The Benefits of Team Teaching

Chad and I team-teaching at Mt. Scopus College in Melbourne

Chad and I began experimenting with team-teaching at International School Tianjin. We were the teachers of the two Grade 4 classes at a school run by Steve Moody, who encouraged such experimentation.

Very quickly, Chad and I realized that we had very different strengths and that these strengths would be at their strongest when combined. We pulled all the doors off our two classrooms and “shared room” and started to treat the two classes as one class with two teachers. When we were reunited at NIST, we picked up where we left off. In total, we have team-taught for three years. Here are the benefits that we have noticed so far:

Time Opens Up

One teacher may lead the sessions while the other…

  • works with specific groups or individuals as part of the session itself
  • works with specific groups or individuals on something unrelated to the specific session – such as a focus lesson on competencies that has become necessary
  • works through assessment tasks that need to be completed
  • acts as an assistant and deals with practicalities to make the session run smoothly
  • prepares for an upcoming session
  • captures learning using anecdotal notes, photos or video for use later on

Two Brains, Two Perspectives, Two Personalities

As a result of two people teaching one class…

  • there is a natural balance in the kind of thinking that goes on with students
  • ideas are refined by the “to and ‘fro” of thinking
  • students get to see collaboration, compromise and communication being modeled every day
  • things that may not be obvious to one person are obvious to the other
  • students are able to seek different types of guidance as they get to know the strengths and personalities of the two teachers
  • there are two sets of eyes watching the students, noticing what they are doing and what they need
  • there is a natural “bouncing off” each other that not only makes thinking deeper but also makes teaching more social

“Two hands make light work”

When two people work effectively together…

  • there is a natural division of labour that makes practical tasks easier to achieve – such as changing classroom layout, creating resources, displaying work
  • two people are able to be more ambitious with what they do each day by spurring each other on
  • two people can offer students much richer experiences every day

This is not a comprehensive list… no doubt I’ll add to it over the next few days as I continue to think about it!

It is worth mentioning that Chad and I did not have an easy time working this way when we were in a team of five. There seemed to be some resentment of our dynamic and a feeling that if everyone was not “collaborating” in that way then we also shouldn’t be. I guess the main thing I would like to get across to school leaders or anyone working in teaching teams of three or more people is this:

“When two (or more) people naturally begin to collaborate… just let it happen. Don’t stigmatize it. Don’t resent it. Don’t punish it. Natural collaboration is what we all say we aim for, but if we squash it when it happens naturally it may never happen again!”

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5 comments

  1. whatedsaid

    Beautifully said… BUT… a lot depends on who the people are – their personalities, approaches and outlooks, how well they connect, whether there is mutual trust, whether they have shared beliefs about teaching and learning…

    • sherrattsam

      Exactly…so it mustn’t be forced if it isn’t happening naturally, just as it mustn’t be stigmatized if it is!

    • Mr. Sam

      Oh… and of course leaders need to try their best to put those people together, to create teams in which all of this is more likely to happen. Just the same way that teachers create groups of students that can work well together.

  2. Pingback: Big understandings realised in my own learning… | Notice… Reflect… Act

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