SUCCESSFUL TEAM TEACHING: FROM CONCEPTS TO IMPLEMENTATION
By Agustina, M. Pd.
Widyaiswara Muda Balai Diklat Keagamaan Palembang,
Dosen IAIN Raden Fatah Palembang
Abstract: Teaming in teaching has been taken not only as an option but also a need for many purposes. While some problems have been experienced, team teaching has generally been successful both in terms of faculty response and student acceptance. This paper is purposed to discuss about the concept of team teaching, to identify various models of team teaching, to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of team teaching, and to present some suggestions for ideal teaching team implementation based upon research literature.
Key words: Team, Teaching, Concept, Implementation
Teams are constituted by instructors from different academic fields who bring a variety of perspectives to the subject under consideration. As Shafer (2000) claimed, while some problems have been experienced, team teaching has generally been successful both in terms of faculty response and student acceptance. While team teaching may seem new and experimental, it actually has a long career ranging from the Socratic dialogue to public medieval disputations (Shafer: 2000). It has been used for a long time and it seems even more relevant today, as it is becoming ever more apparent that the future of humanity may come to depend on our ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and dialogue with the other. Besides, team teaching seems bringing many advantages for the instructors as well as the students.
However, considering the complex issues related to team teaching, I try to elaborate some ideas for ideal implementation of team teaching. By doing so, it is expected that applying team teaching will really help all of the parties to maximize the effectiveness of teaching and learning processes. Thus, this paper is purposed to discuss about the concept of team teaching, to identify various models of team teaching, to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of team teaching, and to present some suggestions for ideal teaching team implementation based upon research literature.
II. 1 The Concept of Team Teaching
To make the same perception on team teaching, we need to first define the term. Team teaching is definitely open to several interpretations. Shafer (2000) assumed it as: two or more instructors are involved in the same course. Team members may come from closely allied disciplines, or they may derive from fields as disparate as art history and theoretical physics. Thus, while team teaching is frequently connected with an interdisciplinary approach to learning, the mere presence of a teaching team in a classroom does not by itself indicate a crossing of disciplines.
Meanwhile, Goetz (2000) defined team teaching as a group of two or more teachers working together to plan, conduct and evaluate the learning activities for the same group of learners. Citing Quinn and Kanter (1984), he affirmed that team teaching is defined as “simply team work between two qualified instructors who, together, make presentations to an audience.”
In Education Encyclopedia of State University (2009), it is explained that team teaching involves a group of instructors working purposefully, regularly, and cooperatively to help a group of students of any age learn. Teachers together set goals for a course, design a syllabus, prepare individual lesson plans, teach students, and evaluate the results. They share insights, argue with one another, and perhaps even challenge students to decide which approach is better.
This encyclopedia elaborates more this way,
Teams can be single-discipline, interdisciplinary, or school-within-a-school teams that meet with a common set of students over an extended period of time. New teachers may be paired with veteran teachers. Innovations are encouraged, and modifications in class size, location, and time are permitted. Different personalities, voices, values, and approaches spark interest, keep attention, and prevent boredom.
Dealing with the procedures, team members together set the course goals and content, select common materials such as texts and films, and develop tests and final examinations for all students. They set the sequence of topics and supplemental materials. They also give their own interpretations of the materials and use their own teaching styles. The greater the agreement on common objectives and interests, the more likely that teaching will be interdependent and coordinated.
Thus, it can be asserted generally that team teaching means two or more instructors working together to plan, conduct and evaluate the learning activities for the same group of learners.
II. 2. The Models of Team Teaching
The application of team teaching varies in the classrooms. Citing Shafer (2000), given the two or more instructor models, two versions of team teaching in the strict sense can be identified.
1. All instructors are jointly responsible for course content, presentations, and grading. They interact in front of the class, discussing specific topics from divergent perspectives.
2. All instructors are jointly responsible for course content and grading. However, they take turns presenting material appropriate to their individual areas of specialization. At times when they are not called upon to lecture, other participants remain in an essentially subordinate role, contributing no more than occasional comments and questions.
A third model is occasionally called team teaching, but lacks the shared responsibility and coherent structure of the first two. In this version, one coordinator alone is responsible for course content and grading. Extensive and regular use is made of guest lecturers and panels, and the material presented in this manner is an integral part of the overall course design.
Meanwhile, according to Goetz (2000), there appear to be two broad categories of team teaching:
• Category A: Two or more instructors are teaching the same students at the same time within the same classroom;
• Category B: The instructors work together but do not necessarily teach the same groups of students nor necessarily teach at the same time.
Furthermore, he elaborated that when instructors team teach the same group of students at the same time (Category A), there are a number of different roles that these team teachers might perform. For monetary and spatial reasons, this type of team teaching usually involves two partners. Six models of team teaching have been identified by Maroney (1995) and Robinson and Schaible (1995) as cited in Goez (2000). Category A team teaching usually involves a combination of these models according to the personalities, philosophies or strengths of the team teachers as well as the personalities and strengths of the learners.
• Traditional Team Teaching: In this case, the teachers actively share the instruction of content and skills to all students. For example, one teacher may present the new material to the students while the other teacher constructs a concept map on the overhead projector as the students listen to the presenting teacher.
• Collaborative Teaching: This academic experience describes a traditional team teaching situation in which the team teachers work together in designing the course and teach the material not by the usual monologue, but rather by exchanging and discussing ideas and theories in front of the learners. Not only do the team teachers work together, but the course itself uses group learning techniques for the learners, such as small-group work, student-led discussion and joint test-taking
• Complimentary / Supportive Team Teaching: This situation occurs when one teacher is responsible for teaching the content to the students, while the other teacher takes charge of providing follow-up activities on related topics or on study skills.
• Parallel Instruction: In this setting, the class is divided into two groups and each teacher is responsible for teaching the same material to her/his smaller group. This model is usually used in conjunction with other forms of team teaching, and is ideally suited to the situation when students are involved in projects or problem-solving activities, as the instructor can roam and give students individualized support.
• Differentiated Split Class: This type of teaching involves dividing the class into smaller groups according to learning needs. Each educator provides the respective group with the instruction required to meet their learning needs. For example, a class may be divided into those learners who grasp adding fractions and those who need more practice with the addition of fractions. One teacher would challenge the learners who grasped the concept more quickly, while the second teacher would likely review or re-teach those students who require further instruction.
• Monitoring Teacher: This situation occurs when one teacher assumes the responsibility for instructing the entire class, while the other teacher circulates the room and monitors student understanding and behaviour.
Category B team teaching consists of a variety of team teaching models, in which the instructors work together but do not necessarily teach the same groups of students, or if they do, they do not teach these students at the same time. This category of team teaching can take many forms:
• Team members meet to share ideas and resources but function independently. An example arose during the Master of Teaching (MT) lecture series on November 9th, 1999, when five recent MT graduates shared their experiences after 50 days on the job. Although these teachers were not teaching in the same class, they participated in daily meetings, ongoing discussions and planned their curriculum together. A recent article in Mathematics Teacher (Rumsey, 1999) describes cooperative teaching in which instructors share teaching ideas and resources but otherwise teach independently. This version of cooperative teaching entails weekly meetings and a teaching-resource notebook. The goals of the weekly meetings are to discuss the concepts to be covered during the following week of classes, to present ways of teaching and assessing these concepts, and to share new ideas among teachers. The resource notebook is a comprehensive collection of teachers’ best ideas that are ready to implement and use.
• Teams of teachers sharing a common resource center. In this form, teachers instruct classes independently, but share resource materials such as lesson plans, supplementary textbooks and exercise problems.
• A team in which members share a common group of students, share the planning for instruction but teach different sub-groups within the whole group. This appears similar to the way in which the Master of Teaching program is operated. The various professors share a common group, or cadre, but teach separate sub-groups of this cadre.
• One individual plans the instructional activities for the entire team. This model does not take full advantage of the team concept as only one individual’s ideas are incorporated. Sometimes, due to time or financial constraints, there may be no alternative to one person designing the entire program.
• The team members share planning, but each instructor teaches his/her own specialized skills area to the whole group of students. An example would be seven instructors teaching the seven different topics in Mathematics 30 to seven different classes and rotating throughout the duration of the course.
II. 3. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Team Teaching
Team Teaching has a myriad of benefits and drawbacks from both the instructor’s and the student’s perspective. Goetz (2000) highlighted the major advantages and disadvantages of team teaching from the teacher and student points of view.
Advantages of Team Teaching for the Instructor
Working as part of a team has a multitude of advantages: it gives the participating team teacher a supportive environment, allows for development of new teaching approaches, aids in overcoming academic isolation, increases the likelihood of sounder solutions regarding the discipline of problematic students and augments the opportunity for intellectual growth.
Team members are part of a supportive environment in which they are exposed to different styles of planning, organization, and class presentation. This gives the team members an opportunity to develop and enhance their own teaching approaches and methods. Another benefit of team teaching is that working closely with one or more colleagues enables teachers to overcome the isolation inherent in teaching. When an instructor teaches solo, she rarely has the time or the opportunity for interacting with her fellow teachers, even though she is surrounded by educational colleagues. By working together, team teachers can discuss issues relating to students, such as behavioral expectations, student motivation and teaching policies, and end up with improved solutions.
Advantages of Team Teaching for the Student
Team teaching can open a student’s eyes to accepting more than one opinion and to acting more cooperatively with others. Team teaching may even provide educational benefits such as increasing the student’s level of understanding and retention, in addition to enabling the student to obtain higher achievement. Exposure to the views of more than one teacher permits students to gain a mature level of understanding knowledge; rather than considering only one view on each issue or new topic brought up in the classroom, two or more varying views help students blur the black-and-white way of thinking common in our society, and see many shades of gray. In addition, diverse perspectives encourage students to consider the validity of numerous views.
The cooperation that the students observe between team teachers serves as a model for teaching students positive teamwork skills and attitudes. In a collaborative team teaching experience (when the two teachers present their respective content to the same class at the same time) the students witness and partake in a dynamic display of two minds and personalities.
Correspondingly, Education Encyclopedia of State University (2009) noted that teamwork improves the quality of teaching as various experts approach the same topic from different angles: theory and practice, past and present, different genders or ethnic backgrounds. Teacher strengths are combined and weaknesses are remedied. Poor teachers can be observed, critiqued, and improved by the other team members in a non-threatening, supportive context. The evaluation done by a team of teachers will be more insightful and balanced than the introspection and self-evaluation of an individual teacher.
It was further stated that working in teams spreads responsibility, encourages creativity, deepens friendships, and builds community among teachers. Teachers complement one another. They share insights, propose new approaches, and challenge assumptions. They learn new perspectives and insights, techniques and values from watching one another. Students enter into conversations between them as they debate, disagree with premises or conclusions, raise new questions, and point out consequences. Contrasting viewpoints encourage more active class participation and independent thinking from students, especially if there is team balance for gender, race, culture, and age. Team teaching is particularly effective with older and underprepared students when it moves beyond communicating facts to tap into their life experience.
Disadvantages for the Instructor
The primary disadvantage to team teaching appears to be the element of time: the time required prior to the implementation of the team teaching partnership for professional development, the many meetings needed during the running of the program as well as the numerous impromptu chats that are bound to arise from such an endeavor. Ironically, the time factor that is so necessary to team teaching can also be divisive as it may lead to conflict. Long before the teachers begin their first class teaching together, intensive staff development in the area of team teaching may be necessary. This training may involve learning the rationale behind team teaching, shared readings and discussion, learning cooperative skills to enable a positive partnership to evolve, as well as learning a variety of time management skills to ensure smooth operation in meetings and in the classroom.
Ironically, the time required to function effectively as a team may increase the probability of personality conflicts arising between team members. On one hand, these differences may lead to renewed insights and understanding between the team members, but on the other hand, an irreparable rift between the colleagues may result.
Potential Disadvantages of Team Teaching for the Student
While team teaching may prove advantageous for many students, some students may feel frustration and discontentment about having more than one teacher. The potential for diversity and ambiguity within team teaching may prove disconcerting for some students who might be become confused by more than one way of looking at issues or grading assignments.
When team teaching involves two instructors teaching the same class at the same time, the inevitability of larger class sizes may be a detriment for some students, particularly students with attention deficit disorders, or students who feel uncomfortable or anonymous in large group settings. Also, a clever student may attempt to play one teacher against the other in order to improve his/her grades. This is one of the many reasons that team teachers have to maintain a common and united front, and continually discuss the numerous team teaching issues and concerns in ongoing communication.
In addition, as stated by Education Encyclopedia of State University (2009), team teaching is not always successful. Some teachers are rigid personality types or may be wedded to a single method. Some simply dislike the other teachers on the team. Some do not want to risk humiliation and discouragement at possible failures. Some fear they will be expected to do more work for the same salary. Others are unwilling to share the spotlight or their pet ideas or to lose total control.
II. 4. Suggestions for Ideal Team Teaching
Given the possible advantages and disadvantages of team teaching as discussed, the following suggestions are addressed by Shafer (2000) for successful implementation:
a. Team teaching should not be left up to chance. Careful planning is essential, even more so than in a classroom left to one individual, since team teaching — like marriage — depends on the compatibility and mutual respect of those involved. Participating faculty must be carefully picked and allowed to choose their team members. No one should be required to participate. Only individuals who volunteer and are competent in their fields, professionally and psychologically secure, and comfortable with spontaneous public debate are suitable.
b. Students in a team-taught course should be carefully and continuously reminded of the purpose of the experience. They should be encouraged to seek help if they are frustrated and confused. They should be reassured that papers and essay examinations will be graded on the basis of internal coherence and not agreement or disagreement with a particular instructor’s hypothesis.
c. Faculty should avoid competing for student approval and applause. Team teaching is not a political campaign, and cooperation combined with empathy and the willingness to represent controversial positions, are valuable characteristics of the individual team member.
d. Once a team has been constituted and classes are in session, sufficient time must be allowed for planning and division of responsibilities. It is imperative that relative strengths and weaknesses of participating faculty be assessed objectively. Team teaching is exceptionally flexible and offers the unique opportunity of compensating for individual idiosyncrasies in such a way as to have instructors function at their very best. It is helpful to have one team member in charge of mechanics, such as arranging for planning sessions and keeping records.
e. Administrative support is essential for continued success of a team teaching model. Faculty participants must be compensated equitably. If instructors are expected to be present whenever a particular class is in session, they should be given full credit for the course despite the fact they do not necessarily lecture themselves each time. They must prepare in order to be able to respond, and listening may occasionally prove more taxing than talking.
Furthermore, Goetz (2000) stated that the issues surrounding team teaching are numerous and complex. No single model of team teaching will automatically result in success for a given teaching situation. Any team teaching program must be customized to suit the curriculum(s), teachers and students. Even in situations where the team members are teaching a course that they have previously taught together, new and distinct groups of students will progress through the program from one semester to another. The different learners will influence the focus of the curriculum, the direction of discussions, and the interaction of the instructors, which creates a new learning experience for all those involved.
He further affirmed that throughout the literature on team teaching, including the reflections by teachers who have teamed during their career, certain key elements appear to be necessary for a successful team teaching program: (1) compatibility of team members, (2) shared commitment to team teaching and ongoing communication, (3) a keen interest in connecting the content or curriculum to real life, and (4) a strong desire to ignite students’ thirst for knowledge. Also, the program goals and philosophies, as well as the roles of the teachers and administration need to be well-defined.
Correspondingly, Joshua Landy and Lanier Anderson as cited by Palmer (2006) compiled the list of “Ten Commandments of Team Teaching” as follows:
1. You should plan everything with your neighbor. Plan a lot, early and often. Co-design everything. Everyone on the team has to be prepared to stand behind every element.
2. You should attend your neighbor’s lectures. A course that presents five weeks of teaching from one professor followed by five weeks from another really isn’t team taught. Participation by professors throughout a course not only increases its coherence but “raises the game” for the lecturing professor. And it gives team members opportunities to learn new teaching strategies from each other.
3. You should refer to your neighbor’s ideas. Team teaching is not a zero sum game, where a stellar performance by one professor takes away from the stature of another in students’ eyes. When individual teachers are performing well, the whole course benefits.
4. You should model debate with your neighbor. A team-taught course offers opportunities to model high-level debate between advanced scholars, demonstrating how two equally competent people might legitimately disagree. It shows students what the range is of permissible disagreement. It’s not the case that anything goes-everything has to be argued for-but it’s also not the case that there is one monolithic approach. Professors should use evidence that is emblematic of your discipline. Students then learn to come from the strength of both disciplinary perspectives and step from one to the other. You can really show by example what kinds of questions are susceptible of this sort of beautiful openness, that there are four or five possible approaches, none of which commands a privileged right to our attention.
5. You should have something to say, even when you are not in charge. Have some view about the material. It may not come round to you, but your responsibility is to be ready.
6. You should apply common grading standards. It’s time consuming and difficult, but important for a teaching team to be explicit about grading strategies and to find mutually agreed-upon standards. Since grading standards vary from department to department, it may be that one of you is going to have to go up and one has to go down.
7. You should attend all staff meetings. It’s vital to have regular meetings, which everyone should attend. Keep testing the pulse of the course.
8. You should ask open questions. Ask questions susceptible of multiple answers. See what comes back.
9. You should let your students speak. It’s important to make it clear from the first few classes that student participation is valued and expected.
10. You should be willing to be surprised. Team teaching offers a special chance to take students out to the leading edge and see what the production of knowledge looks like. You have to bring [students] along far enough so they know the difference between questions that they don’t know the answer to and questions that you don’t know the answer to. It’s risky, but the job of teaching is to communicate momentum, not just information. It’s vitally important to let ourselves be wrong, to let ourselves be challenged. We have to let ourselves get into those situations where we might fail and where maybe no one is going to come up with an answer.
Meanwhile, Eisen and Tisdell (2002) state that common to diverse team teaching-learning situations is the centrality of: (1) negotiating relationships; (2) providing a relevant and integrated curriculum and pedagogy; and (3) focusing on the participants’ ongoing construction of knowledge. They expand on these three ideas and the way they cement the teaching-learning connection which we believe is at the heart of team teaching.
All team teaching efforts “include two or more faculty in some level of collaboration in the planning and delivery of a course”. Implicit in this statement is the collaborators’ need to attend to their relationship with each other. What must be made explicit, however, is the need to attend to the relationship with students. Teammates have to share power and responsibility for the course, not only among themselves, but with the learners so that they can take some responsibility for their own learning.
2. Integrated Curriculum and Pedagogy
Because team teaching emphasizes negotiating relationships and sharing power both among the teachers and with students, it facilitates the reform of classroom learning. At the same time, teaming supports integrated curriculum design, collaborative learning, and a collaborative pedagogy. In regard to the curriculum, multiple viewpoints and often different disciplinary perspectives presented by teaching partners broaden students’ understanding of knowledge. In addition the teaching team itself, especially multicultural and multidisciplinary teams, can serve as a role model for ways of constructing knowledge that are likely to be more inclusive. On the curricular level, teams can be more inclusive of varied perspectives (e.g., disciplinary, cultural, social/political), which in turn enhances critical thinking. On a pedagogical level, the use of different methods such as active learning, team projects, creative expression, on-line activities, and independent study promotes greater inclusion at the same time that it addresses learners’ diverse learning styles and needs. In short, the team’s interaction with students and with each other can give students some real-life experience in creating new knowledge together from multiple perspectives.
3. The Ongoing Construction of New Knowledge
As mentioned, a key feature of teaming is the ongoing construction of knowledge by teachers and by students. Too often students see formal researchers as constructors of knowledge, and teaching faculty as disseminators of knowledge. But team teaching and a collaborative pedagogy enhance the possibility that students will see themselves and their peers as constructors of new knowledge.
Based on all things being considered, team teaching will potentially enhances the quality of learning that it is sure to spread widely in the future. There is nothing mysterious or exceptionally unique about this approach. It is simply an instructional model which lags behind in popularity. What the educators should do is only maximizing the advantages and minimize the potential disadvantages for the instructor as well as the students.
Of course, team teaching is not the only answer to all problems plaguing teachers, students, and administrators. It requires planning, skilled management, willingness to risk change and even failure, humility, open-mindedness, imagination, and creativity. But the results are worth it.
Eisen, Mary Jane, and Tisdell, Elizabeth J. (2002). Essays on Teaching Excellence Toward the Best in the Academy. Vol. 14, No. 6. “Team Teaching: The Learning Side of the Teaching – Learning Equation”. http://oregonstate.edu/ct;/articles/packet1/EULA/html. Retrieved on December 23rd, 2009.
Goetz, Karin. (2000). Peer Reviewed Journal, Volume 1, Number 4, August 1, 2000. “Perspectives on Team Teaching”. http://www.ucalgary.ca/%7Eegallery.com. Retrieved on December 23rd, 2009.
Palmer, Barvara. (2006). Professors Preach Ten Commandments Of Team Teaching. http://www.aahe.org/”. Retrieved on December 23rd, 2009.
Shafer, Ingrid. (2000). Team Teaching: Education for the Future. http://usao.edu.com. Retrieved on December 23rd, 2009.
Education Encyclopedia of State University. (2009). Team Teaching – Advantages, Disadvantages.. http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2493/Team-Teaching.html. Retrieved on December 23rd, 2009.