• What is team teaching?
  • Team teaching pairings
  • Getting started
  • Team teaching challenges
  • Team teaching online
  • Benefits of team teaching for teachers
  • Benefits of team teaching to learners

What is team teaching?

Team teaching is also known as collaborative teaching or co-teaching and is an instructional strategy where teachers work together regularly.

There are a number of different approaches to team teaching. Some of the most common are:

  • two teachers delivering instruction together
  • one teacher delivering instruction while the other teacher assists learners
  • one teacher delivering instruction while the other teacher observes and collects data
  • two teachers teaching in parallel, delivering instruction simultaneously to two groups
  • two teachers splitting the class into two groups; one teacher works with the larger group while the other teacher works with individual learners or small groups.

While these formats are predominantly used in the physical classroom, they can also be applied in an online teaching environment.

Below are some tips to get the most out of team teaching:

  • Set aside time for planning meetings
  • Use meetings to plan, implement and review or evaluate teaching practices
  • Use your strengths in terms of planning, locating, and designing resources
  • Divide tasks evenly, but both should be willing to accommodate the other’s needs
  • Be clear on times and dates for meetings and sharing of resources
  • Complete your allocated planning work separately and then share and review together
  • Stick to deadlines and flag problems early
  • Discuss roles before each lesson
  • Set a time to reflect on lessons after teaching. Consider what went well, and what can be improved for the next lesson. Discuss any key learnings that may have arisen from your team teaching.

Team teaching pairings

Sometimes team teaching combinations can be:

  • set by school/setting leaders
  • a pairing of new and more experienced teachers
  • formed by teachers through shared interests, collegial relationships (note that approval from school/setting leadership may be required)
  • year level groupings, cross-age groupings, subject-based or other combinations.

In order for a team teaching arrangement to prove effective, teachers should be:

  • humble
  • willing to take risks, and learn from mistakes
  • prepared to plan and communicate clearly
  • open-minded
  • imaginative and creative.

Getting started

It is important to establish shared expectations early, before you start working together in the classroom. You may find that you and your colleague share some beliefs and approaches around teaching and learning, and also have some differences. Be clear about how you manage these differences so you can bring a united approach to the learning environment. Some areas of practice that you may wish to discuss are:

  • Behaviour management
  • Marking and assessment
  • The structure of lessons, e.g., will you use learning intentions and success criteria?
  • Any routines you have already been established with the learners
  • Achievement data – which learners are high achievers, and which may face additional challenges accessing the content?

Challenges to team teaching

Many of the challenges below can be addressed with allocated planning time and support from leadership. Observing another team in action or having them model their process before doing it yourself would also be beneficial.

  • Clashing personality types.
  • Reluctance around risk-taking and being observed.
  • Fear of more work.
  • Unwillingness to share ideas.
  • Planning meetings can be draining and require time and consideration of other views.
  • Opposition from leaders, parents, and learners.

Team teaching online

Most of the principles for successful team teaching in a classroom environment would apply to team teaching and working online. If team teaching online, you may need to consider what technological tools you are going to use to facilitate communication channels and sharing of information.

Some tips for team teaching online are:

  • Scope out the different possible platforms to find the one that suits your plan, e.g., Google Classroom, Zoom, Webex
  • Carry out practice runs before the lesson so that you are familiar with the technology
  • Send your students detailed instructions on how to use the platform in case they are unfamiliar with it
  • Divide the technical tasks between you so that you are both able to focus on your role
  • Implement “housekeeping rules” (such as using the raise hands function, keeping microphones on mute when not speaking) to ensure the lesson runs smoothly.

Benefits of team teaching for teachers

There are a number of benefits teachers can gain from participating in team teaching arrangements. Teachers can:

  • see innovative practices
  • spread responsibility
  • encourage creativity
  • deepen professional relationships
  • build the school/setting culture and community
  • allow specialisation or strengths shine
  • share the workload
  • grow confidence in decision making
  • share successes and failures and lift morale
  • culturally enrich one another and learners
  • step up in emergencies and can communicate with casual relief teachers effectively
  • identify and set goals for professional learning needs.

Another potential benefit to team teaching may be the shared responsibility of supervising a preservice teacher. This arrangement would also provide the preservice teacher with extensive new knowledge and experience.

Benefits to learners

There are many benefits to learners, such as observing teachers exhibit:

  • different perspectives
  • collaboration on a variety of tasks
  • their strengths and interests, sparking curiosity and learning
  • a respect for differences, interdependence, and conflict-resolution skills.

Team teaching can also reduce learner-teacher personality issues. Learners may also benefit from being extended in groups, while some may benefit from the attention given in small group instruction.