The Power of Team Teaching to Enhance Student Learning

Louise Wallace-Richards, Assistant Principal - Teaching and Learning

Louise Wallace-Richards, Assistant Principal - Teaching and Learning

'The most valuable resource that all educators have is each other.
Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.'

Robert John Meehan, American Poet and Educator 

Radford College teachers value collaborating with each other and our colleagues in other schools in the ACT. The recent Board of Senior Secondary Studies Moderation Day is just one of the examples of collaboration we are involved in with our peers in other schools, as are the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) network meetings attended each term by me and many of our Heads of Departments and teachers. At these meetings we share our pedagogical practices and learn from each other about innovative teaching, assessment and reporting approaches, as well as seeing innovative practices at work in the host schools. 

AIS Heads of Teaching and Learning came to Radford in Term 2 to view the Morison Centre, and hear a presentation by our Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, Lisa Plenty, on our involvement in University of Melbourne’s Plans to Pedagogy project.

This is a project that Radford is engaged with to explore the role spaces and furniture can play in enhancing student learning. 

At the Term 3 meeting held at Canberra Girls Grammar School, I learned about how their multi-purpose building, Yhurramulum, at Lake Burley Griffin, is being used to deliver interdisciplinary learning to Year 7 – 10 students. Radford staff are invited to see the interdisciplinary learning approach in action in the months ahead.  

A key area of collaborative learning that the Secondary School is currently exploring is team or co-teaching. Our teachers certainly use collaboration as a method of delivering learning, but the refurbishment of Radford College Secondary School classrooms, and the building of the Morison Centre, have provided our teachers with more opportunities to plan to team or co-teach. 

The Plans to Pedagogy group, led by Lisa Plenty, is currently researching team teaching and its effects on student learning. Tom Black and Jeremy Hawkes, teachers of two Year 8 Maths classes, and Jason Golding and Ailsa Mackerras, Head and Assistant Head of English respectively, and teachers of two Year 10 classes, have been planning lessons involving team teaching in various forms over the past two terms.

English classes in the new teaching spaces

In addition to this action research approach, one of the Academic Leadership Community of Practice (ACL CoP) groups, attended by me, Gemma Wilson, Acting Head of Library, Sally Stenning, Head of Performing Arts and Ailsa Mackerras, is currently researching models of team teaching, the benefits to student learning, and the logistics involved in implementing team teaching as a successful pedagogical practice in the Secondary School.  

A 360-degree view of team teaching in the Morison Centre

We have researched the many different forms team teaching can take when teachers are working together. In Interactions: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals, 7th Edition, by Friend and Cook, Pearson, Boston, 2013, they list the forms: 

  1. one teaches, one observes
  2. one teaches, one assists
  3. station teaching
  4. parallel teaching
  5. alternative teaching 
  6. team-teaching (co-teaching or tag-team).

We have also found through our research that team teaching must not be done just for the sake of doing it and to be successful, it must not be assumed that teachers will naturally know how to work collaboratively in the classroom together. Team teaching lessons need to be thoroughly planned, and professional relationships between team teachers carefully cultivated. The relationship needs to be equal, as researchers into team teaching Marilyn Friend, University of North Carolina and Lynne Cook, California State University, found in 2003: 

Interpersonal collaboration is a style of direct interaction between at least two co-equal parties voluntarily engaged in shared decision-making as they work toward a common goal. 

To ensure that any implementation of team teaching as a mainstream pedagogical approach in our Secondary School is successful, our Plans to Pedagogy team and ACL CoP group visited schools in Term 2 including Kildare College in Wagga Wagga and Central Coast Grammar (CCG). In particular, Damon Cooper, Director of Teaching and Learning at CCG, a former colleague of Ailsa's, was very generous with his time in showing us how team teaching is used in English and History classes at his school. 

In the months ahead, both the Plans to Pedagogy team and the ACL CoP, Team Teaching will be gathering data about the benefits of team teaching for Radford Secondary students. In particular, we will be testing the claims about team teaching that it leads to an increase in: 

  1. Student learning and achievement through exposure to a range of teacher expertise and perspectives, and increased opportunity for feedback;

  2. Student metacognition through observing teachers model effective learning behaviours such as academic discourse (and, at times, disagreement), collaboration, and peer-to-peer learning;

  3. Student engagement through responsive classroom management;

  4. Integration and support of students with diverse learning needs, through opportunities for targeted interventions;

  5. Teacher development through peer-to-peer professional learning and development of collaborative practice; and

  6. Teacher satisfaction through sharing experiences (including struggles and successes) and learning environments with other adults.

Read: Team Teaching brief summary



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