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Collaborating with Colleagues: Co-Teaching

Today teaching in the team or co-teaching is a necessary part of the education process. Team teaching and collaborative learning are increasingly used in developing teaching practical skills. Even though it is a novel method, it also embraces long-standing traditions of teaching. Co-teaching has become one of the most popular subjects for research in the area. The focus of this paper is the impact of team teaching not only on the achievements of students, but also on teachers, the process of training and organizational development, and, moreover, dealing with problems connected with the approach. We shall also describe recent findings related to research, not only in the field of inclusive education, but also other aspects such as the impact of teaching teams on students, teachers themselves, and the development of the process of training as well as organizational development.

Co-Teaching Approaches and the Different Roles of Teachers

Teaching Roles

King-Sears, Brawand, Jenkins, and Preston-Smith (2014) in their study describe the clarity of the division of roles and equal dialogue between teachers. Students have a clear understanding of the role their teachers perform at team training. Based on observations and analysis, it was concluded that the teaching roles are fundamental aspects, which should be discussed between the teachers. Often, examples of an assistant care model are observed. In this case, it is possible to talk not only about the work of the teacher assistant but also about cooperation between the classroom and correctional teachers in integrative and inclusive forms of education, in which generally one would expect an equal distribution of responsibility for what happens in the classroom. Each teacher has a specific experience (class teachers have class knowledge; correctional educators have special pedagogical and subject knowledge) and can contribute to the optimal organization of the lesson. There can be a confrontation, for example, correctional educators are not satisfied with the appointment to the role of assistant teacher. King-Sears, Brawand, Jenkins, and Preston-Smith (2014) confirm the existence of this problem. However, they point to the fact that parents of children with special needs appreciate the individual effort of the correctional educator.

King-Sears, Brawand, Jenkins, and Preston-Smith (2014) found that, although teachers worked together effectively, nonetheless the subject teacher communicated with the whole group twice as often than the special education teacher, and was three times more likely to explain the new topic. Special education teacher is not primarily responsible for the training. Both teachers were convinced that they have effective relationships in the team. Subject teachers more positively viewed the parity in the distribution of roles than correctional educators. Forty-three percent of students believed that the subject teacher is responsible for training, forty-three percent of respondents expressed the view that the responsibility is divided equally between the two teachers.

Tajino and Walker (1998) showed in their study that a Japanese teacher of English worked together with a native speaker being his assistant and performing the role of interpreter. In other words, the students stayed in contact with the native speaker only because there was an assistant to establish effective communication. If he had mastered the Japanese language better, the presence of the assistant would have become redundant. As regards the effectiveness of teaching in the team, they noted that, although in general, all the results were positive.

It can be said that teachers either do not understand the roles they are given or unconsciously perform the assisting model, where one teacher takes the leading role and responsibility, while the assistant provides support and acts according to the instructions of the leading teacher. The longer a team works together, the less clear becomes who takes the leading position in joint exercises, and the joint responsibility of the two teachers is increasing. Thus, it is obvious that the team becomes less responsive in terms of reacting to the changing environment in the class. Therefore, it is not recommended to change the roles of the teachers in the team if the desired results are achieved.

The accumulation of knowledge of cooperation is an important condition for success. This can further be achieved by improving the quality of communication between the two teachers. The voluntary participation of teachers is important as well as the possibility of free choice of a team-mate. On the one hand, this is significant in terms of basic education and teaching facilities and team values, and on the other, different and complementary skills of teachers can be realized at this stage. This requires personal compatibility and interoperability of cooperating professionals. A good working relationship contributes to the manifestation of the willingness of teachers to change their teaching roles eventually considering different models of learning.

Teaching Models

In Wollner and Ginsborg`s (2011) study, the view of teachers in the teaching organization was examined. It was considered whether the involvement of students in the lesson can be enhanced by the reflective teamwork: active listening, empathy, communication, etc. The study compared three models. The first is room management, where teachers operate in the same classroom, and depending on the situation, take different roles: the personal assistant (takes care of individual students or small groups), activity manager (takes care of the rest of the class), the initiator (provides ready material, corrects, takes care of the breaks). The second model is the division into zones (zoning). Here the spatial class is clearly divided: the first teacher takes one group and the second one the other. The third model is based on reflective teamwork. The concept of humanistic psychology serves as the basis for all teachers to be provided with training in areas such as active listening, empathy, communication and their use in the work.

All three models have contributed to the fact that students of six schools surveyed have become more active than before. Thus, differences within the management room model were the highest probably due to radical organizational changes that are expected to affect the didactic approach, especially in time planning. The models with mixed methods showed that the team comprising teachers of different subjects catalyzed learning of the required curriculum, thus spending less time than in traditional training.

Impact on Students

School Performance

Students both with and without learning difficulties showed a significant increase in performance in reading and writing. Also, an interviewed teacher noted an increase in the ability to learn among the students. Students’ achievements in mathematics improved with a team of two teachers. According to the testimony of students, it can be assumed that they are positively influenced by the assistance provided in different ways. In the classroom for biology, with co-teaching, the results of cumulative tests increased. The reason may be that children with impaired learning ability compared with their classmates could ask the teachers for help more frequently.

Motivational and Emotional Effects

Increasing the degree of satisfaction from co-teaching, students preferred co-teaching lessons. Positive outcomes for students are shown in Tajino and Walker's studies (1998). Students taught by two teachers were making progress not only in the classroom activities but also were perceived as a stronger community. Students felt united, they had fewer manifestations of undesirable behavior, they helped each other. Therefore, one can assume that with the pedagogical support of several teachers working together, students tend to develop quality interpersonal relationships. Students were given more attention. Positive, statistically significant differences in terms of possible responses, positive feedback, training in small groups and individual counseling, especially at the primary school level were recorded.

Impact on Teachers

Professionalization

As for the teachers, recent studies have shown different levels of exposure. Along with the theme of professionalization, in the research, the impact of the issue of co-teaching to reduce the load is discussed. The survey in the primary school indicated that teachers specializing in co-teaching carried out the professionalization (improved their skills) in this way. Expansion of pedagogical repertoire, improving personal language competence as well as improving the efficiency of teachers, the exchange of ideas and enhancing intellectual property along with training opportunities were noted by Chanmugam and Gerlach (2013). In addition, acquired in the course of co-teaching, teaching methods were used even in those moments when teachers worked alone. From this, one can conclude that there is professional development of teachers.

A specific example showed that co-teaching can be regarded as a training mode, as one can learn to address practical questions. Two teachers were interviewed, they described teaching as a team cooperative process. At the same time, both the overall construction of knowledge and the introduction of new ideas into practice are central ideas. The methodological study of Murawsky (2006) was able to substantiate the theory of "achieving symbiosis", showing how teachers worked in teams using their individual differences and strengths. Challenges can be successfully overcome through such cooperation.

Reducing the Tension

Change in activities and improved well-being, as well as reducing stress, has been noted as the greatest benefit for the teachers teaching in the team. Murawski (2006) observed that the majority of teachers interchanged their roles: one teacher conducted the class, and the other engaged in the administrative work. The author calls it tag-team teaching and considers the strategies which help to cope with the ever-growing challenges and requirements of the teaching profession. In addition, teachers appreciated when they had the opportunity to work together. The study of mixed methods reports that the second teacher often acts as a compensating factor.

At the same time, stressful experiences in the context of teaching in the team are described. As a result, the Japanese teacher at various levels of training was showing skepticism with regard to the teaching team. Problems can be caused by the collision of different personalities or representatives of different cultural backgrounds as well as by the domination of one person (Tajino & Walker, 1998). In general, most teachers believe that team teaching is a useful and positive approach. According to Murawski (2006), teachers enjoy working in the same room as the other one. Positive results achieved by working in the team are clearly traced at the level of professionalization and strengthening of load reduction. The negative results described in the works, for instance, the loss of autonomy and incompatibilities between teachers were seen as an obstacle.

Rationale

Empirical evidence on the impact of co-teaching in the academic process showed that the positive effect is manifested in specific competencies and can be proved by the data acquired through monitoring large groups of students. The experience of co-teaching among the teachers is mostly positive. The preference for this method is obvious as the process of learning is significantly improved. Also, teaching in the team makes it possible to enhance the positive motivational and emotional aspects of learning. Quantitative studies provide evidence on the improvement of the learning process with the help of the teaching in the team (Wollner and Ginsborg, 2011), in particular with respect to the wider use of different teaching methods. The superiority of the co-teaching in terms of discussion of new ideas and additional feedback was reported. Studies showed that with co-teaching, the classes had changed (differentiated) in terms of course content, structure, the process of interaction, and expansion of resources. Studies on the impact of co-teaching on the development of educational processes note that, as the result of the influence of this approach, teaching quality improves and positive educational results are obtained on the basis of observations. It is clear that the form of attractive interactions between teachers should also be used with students. For this, appropriate measures for planning the optimal use of the teaching team should be pre-negotiated.

The aspects of the field of organizational development of schools and universities are also important. Expectations of the social work program were justified and the number of courses was increased due to the implementation of co-teaching. The doctoral program has provided more opportunities for future teachers to generate learning experiences through seminars by two doctoral candidates (Wollner & Ginsborg, 2011). Thus, the idea of learning enrichment (by the teaching team) can benefit not only teachers but also students.

Systematically using the teaching in a team model can lead, in particular, to a change in the curriculum, which is evaluated positively by students (Wollner & Ginsborg, 2011). Co-teaching also impacts knowledge of the control system of school administration. There are differences in the knowledge and practice of administrators. For example, most know how important the overall planning time is, but this knowledge is not being implemented at the level of a practical organization. In this regard, administrators are required more professionalization.

The mutually supporting model of co-teaching is particularly noticeable in the actual inclusive forms of education. In addition, there are significant substantive and specific cultural aspects. Therefore, it turned out that working in the team contributes to teachers’ professionalization. Discussion on the distribution of roles in the team and getting teacher training in order to increase the capacity of the team by clarifying roles are important factors contributing to it. Data obtained using different approaches show a clear picture indicating a need for further development and broader implementation of the co-teaching model. The study showed that in the subject teaching, co-teaching adds the specific aspects to the main peculiarities of the subject, and thus, there is a need for the development of the practice. Tajino and Walker (1998) conclude that co-teaching is particularly effective when it is understood as team learning. If teachers within the teaching team learn from each other, it becomes visible to the students, and when even teachers are involved in a joint learning process with students, they can thus create a completely different picture than the usual stereotypical image of an all-knowing teacher. Students, as well as teachers, become a learning team. This helps to reduce the psychological barrier in the interaction, make the teaching more exciting and motivating, and students take more responsibility for their own learning.

Conclusion

The terms teaching team and cooperative teaching (co-teaching) are often used as synonyms. The studies have shown the dependence of the quality of student performance on the methods of teaching. Co-teaching in different subjects has different requirements. Most studies showed that co-teaching is an effective and useful tool for education. The co-teaching models include several approaches, for instance, room management when teachers work in the same classroom but put on different roles such as personal assistant, activity manager, and initiator; the division into zones or zoning; reflective teamwork. Within co-teaching, teachers can take different roles, which should be clearly defined and pre-negotiated. Quantitative and mixed methods in studies provide empirical evidence regarding the impact of the teaching team on the improvement of the academic achievement of students. This teaching method is superior to traditional training. According to the testimony of students, it can be assumed that they are positively influenced by the assistance provided in different ways. Positive results of the co-teaching with regard to the teachers are clearly traced at the level of professionalization and at the level of load reduction.