3 years ago I was to take up a new role which included a large portion of co-teaching/team teaching (TT). Being conscientious 😉 I thought it best to do some reading on the topic. Other than Hattie supporting co-teaching in his meta analysis (0.19 effect size ranked equal with school counselling and just one spot below class size) I knew very little about the theory and background of this pedagogical approach. The research uncovered a number of specific TT strategies: Station, Parallel, Alternate, a combination, the list went on. It was to be my first experience with this type of strategy but I approached it with an open mindset and the view that it was going to be another learning curve within the extended curve of my 11 years experience as an educator. Besides, if it’s good enough for Hattie then it’s good enough for me and I’ve also always enjoyed being part of a team.
Pro’s & Con’s
Amongst many effective characteristics, Phys. Ed’ers are notorious for being team players. You can’t teach this practical, time on task focussed and collaborative subject without embracing the concept of teams. For me, within a PE environment, TT provides a plethora of teaching and learning opportunities otherwise experienced on a less frequent basis or not at all. I’ve listed some of the pro’s and con’s of the approach below and in my opinion the pro’s definitely outweigh the con’s…
- Teachers are empowered to teach to their strengths.
- There’s always a second set of objective eyes through out the entire teaching process.
- Modeling of real collaboration and communication for all students to see.
- Simple and continuous grading verification.
- Development of a relaxed peer coaching culture and feedback loop.
- Continuous on the job professional development through peer teaching and mentoring.
- Extra set of hands to adjust/set up equipment and space for new lesson. This is especially handy when your schedule is back to back and/or you are switching age groups, lesson objectives or even whole activities.
- More variable student groupings and opportunities for broader range of social interactions.
- Higher student numbers which can help facilitate more realistic sport ed. models with more teams, increased competition and greater scope for duty team roles and responsibilities.
- Provides collaborative planning time for the classroom teachers.
- Maintaining consistency between teachers in regards to behaviour expectations.
- Maintaining consistency between teachers in regards terminology and instructional cues.
- Assessment (but when is it ever not a challenge)
- Finding the chance to build a rapport with each individual student.
- Learning students names.
- Lining up of class schedules so that grade levels are scheduled for PE at the same time.
- Sharing and allocation of equipment and/or facilities.
- Sufficient staffing- a team of at least 2 specialist PE teachers.
Purpose & Philosophy
I’m a believer in autonomy and having your own identity as an educator. Prescriptive curriculums and/or standardised tests are not what teaching and learning is about in the 21st century. This is where, when starting out on your TT journey, a TT philosophy is important to ensure you retain your identity and then further enhance it.
My TT philosophy and purpose statement was developed through practice, collaboration and experimentation. It wasn’t something I found easy to create off the bat and was something that developed over time. Many of the pro’s listed above play an important part in both the purpose and philosophy and 5 semesters later it turns out our teams TT approach remains dynamic along with our purpose and philosophy. I.e. We’re always changing things- content, cues, progressions, lessons and annual plans; it never stops. I guess it’s no different for any PE teacher that’s worth their weight in colour coded pylons, however the very important difference here is that the changes are based on feedback and critical review from eyes and ears other than your own.
I believe TT’s proven beneficial to both the teachers and students within our mainstream PE programme. The TT environment is naturally conducive to critical evaluation but also risk taking. “So I was thinking to do this next lesson. What do you think?” Bounce a few ideas around maybe even play some of the scenarios out physically and wallah, new, authentic learning experience created and planned (that we didn’t even need to trawl Twitter for 😁). It’s like being in a constant PD conference attending workshops and scavenging for ideas to implement in your lessons when you return back to school, except the ideas are there everyday.
Last but definitely not least, I’m working in an inclusive school and in my opinion TT is as inclusive as it gets! You can have all the aides, class buddies, modified equipment and planning you like but to have another PE specialist along side you during an intensive learning support lesson (with a range of ages, abilities and behaviours) is irreplaceable. Both teachers on the same wavelength with an in depth understanding of the goals and steps required to reach them transfers to a more meaningful, individualized and appropriately differentiated learning experience for all involved. More on ILS PE later 🙂
Still not a believer? Try it for yourself as a team taught unit or even just a single lesson to get a taste for it. The kids will love getting to mix with a broader group of their peers at the very least. New challenging rivalry’s initiated and friendships made. Enjoy!