Online Teachers Course

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Online Teachers Course

Practical information

Co-teaching

According to the standard literature, co-teaching involves two or more certified professionals who contract to share instructional responsibility for a single group of students primarily in a single classroom or workspace for specific content or objectives with mutual ownership, pooled resources and joint accountability (M. Friend and L. Cook 2013). Most teachers will be familiar with co-teaching from their practical training where teacher candidates gradually take over teaching responsibilities in the classroom under the supervision of a mentor. Co-teaching has, however, been increasingly used in inclusive teaching practices to ensure that students with special needs benefit from a greater learning continuity as the presence of a second teacher in the classroom allows for smaller learning groups and individual attention to this category of students. In this context, a general education teacher may be paired with a special education teacher, another general education teacher or a paraprofessional assistant.

There exist different ways of practicing co-teaching, which can be combined in a single lesson. Here is a series of videos that presents the most common models of co-teaching:

Each model has of course its own focus, advantages and disadvantages.

  1. One teaches, one observes. In this model it is crucial that the observing teacher does so in a systematic way by focussing on specific issues, such as student participation, a particular group dynamic, questions asked by the instructing teacher or the teaching strategy. Document the observations and think about how they can be used to improve future teaching. Do avoid making judgements and observe the rules for feedback (see below).
  2. One teaches, one assists. While one teacher is leading the instruction, the other may provide additional examples, clarify questions, become the voice of students who are reluctant to participate or don’t understand, and take charge of behavioural issues. Here it can be useful for the two teachers to agree beforehand on signals to coordinate their interaction.
  3. Station teaching. In this model the class is divided into smaller groups that receive different tasks linked to a common subject, some of them teacher-assisted and others not. In a reading exercise, one group could focus on fluency, another on comprehension and a third on vocabulary. One teacher could repeat mini-lessons while the other concentrates on engaging the students. Students should be able to begin at each of the stations. It is also important that the teachers plan the organisational framework (timing, noise levels etc.) prior to the lesson.
  4. Parallel teaching. The main aim is to reduce the teacher-student ratio. Try to avoid distraction by making the students face away from the other group.
  5. Supplemental teaching. This form of co-teaching can take place after an exam has shown that not all students have succeeded in solving the questions. While one teacher will provide an additional lesson that will allow the weaker students to catch up with the rest of the class, the other will perform similar exercises. Be aware that it should not be always the same teacher who teaches the struggling students.
  6. Alternative or differentiated teaching. Two different teaching strategies are being used to achieve the same learning outcome. This makes students familiar with different teaching and learning styles. These can be adapted to the needs of particular students.
  7. Team teaching. Both teachers are actively engaging in the instruction on an equal footing. They can for example read the same text so that students perceive different voices or use different ways of explaining the lesson (discussion, visual aid etc.) while feeling free to intervene when they deem it necessary. This model needs excellent coordination between the two teachers and requires, at least initially, detailed planning of the lessons.

For an overview of the pros and cons of these co-teaching models you can watch the following video:

Perhaps the greatest challenge for co-teachers is to work in a coordinated and collaborative mode. Whereas teachers generally have some experience of this in specific contexts, such as a study day or an excursion, conventional instruction gives them the sole responsibility for planning and organising a lesson, managing classroom behaviour or grading the students. In co-teaching all these aspects have to be agreed upon by both teachers during the planning stage and implemented during the subsequent lesson. With some models there is indeed a risk that one of the teachers always takes the lead and the other a subordinate position, becoming a mere assistant, which can be very frustrating. In these forms of teaching, the instructors should therefore alternate roles or complementing each other in a way that students perceive them as co-owing the lessons. Otherwise, things can go very wrong, as the following – enacted – video shows:

Co-teaching, thus, needs to be based on a strong working relationship that requires a lot of trust between the instructors. Here, good feedback practices play a crucial role.

Further recommended video, a case study:

Teaching In The Inclusive Classroom Collaboration and Team Teaching

Feedback

In most works we are doing as well in the collaborative work with other teachers and bodies at school the tool we most need is centered around being able to give and receive feedback well. Humans have been talking about feedback for centuries. Already in ancient times different philosophers wanted to find out how important it is to be able to say difficult messages well (for example Confucius). But even today we do know how to do it. The most popular way of giving feedback is the indirect and soft way – what is not recognized by our brain as feedback or confusing us. The second way is to direct, what brings the person who is receiving it in the defensive position.

Feedback rules

Here are ten golden feedback rules for everyday productive collaboration:

  1. Describing, as opposed to evaluating: Describe your own perception and reaction. Leave it up to the other person to use this information or not.
  2. Formulate it clearly and precisely: The feedback should be comprehensible.
  3. Factually correct. Basic rule: The observation must also be comprehensible to others.
  4. Without moral condemnation: This will reduce the urge of the other person to defend himself and to reject the feedback.
  5. Concretely in contrast to general: If you tell someone that he or she is rude, he or she can do relatively little with it in terms of changing behavior. Rather, say what he or she has done in concrete terms and to what extent he or she has prevented you or the group from developing.
  6. Refer to observations as opposed to assumptions, fantasies or interpretations.
  7. Address changeable behaviors, not deficiencies over which the person has little or no control.
  8. Ask as opposed to impose: Feedback is most effective when the recipient has asked for it. If you ambush someone with feedback, you do not need to hope for a trusting relationship.
  9. Give appropriate consideration to the recipient’s needs. If you don’t care whether it benefits or even harms the recipient, it will destroy your position of trust.
  10. At the right time or as soon as possible: Feedback is most effective the shorter the time span between the behavior in question and the information about the effect of the behavior. However, also take other circumstances into account, e.g. the degree of momentary excitement or dismay. In such situations the willingness to accept feedback will be low.

This is what feedback is all about

  1. Say instead of “You’ve done this and that“…”I noticed that…”
  2. Use describing perception “I have observed that…” Or “I noticed that…”
  3. Explain the effect on yourself or the team “This makes me feel as if…” or “This causes…”
  4. Formulate a wish for future interaction “I wish that….”

Think as well about how to receive feedback constructively.

  1. Listening and embracing. Accept the observations of the other person.
  2. Questioning – when something is unclear
  3. Summarize – formulate and reflect important findings

It is important when receiving feedback that you will give no justification, defense or explanation. Remain calm, think about what you have heard and reflect on the feedback given. However, if you give or receive feedback, handle it as a gift. A good feedback can enhance collaboration and help to reduce conflicts in any setting.