With language teaching and learning becoming more diverse and inclusive, classroom management is changing to meet more specific learners’ needs. One-to-one tutoring makes adjusting to these needs way easier for an educator, but a group as a mixture of learning styles, backgrounds and levels may lead to professional struggles even for experienced teachers. In the search for a solution to address all the needs, lots of them start thinking about sharing classes with other teachers. This way from performing solo to becoming a part of a teaching “band” can significantly revitalise your teaching experience. Below we are going to share some key conceptual moments and show six strategies for teaching partnership models.
The Power of Two
Co-teaching means collaboration between two teachers in sharing lesson-planning routine, in-classroom instructions and progress checking. Becoming co-responsible, educators bring up more benefits from their teaching personalities and mindsets. There are different ways of collaboration: with general and special educators, newbies and experienced teachers, teachers of adjacent disciplines paired together. The first variant of pairing is used to establish a more inclusive atmosphere in a classroom, showing much-needed respect and care for students with special needs and at the same time destigmatising the notion that general education and inclusion are miles apart. The cooperation between a teacher-candidate and his/her mentor is another partnership type. Both students and teachers benefit from this teamwork, leaving room for professional growth and students’ academic performance. Sometimes teachers can contribute by creating a multidisciplinary environment in a classroom, teaching disciplines that are practically interconnected to deepen the CLIL-approach.
The question may arise about setting up this partnership, and it has to be neatly reflected as all pitfalls of teachers’ collaboration will inevitably lead to teaching inconsistencies and issues with students’ comprehension. To avoid it, let’s examine six strategies for better educational pairing.
One teaching, one observing
According to the strategy, one teacher gives all the necessary instructions while the other observes how learners are responding to them. The aim of observing teachers is to monitor and collect data that can be used for further lesson planning, needs analysis adjustment and specific learners’ comprehension blind spots to be filled. What is more, the implementation of this co-teaching approach appears to be inevitable for supervising a newbie teacher by a more experienced colleague. Thus, significant professional support and following mentoring may lead to more benefits concerning the quality of an instructing teacher and students’ perception of course materials. When both teachers are equal in terms of professional achievements and experience, such collaboration can prepare a good ground for working with special needs students who have learning impediments.
One teaching, one assisting
Being partly similar to the previous strategy, this one requires an assisting teacher to be more active and occasionally intervene to provide additional assistance and help to learners. However, all these “interventions” need to be quiet and appropriate since an instructing teacher holds a primary position in a classroom. As it can be seen, the model is initially based on the imbalance of classroom authority, and role swapping is crucial. Without giving each other a chance to be in less and more powerful teaching positions, classroom practitioners’ collaboration will not be working like a well-oiled “machine”.
This model of teachers pairing implements a unique lesson structure: it is divided into separate instructional chunks (or “stations”), and groups of learners are rotating between them. The content of the station is divided so as not to repeat instructions given by two teachers. Such a model can work to its fullest in multidisciplinary classes when the general content framework makes it possible to merge disciplines and at the same time deepen the language area more specifically. As there are two teachers, more “stations” can be created by assigning some students, who will be responsible for the without-a-teacher station. It is also perfect for enabling students to be more independent and proactive.
With a class divided into two groups, the model creates two separate classrooms in one, with their instructors giving the same content simultaneously. The most obvious perk here is closer supervision from an educator and a better-established bond between him/her and students: as learning styles and classroom behavior vary, not everyone may feel comfortable asking questions when the task is not clear enough.
Likewise in parallel teaching, teachers divide a classroom into groups, however, their size differs as there are larger and smaller units. While one is working with a bigger group, another teacher instructs students from the smaller one. Such teaching works effectively when the majority of the classroom needs no special assistance whereas a few students have to be guided separately. Similarly to the parallel teaching model, alternative teaching can work as an additional tool to inspire less confident language learners to boost their studying self-esteem.
This pairing mode highly depends on teachers’ professional compatibility: everything in their practice needs to be shared and reviewed collegially so that students will benefit from the instructions and feel inspired while working in a class. As both deliver the same instructions, the tandem works as “one brain in two bodies”. The complexity of the approach is mainly associated with achieving proper power balance as none is a solo artist. If one educator perceives such a mode as an instruction-giving competition, then the whole process of co-teaching is put at risk.
Is it really worth trying?
Collaborative teaching is a wonderful tool: providing a more personalized, insightful way of conducting classes and responding to the learners’ needs, it anyway may feel like an emotional rollercoaster for educators: finding and implementing the model which will fill up to the expectations of both teachers and their classes takes courage, time and patience. Getting used to working alone, some classroom practitioners may face issues of not holding up as much power and influence on students as before working in tandem. What we recommend to do is not to regard such collaboration as a game or competition. The real reason for co-teaching should always be connected with a more beneficial educational, not classroom-status-seeking mode.
Speaking activities are, obviously, essential for English language speaking classes. A lot of students join classes particularly to develop their communicative competence, become more fluent, versatile, adaptable, and confident communicators in English. However, designing speaking activities might be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for any teacher. We have prepared a memo with superb ready-made speaking tasks that will make your student talking. Download it here.