Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Team Teaching or Coteaching At the Elbows of Another

Recently, I found a book in our collection titled At the Elbows of Another: Learning to Teach by Coteaching by Wolff-Michael Roth and Kenneth Tobin.  Published almost a decade ago, it is not the most current of teaching titles, but I like to look back at the teaching literature and seem to find great ideas among both past and present books.  After all good teaching is good teaching.  Trends come and go, but there are some techniques that have withstood the test of time better than others.

Anyway, this book offers ideas that do not seem revolutionary (perhaps this explains in part why I am the first one to have checked out this book from my library), rather they seem like ideas that make sense, like I have hear it before.  I like this.  In fact, I tend to learn a lot by repetition, and I also learn a lot when I do something.  I wish I remembered the quote, but someone once said that if you read something, you will comprehend it, if you hear it then

This book confirms that when people teach, they learn a lot more about teaching and about the content. Reading theory about teaching and about teachers' experiences can be helpful, but until someone teaches in a live setting, he/she does not learn to teach as quickly. Consider some of the following excerpts from the book:
We use the term ‘new teacher’ in preference to ‘student teacher’ or ‘prospective teacher’ because these latter terms are inconsistent with coteaching, which is premised on the ideas that we learn to teach by teaching (as distinct from observing, studying, or reflecting on teaching) and that learning to teach is a continuous ‘becoming-in- the-classroom’ (xi-xii).

“Teachers rarely are provided with opportunities to work at each other’s elbows despite the fact that in many domains it is very common that learning arises in praxis as part of getting the day’s job done. Pilots, graduate students in science, banking employees, and others learn much of what they know by coparticipating on the job with colleagues who have different experiences and competencies. Furthermore, it has been suggested that ‘the lack of opportunity for teachers to reflect, interact with each other, share, learn, develop on the job makes it unlikely that significant changes will occur’. Yet teachers learn tremendously when they coteach, that is, when they work together with another teacher, at each other’s elbows” (9).

"Learning to teach is an ongoing process for any teacher. However, for new teachers, beginning teachers and those seeking professional renewal there may be occasions when the process is formalized. On such occasions we advocate that coteaching be regarded as an essential component of the process planned for learning to teach. We acknowledge the importance of reading research and theory, discussing implications for practice, teaching classes as the ‘only’ teacher, and reflecting on those practices with a variety of colleagues. In addition we advocate coteaching and associated conversations about practice with the coteacher(s) and students. Because the insider perspective on what is appropriate and possible is so often at odds with the perspectives of outsiders, it is important to include coteaching and conversations with other insiders as essentials in the process of learning to teach” (44).

This is a great book. Take a look at it. The authors seem to be teaching in the sciences, so this book may be particularly useful to those teaching science classes in the Kindergarten through 12th grades. Anyone wanting to learn how to teach in an urban school system might benefit from studying this book as well, considering that three of the chapters talk about this:
3. Becoming a Teacher at City High School
4. Historical Contexts of Coteaching in an Urban School
5. Learning to Teach Science in an Urban School

The rest of the book seems to deal more with the exploration of coteaching and colearning as they relate to research, practice, and evaluation.

Roth, Wolff-Michael and Kenneth Tobin. At the Elbow of Another: Learning to Teach by Coteaching. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Ridge near Boulder Chain Lakes Creek not far from Frog Lake, White Clouds, Idaho.

No comments: