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!

POST COMMENT 7

7 thoughts on “The Rewards of Team Teaching”

  1. Mandeep, this is such a great post about team teaching. I was nodding in agreement to so many of your statements. In any workplace I’m in, I love working with a team to sound board ideas and build something great together. It’s so awesome that you and your partner have developed a strong team!

    1. Hello Tamsin! It’s wonderful to hear that working collaboratively in your workplace is something that you enjoy and adds value to what you do. There’s so much learning and sharing that can be gained when we can work with others.

      After writing the post, I noticed that there’s been a new area of teamwork I have been developing on recently. It’s through online collaboration. That is strictly communicating with others to complete a task or project via email. It has been quite an eye-opening experience for me because I don’t have the face-to-face cues to help in the communication process……there’s only text and document attachments!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience regarding team teaching. I am an ESL support teacher with a public school Board. I believe in the importance of team teaching. As an aspiring school leader, I would like to know the role in which your administrator played to promote team teaching at your school? Also, how does team teaching look like with when your students are working on inquiry based projects? Do you combine classes? How do students take charge over their learning within team teaching. As an ESL support teacher, I team teach with another colleague. However, I do not have my own class, thus, whatever direction my colleagues students’ decide to take, we go ahead with me and support their learning. However, if I had my own class it would be more complex.

    Some of my colleagues expressed some of the above concerns regarding team teaching and inquiry based learning. My goal is to organize a professional development workshop that aims to address team teaching and inquiry based learning which is an important part of 21st Century teaching.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you.

    Thank you,
    Ian

    1. Hello Ian!

      In the LINC program I teach in, we have different ESL classes for students with CLB levels 2-8. Most of the classes in our program have two teachers for one class. One teacher teaches listening and speaking, while the other teaches reading and writing. Teachers generally teach on different days, so they are never in the classroom at the same time. The class I teach in, with my teaching partner, has a unique component where students make video projects. This is where students do most of their PBL. Our class has 3 periods a day and one of those periods is designated to working on the video projects. This is when students work together to create a group video project on a topic of their choice.

      Sometimes my teaching partner and I create the video project assignment together when we’re in a face-to-face collaboration meeting. Other times, we take turns making up video projects assignments for the class to do.

      When students work on their video project, our role as teachers is to guide students in their learning and the creative process. We help students think of ideas, answer their questions, find information, problem solve, or help with script writing for their videos. However, students do all of the actual work in creating their group videos such as planning, research, shooting video footage, editing, adding music/text/sound effects. It’s a very “hands on approach” to their learning.

  3. Hi Mandeep,

    Thank you for your response. Sounds like an exciting program. I really like the way in which the teaching partnership focuses on certain aspects (listening and speaking) and (reading and writing). This will provide focused support targeting specific skills, and this is beneficial for students. A few years ago my Board launched the Empowering Modern Learners framework that focuses on 21st Century teaching and learning through inquiry based learning and the integration of technology. As a future school leader, I am interested in preparing a professional development workshop that focusses on the six pillars from the EML framework, these include:

    Learning Culture
    Informative Assessment
    Access to technology
    21st CenturyCompetencies
    Learning Environments
    Models of Learning

    The goal for my PD workshop is to integrate all six pillars using inquiry based learning and social justice issues (e.g., Indigenous issues in Canadian society).

    The majority of students at our school are English Language Learners. I was intrigued to read in your response that you have successfully implemented problem based learning and have provided students with the opportunity to create video footage showcasing their learning. This is fantastic! What type of issues do your ELL students research? What types of modifications and/or accommodations are you providing your students? When creating my PD, I would like to implement some examples of assignment outlines that encompass inquiry based learning and technology (aligned with the EML framework). Would you be willing to provide a sample of an assignment outline? or perhaps guide me to some resources that I can share with teachers. Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Ian

    1. Hello Ian! It sounds like an exciting P.D. workshop you are working on. My next blog post examines the process of creating a major video project with a group of students. Possibly it may give you some additional insight on project based learning. I also recommend visiting the Buck Institute for Education (link below). It has information and resources for PBL that can be adapted for any class/course:
      http://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl

  4. Hi Mandeep,
    Thank you very much for the resource! This is fantastic! There is a lot of great information that I can include in my PD. I am looking forward to your next Blog with the examples.
    Thank you,
    Ian

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