18 September 2013

Creating more that the sum of our parts

Collaborating is the interaction we have in our relationship with others. Collaboration between individuals in any institution can vary from incidental and diverse, to careful and deliberate. But teaching in a cooperative, supportive and open environment does not have to be a co-teaching pedagogy.

Cook (2004) defines Co-teaching as two or more teachers having shared guardianship of responsibility for students, shared use of space and shared responsibility for teaching and learning. The rational behind it is
1. it allows for more personal learning and individualised instruction
2. increase flexibility for use of space, and for scheduling
3. provides collegial support, and through this a positive model for social interaction

 Co-teaching requires an open learning space, and conversely effective teaching in an open learning space requires this definition of co-teaching.

Shaun Wood's Ignite Talk talks about his research and experience with co-teaching.
He explains several different Co-teaching models, some of them more suitable to whole class teaching, rather than the group instruction New Zealand Primary teaching of the core subjects is usually based on. The model that I am most interested in is 'station teaching' because it allows for an element of student choice.

Station teaching is where 2 or more teachers work with individuals or groups at different teaching spaces. These spaces or stations can be flexible depending on group size and activity. Workshops might be optional for students based on their learning needs or interests, set rotations, or based on teacher strengths.

In our Open Learning Space we are lucky to have 3 teachers with a shared vision, and strong structure to support intentional co-teaching. Most or our day is spent on small group instruction, with some individual conferencing. These guided teaching sessions are increasingly allowing students to have ownership of their learning and allow for them to opt into workshops. This means learners can learn what they need, when they need it. They don't have to wait for others, or be interupted when they just want to get on with it.

At a recent Manaiakalani Student Hui, one of the consistent themes that came through feed back from students across Primary and Secondary schools was; let us learn when we need to, don't stop us from learning! However, the ability and the belief that you can take responsibility for your learning is not universal. This is something we are trying to scaffold, teach and provide differentiated pedagogy to meet different needs of our students see post on Learning To Suit The Learner.

A co-teaching approach, which is enabled through our open learning space, has allowed us to have increased teaching and learning flexibility, creating more I believe than the sum of our separate parts.