New Tech Network defines team teaching as the collaboration of two or more certified teachers working together as a team to co-facilitate a course. By integrating subjects together, the course better reflects the way content and projects work in the world, with many subjects seamlessly working as a whole rather than siloed only in a single discipline. The team-taught integrated courses create benefits for instructional design, instructional practice, and culture building, not just in the course, but in the entire school.
Know What An Integrated, Team-Taught Course Looks Like
In order for content to be facilitated as one seamless class, as opposed to alternating between half-time spent on one subject and half-time spent on the other, New Tech integrated courses are often double-blocked. With two teachers co-facilitating, class sizes will be twice as large as a single teacher class size. We recognize that 50-60 students is a lot of bodies in one space, but are even more attuned to the opportunities this provides teachers for differentiating instruction for students. In a team-teaching model, teachers can more easily organize learning around individual students or small groups, based on need, without leaving other students left to figure things out on their own. There are greater explanations of the variety of learning organization modalities in this blog post, Managing the Mess - Team Teaching Edition, from Riley Johnson, former Napa New Tech High School principal.
The larger classes also create another avenue for building student culture, because students see a large number of other students in the class, creating a greater awareness of the student body. For additional insights to what team-taught courses are and/or what it looks like in the classroom, take a look at this short “Team Teaching Inquiry” article from the Educational Inquiry Project.
Get to Know Your Team-Teacher and Form A Partnership
Let’s recap... you’re now spending time in close-quarters with another person, sharing what was once your own alone time (i.e. planning time) together, making important decisions with this other person, facing the consequences of your partner’s decisions (whether you agreed to them or not) together, celebrating successes together... you’ve basically entered a work-marriage! Just as in a marriage, you shouldn’t lose your sense of self, but rather, take the time to find out who you are as one unit. One, collaborative, team-teaching powerhouse. If either of you enters this marriage, this partnership, with the mindset that your counterpart should design curriculum the way you do, facilitate learning the way you do, have the same sense of humor with students as you do, assess learning the way you do... your marriage will fail. Your kids (students) will see right through your collaborative facade and fully take advantage of this relationship fracture will cause damage to the engaging, connected classroom culture you both long for.
New Tech recommends spending time in the very early phase of your relationship getting to know one another. (Consider this a “speed dating” phase!) The Quiz for Partners provides 20 Questions in an in-depth document that allows each of you to individually articulate your teaching preferences. After both you and your partner complete the assessment, come together to discuss your results. Be sure to address not only your common beliefs, but also the differences in your responses. The Teaching Personality Inventory is another tool to help teachers learn more about their own teaching style and that of their team teacher. Example below:
With a better understanding of your individual styles, the Team Teacher Contract can be used by the team to make common agreements around planning time, classroom management, grading, and other key topics. We recommend each team complete this contract and share it with your director so they can help support you in your implementation of the plan, just as a teacher would do with student teams upon completion of their team contracts.
Be Prepared for the “Good Times and the Bad” in Your Course and Your Relationship
Even the best laid plans for communication and instructional implementation will be challenged in a team-teaching environment. To help team teachers prepare for their integrated classroom environment, teachers should put their stated agreements to the test by exploring a few common scenarios that have occurred in NTN classrooms. New Tech’s Team Teaching Scenario activity helps start a conversation about expectations and norms between team teachers by creating a safe space to practice what they would actually do if these scenarios happened in their own integrated course. Throughout the year, as team teachers become more confident and aware of their preferences for their integrated course, it’s critical to engage in regular reflection on their stated team-teaching agreements. Here are a few statements that a team-teacher and/or supportive director can listen for that might necessitate a sharing of successes, challenges, and refinements to their work together:
The healthy and unhealthy Team Teaching concepts cover most aspects of the three teaching partners I have had over the last three years. I did not at first like the idea of a contract; however, I think it is a valid tool in practice.
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