Opinion: The benefits of team-teaching

Opinion: The benefits of team-teaching

At St Andrews Lutheran College in Tallebudgera, Gold Coast, Queensland we ran a pilot program this year, wherein teachers were asked to ‘Team Teach’ while integrating the curriculum across two learning areas, Design Technology and Information Technologies. We have had great success with students using various software programs to design, build and program their own Theatre boxes. The integrated teaching and learning enabled the students and teachers to acquire skills across the different subject areas.

Our story begins

Our teaching team, consisting of Greg Dart and Karling Howe and Liz Polentas from the Design Technology and the Information Technology faculty were assigned an elective subject that crossed over the two subject areas. The ‘Team Teaching’ concept was an area that was being encouraged by the College as many of us had been teaching alone in the classroom for years. Naturally, our challenges were sharing decision making and developing consistent instructions within the team. This required a ‘growth mindset’ from all involved as we divided instructional content into segments using our individual strengths. At the start, we were overwhelmed by the thought of combining different subject areas into valuable course material whilst aligning the program to meet curriculum requirements. Incorporating one of the school’s mission statement, ‘Empowering Life-long learning’, and keeping it ‘real world’ were major considerations. Initially it was important to determine what the students needed to learn, then ascertain the teaching pedagogy and lastly establish performance indicators through the project orientated activity.

So what did the students produce?

The students were required to plan, design and produce a programmed theatre box. This project would provide the students with the required knowledge and skills and, a tangible product to share and communicate the journey with their parents/ guardians. Students created their vector images/puppets in Adobe Illustrator and printed them on the laser cutter. They designed their theatre boxes using Inventor, a 3D CAD software program in the IT lab and then progressed to cutting and assembling the wooden boxes in the Design and Technology workshop. Fun began when the students had to start programming the servomotors that would operate their puppets using the Arduino Open Source software.  Some students found coding a challenge, while for others, programming ignited interest, some even got their puppets to move using their TV remote from home.

What did we learn?

The integrated teaching and learning enabled the students and teachers to acquire unique skills across these subject areas. Explicit teaching was paramount allowing students to feel that every teacher in the room was an equal partner and had equal status; we had to trust each other. With the extra teacher in the classroom, the lowered teacher student ratio allowed for more one-on-one learning time. The students benefitted tremendously, they had teachers with complimentary styles and expertise in different fields. Students were able to connect with the different personalities and realise that everyone in the room had a common goal and we were all a team. A mutual understanding of equality with teaching staff was effectively established whilst at the same time lead teaching was divided into sections. The teacher that was on the learning- end also addressed student questions, where possible; this also encouraged on-the-job learning experience. As educators, we experienced different teaching styles and a collaborative approach and commitment to deliver creative lessons. We needed to be flexible and when things did not go to plan, we quickly adapted. Team-teaching is a great way forward for professional learning.  

Liz Polentas is the Subject Coordinator - Information Technology at St Andrews Lutheran College in Tallebudgera, Gold Coast, Queensland.