Team teaching is one of those terms that you hear bandied around from time to time, but if you’ve not tried it then it can be hard to know quite why to bother and, if you do, how to make it an effective way of leading learning.
There are various different models of team teaching, but at its most basic, the idea is that instead of Teacher A teaching Class A, Teachers A, B & C teach Classes A, B and C in the same class at the same time. There might be two of you or four of you – your main limitations will generally be willingness of colleagues to join the fray and available space for teaching super-sized classes.
It won’t save you time
The first thing we absolutely must be clear on is that this is not a teaching method that will save you time. It sounds like it would, that if three of you are team teaching, you’ll only have to plan and deliver a third as many lessons… Well, that’s one way of doing it, but it’s not the best way. If you really want to innovate in your teaching and inspire your learners, then you’ll do best if you treat this as a true team activity. Rather than palming off part of your curriculum on someone else, you endeavour to work together to deliver the best possible version of the curriculum that you can between you.
Share best practice
One of the most positive things about team teaching is how much we can learn from our colleagues. Schools are full of talented teachers but we barely ever get to see each other teach. We don’t even do that great a job of sharing lesson plans or swapping ideas as we tend to be so busy. But if you decide to team teach, you’ll discover the fabulous CPD benefits of working amongst a small team of colleagues who are approaching the same topics through a different perspective, drawing on different experiences and ideas. This really is a case where more heads are better than one, more experienced teachers can bring years’ of experience (and lesson plans) into the equation whilst newer teachers might bring a fresh perspective on an old topic.
To make team teaching work well, it makes most sense to plan together rather than parcel the work up. Planning together – or at least planning the initial stages together, means you can draw on more ideas and experience when planning your lessons and each teacher can bring knowledge about their own class’s strengths, weaknesses and areas of specific interest.
Spend extra time planning for differentiation
When working with a larger group and with multiple teachers, it’s possible to plan in a far greater depth for differentiation than might usually be possible because there are more teachers available to spread the load. If there are three of you teaching together why not have a lead teacher, a teacher who leads on stretching and challenging the most able learners and a teacher whose focus is to ensure that less able learners are able to access the lesson and meet tailored learning objectives.
Watch and feedback
You can learn a huge amount just by watching your colleagues teach, by really entering into the team spirit of team teaching and being present for all lessons, including those for which you are not the lead teacher, you’ll be providing yourself with the most fabulous CPD opportunity. Watch and learn from your colleagues, and be willing to provide feedback on what you felt worked particularly well and what might be worth trying differently next time. You will be in a good position to provide constructive feedback to even your most experienced colleagues if you have found particularly effective ways of working with specific students that your colleague is less familiar with.
Welcome feedback from your colleagues too. If you felt something went less well than it could have then brainstorm it with the other teachers on your team and you’ll have plenty of ideas about how to do things a little differently next time.
Move beyond your comfort zone
Having the back up of other teachers whilst you’re both planning and teaching can provide you with the confidence you need to try something you might not otherwise have felt able to do. Use team teaching as an opportunity to stretch yourself and give those ideas a try which have, up until now, resided firmly at the back of your mind.
Play to your strengths
Working as part of a team will give you a chance to try techniques and ideas which you previously felt less comfortable with, and it will also give you an opportunity to do more of what you’re good at too. Within the team you’re likely to have a range of skills and it’s great for your combined classes to access the very best of each of the teachers in the team.
Be consistent when it comes to behaviour and assessment
One danger of bringing multiple classes and multiple teachers together is that there may be a wide range of expectations with regards to assessment and behaviour. Even if you each have very different approaches when teaching individually, it’s important to apply consistent standards when working together. That might mean developing specific standards for behaviour and assessment which you only use when team teaching. These should meet in the middle and work well within the larger group dynamic. It’s okay to move slightly away from the approaches you use when teaching alone as long as the new approaches are clearly communicated to the class and consistently applied by all members of the team.
Good luck! We hope you’ll find team teaching to be an interesting approach which both helps you to develop as a teacher and helps to keep your pupils motivated and engaged.
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