. Discussions can be draining and group decisions take longer. Rethinking the curriculum to accommodate the team-teaching method is often inconvenient. Good team management and leadership is essential. Internal coordination and good team tempo are extremely important, internal conflict may result in a complete failure.

It is possible to go overboard. While being creative and lining up too many activities, it could get way beyond what’s required to learn. A little stimulation to students’ brains will bring out the best in them, but if it gets too much they will find it too hard to comprehend; experience in each team to find the right amount is essential.

There needs to be an understanding across the whole school enabling children to build on their learning as they progress through each team; a shred understanding of the ‘big picture’. There needs to be clearly established procedures and learning processes which each team ‘add to’ being clear in their part of the whole learning journey.

Opposition may also come from parents, external agencies like OfStEd and administrators who see different as a threat. Some children flourish in a highly structured environment that favours repetition. Some are confused by conflicting opinions. Too much variety may hinder habit formation.

If we compare the efforts required for teaching solely with the efforts required to teach in a team, then the later one is undoubtedly much harder and would require deep study, more communication, time and planning. Thus, there may be a staff expectation of higher compensation; higher salaries to reflect the additional responsibilities undertaken. Team leaders may need some form of bonus. Such costs could be met by enlarging some class sizes. Nonprofessional staff members could take over some responsibilities. This could ultimately bring financial pressure to the educational institute.

Main Ingredients of a successful Team-teaching Strategy

  • Whole school vision and sense of direction.
  • A team of teachers with various sets of skills perspective and expertise. Friendly nature and ability to keep the environment conducive.
  • An effective strategy and training for staff who are new to the concept of team teaching.
  • The growth mindset of teachers, paraprofessionals and children must be open to change and must embrace this form of learning.
  • Planning, Preparation & Assessment time efficiently scheduled with the space away from children to meet
  • Grouping and organising of children
  • Effective way to assess students’ progress and performance
  • Good communication, regular meetings and follow up, rotation of roles to enhance learning
  • Teachers and other paraprofessionals, teaching assistants, respect one another’s ideas and assign themselves responsibilities
  • Open-plan building arrangement with distinct team areas and a variety of different teaching spaces
  • The children are provided independent study time
  • Team based resource centres and small group teaching spaces

In conclusion

All things being considered, team teaching so enhances the quality of learning, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. If done properly, team-teaching can be an effective tool for successful life-long learning. Though it requires more effort and coordination, it promotes overall growth and development for children and Staff. Every time we offer the alternative to the Parent Body, they want to keep Black Firs team-teaching.