The Rewards of Team Teaching

Mandeep Somal and teaching partner Emily Imbrogno
Photo credit: Mandeep Somal

It’s the end of day and I have just finished writing an email update to my teaching partner about what students did in class. I have a sense of relief that I made it through the day, while at the same time I’m glad about what we have accomplished. I’m also delighted that I have someone to share my experiences with who knows the students, the content, and the design of the class. Team teaching works for me!

How does team teaching work?

Team teaching (a.k.a. collaborative teaching or co-operative teaching) is when two or more teachers work together to help students to achieve their learning goals. Together the “team” of teachers formulate the learning objectives, course syllabus, modules/lessons, and assessments for a class. They not only teach, monitor, and assess student progress together, but also work collaboratively to overcome challenges that may arise in the class. A common practice in many educational institutions, team teaching fosters growth of knowledge and skills within the teaching professional and student.

I have team-taught for many years with different teaching partners for various ESL classes. I have found having a teaching colleague to share the responsibilities of a class to be one of the most interesting and rewarding ways of teaching and developing as an educator.

What does team teaching look like in my practice?

My current teaching partner and I have been working together in our LINC class since January 2019. Together we brainstorm ideas of what we want students to do and learn through theme-based learning modules and project-based learning (PBL). We then develop skill-building, skill-using, and assessments material together electronically or face-to-face. Communication with each other on student progress is ongoing. There is constant open communication between us, and rarely a time where we feel we do not know or understand what the other is doing when in the classroom.

We teach two skills each – listening and speaking or reading and writing. We generally teach on different days a week, so only one of us is in the classroom at a time. We utilize resources that target the skills we teach and support competency areas (CA) for PBLA. For example, when doing a module on health, safety, and the body, my teaching partner taught listening and speaking for CA I, while I taught reading and writing for CA I. This made students more comfortable and connected while learning.

What makes team teaching work?

  1. Open communication between teachers – this can consist of daily updates about the class, sharing ideas of what and how to teach, or jointly assessing students’ progress.
  2. Efficiency in work – since you know that someone else is depending on you to complete your share of the workload, you become accountable to stay on schedule and get your share done in a timely manner.
  3. Greater attention to detail – nobody wants to work with a messy or unorganized teaching partner, thus making you attentive to detail.

Why team teach?

If you’re not team teaching now, then you may ask yourself, “why do it?” Here are some reasons why I advocate for team teaching:

  • exposure to a variety of teaching styles and lesson materials
  • multiple teachers evaluating student skills
  • more “deeper” learning than “surface” learning
  • sharing resources, planning courses, and problem solving collaboratively
  • developing a rapport between teaching professionals
  • learning from each other, exposure to different techniques and skills

Of course, team teaching is not suitable for everyone. In some instances, the design of a class or course does not require more than one teacher. It also takes time, planning, and coordination. Communication between teaching partners is paramount, and teachers have to be willing and ready to work with their teaching partner(s) to achieve joint learning objectives. However, if it can be done, the benefits of working with another teaching professional are tremendous!

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