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The Gift of Team Teaching

by Candice Shaw, Grade 7 Math/Science Teacher

As a teacher with 2 full years of experience, I acknowledge that I have learned a tremendous amount in those years, much more than University education could ever teach me. However, I know that I have even more to learn in order to better my practice.

I graduated from University in 2008, so my education is fairly recent. This means that I was taught in the ways of current pedagogy, such as practices in inquiry and constructivism. These principles are ingrained in how I teach and develop activities for students. I have not needed to learn another way of teaching, but just simply how to further develop my skills in this current practice.

As part of my professional goals this year, I am focused on reciprocal collaboration with colleagues, as well as keeping my practice innovative and current. Recently, I stumbled upon the most effective professional development opportunity to date: team teaching.

To date, I have been involved in 2 team teaching lessons. The first lesson was with my Humanities partner, working on research skills, reading strategies and writing of factual information in students' own words. The second lesson was with my Math/Science partner, in order to have our students "think like mathematicians", focusing on building a mathematical community and providing clear mathematical communication of ideas.

The process of planning and assessing collaboratively and delivering a lesson with a colleague is a powerful experience in learning, for both teachers and students. I have discovered that team teaching provides many professional development opportunities, such as:
  • Observing and reflecting upon colleagues' teaching styles, routines and methods, especially when they are different from my own.
  • Receiving positive and constructive feedback from colleagues on my own teaching and delivery of lessons.
  • Collaboratively planning more authentic and engaging questions and lessons.
  • Improving my enthusiasm for topics through brainstorming and discussion with colleagues.
  • Improving my knowledge of new topics through discussion with colleagues.
  • Ensuring teacher expectations and assessment are consistent for all classes and students.
Student learning is also enhanced by the team teaching experience. After our math lesson, students reported that they enjoyed working with another teacher and learning different ways to complete the same math procedures that were already taught. They were able to share with peers from other classes and it was reassuring when their ideas corresponded. It was a novel experience for them to work with another teacher and different peers, so attention and engagement were generally high throughout the activities.

I have discovered that team teaching is an absolutely invaluable experience for my professional development. Many of the barriers to participating in PD are overcome. Time is not taken away from teaching, although the planning stages require more time investment than solo planning.

Team teaching allows for observational opportunities of other teaching styles and approaches in an authentic setting. It is engaging and active for all participants, and feedback is relevant to actual teaching practice. Team teaching allows for skilled to be practiced and improved through reflection, rather than PD where you are 'told' how to improve your practice.

I have found that all of the stages of the process, including planning, teaching and assessment, offer valuable learning opportunities. Of course, the real value of team teaching will be in the continued collaboration and reflection between colleagues in order to further shape and extend teaching practice.

1 comments:

  1. Candice, I appreciate how you share your personal story of learning as a teacher and your experiences with team teaching. Teachers recognize the value of group work as a teaching strategy, while recognizing that it doesn't just happen automatically. Students need to learn the skills involved in effective group work and learning from and with others. As you observe, this is also true in regard to teachers working as teams. There are challenges, but there are many benefits and it is clearly worth the effort. Thank you for highlighting the importance of collaboration which I believe is one of the hallmarks of the Calgary Science School. Garry McKinnon

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