Team teaching takes time, resource and clear communication but when it is applied successfully it can really enhance the experience for both the learners and the teachers. I have had great opportunities to team teach with my colleagues but often it isn’t well planned and as a result we are reactive instead of proactive in the classroom.
However, I have experienced some really beneficial, enriching and enjoyable classrooms where I have team taught with a colleague and I believe there are clear ways to make this meaningful for all parties.
Prior to stepping foot in the classroom it is vital that the staff members involved communicate effectively. Importantly they should thrash out who is doing what, when they will do it and also discuss the climate they will create. What I mean by this is whether it is ok to jump in to help, interrupt one another if it is meaningful for learning and the understanding that some pupils will warm more to one of them over the other.
Once this has been defined time needs to be set aside for careful planning and consideration for the series of lessons they will embark upon. This is the most important point for team teaching as without time and careful considering then lessons can become more ad hoc rather than well planned schemes of work.
The beauty of team teaching is that it allows teachers to play to their strengths and it affords opportunities to learn from one another. Time for planning is crucial as if it isn’t planned in advance we are then relying on instinct and can fear stepping on each others toes which will harm learning for the young people. They need to see a united front and enjoy the opportunity of having two adults in the room. In the planning you can identify who will take the lead on each piece of content, what the role is of your peer during this phase of learning and collaborate on which pedagogical approach you will use. When I have planned with a colleague I have found myself learning strategies and approaches I didn’t know previously. As a result of team teaching as an NQT I really learned the importance of planning questions and questioning strategies which I have taken with me throughout my career.
Once the planning is done you are ready to deliver the lessons. Pupils, in my experience, enjoy a team teaching approach and the novelty of it. They have commented on the opportunity to hear different views and approaches on the same topic, they have had more opportunities for one-to-one instruction and they have gained confidence in their learning as getting the same feedback from both teachers on the same piece of work really adds value to the learner. As a teacher I really enjoy stepping back and watching a colleague ‘do their thing’ while observing closely the impact they are having on learners. During the delivery phase I have really been challenged to hone my craft while my colleague watches and assists where they can. Some staff may feel added pressure when performing in front of a colleague but this simply adds further importance to the ‘communication’ phase and getting it right so that you feel comfortable and supported in delivery.
After any block of work it is worthwhile evaluating the impact of it. Learners have often commented on the novelty of having two teachers in the room and some have even commented on feeling pressure themselves to produce their best work. Whatever the result it is important that any team teaching moves learning forward and that both members of staff enjoy the experience. For me being able to share the workload and learn off a colleague are some of the main benefits to team teaching.
When introducing team teaching you should take time to carefully consider who will be working together as often personalities can clash especially when staff are rigid in their own teaching practice. In this case having another teacher in the room can cause friction. Often school leaders use team teaching to upskill a member of staff or bring them up to speed with the expectations of a school. If this is the case please make sure that clear communication is front and centre of your day to day business and all members of staff are aware in advance. This will allow for goals to be set mutually and expectations laid out allowing everyone involved to improve, even the school leader.
I believe that if it is possible to team teach with a colleague then it is an outstanding form of CPD. It certainly has been for me in the past. Team teaching can build capacity in colleagues involved and it can also raise attainment for the learners through having a deeper understanding a topic from two differing voices. Team teaching can also make classes more interesting for learners and staff as it comes with a degree of novelty and it can improve student-teacher relationships as you will be afforded more time with individual learners.
Team teaching is a rewarding and enriching process for teachers. If given the time for careful planning it can afford you a great space to trial new techniques and receive immediate feedback from your peer. During the times I have team taught I have developed massively especially in the early stages of my career where I was privileged enough to watch an outstanding educator in action. More recently I have fallen foul to the pitfalls and haven’t afforded the time for careful planning which results in reactive instead of proactive learning & teaching. My piece of advice would be to give team teaching a go but make sure you plan the scheme of work carefully through clear and honest communication.