Collaborative teaching in flexible learning spaces
Quality teaching is not an individual accomplishment, it is the result of a collaborative culture that empowers teachers to team up to improve student learning beyond what any one of them can achieve alone… The idea that a single teacher, working alone, can know and do everything to meet the diverse learning needs of 30 students every day throughout the school year has rarely worked, and it certainly won’t meet the needs of learners in years to come.
(Carroll, 2009 cited in Dufour et al. 2010)
At Port Melbourne Primary School, collaborative teaching (otherwise known as co-teaching) is utilised across teaching pairs/teams to meet the diverse needs of our students and provide quality teaching and enriched learning opportunities.
This approach to teaching complements the school’s commitment to collaboration and shared ownership via the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model and our flexible, open-planned learning spaces. It is imperative that every student succeeds at our school regardless of his/her academic ability, learning style, social competence or level of emotional intelligence.
Working together assists our teachers to best facilitate this as opposed to working in isolation.
In addition to the work done through the Year Level Collaborative Team, both members of the teaching pair are responsible for differentiating the instructional planning and delivery, classroom management, assessment and providing feedback on student achievement.
When done effectively, two teachers in one dynamic learning space can enable:
- flexibility in differentiating instruction or tasks
- coverage of content more effectively to support mastery learning
- workshopping based on students’ needs and misconceptions
- increased understanding of all students’ needs
- greater collegial exchanges of strategies between professionals
- a guaranteed curriculum
- enhanced support during instruction and independent learning
- increased one on one student conferencing focussing on feedback/feedforward or goal setting
- a diverse range of knowledge, skills and problem solving strategies to be shared
- utilisation of each staff member’s skill sets
- diversity in learning styles to be addressed
- teachers to share different perspectives on topics and encourage critical thinking
- students to build social connections with a wider range of teachers and peers
- rich collaborative reflection by teachers about what is and isn’t working
- ‘on the job’ modelling and support for graduate teachers
Collaborative Teaching/Co-Teaching Approaches
One teach, one assist (Supportive teaching): Describes the situation when one teacher takes the lead instructional role and the other roves to monitor and provide support on a one-to-one basis as required, often lending a voice to students or groups who would hesitate to participate or add comments.
Parallel teaching: Is when two or more teachers are working with different groups of learners simultaneously in different parts of the classroom. Teachers may choose to divide the group into mixed ability, like ability or based on students choice. Another benefit to their approach is the reduction of student to teacher ratio.
One Teach / One Observe: In this model, one teacher is primarily responsible for delivering instruction to the entire class. The other teacher is serving as an intentional observer. While observing, this teacher can observe and record student behaviour, student understanding, or even the teaching teacher’s style and behaviour.
Team / Complementary Teaching: Is when both teachers actively work together to deliver instruction to the same group of students at the same time, exhibiting an invisible flow. From a students’ perspective, there is no clearly defined leader – as both teachers share the instruction, are free to interject information, and available to assist students and answer questions. Alternatively Teacher A may do something to enhance the instruction such as paraphrasing or expanding on the other’s ideas, scribing students’ ideas on the whiteboard or model a specific skill while Teacher B leads.
Alternative (Differentiated) Teaching: When using this model, one of the teachers teaches the main lesson to the majority of the class. The second teacher works with a small group of students to either provide remedial help or to extend the lesson with more challenging material.
Station Teaching: Station teaching allows each teacher to work with smaller groups of students. The teachers divide the students into groups and create activities for the students to engage with the lesson material along with the assistance of a teacher. These stations can involve the teaching of new content, reinforcement of previously learned material, or challenging activities for students that are ready.