Successful instructional partnerships are bread and butter roles for the teacher librarian in educational communities. Classroom teachers and other specialists who partner with TL’s find that everyone works better, and works smarter. This month BACC bloggers have been providing ideas that support collaborative practices for co-teaching and learning. True collaborative relationships are developed with time and experience, and involve teaching partners who co-plan instruction, co-teach, and co-assess students together in an active learning model. Judi, Lucy, and Karla have highlighted key pieces for each component in collaborative partnerships that contribute to a win/win for both educators and students.
In order to work closely with another educator, teacher librarians have to build confidence and trust with a partner. As Judi said, co-planning involves knowledge and skills in pedagogy and content standards by both partners. Combining expertise and taking responsibility for sharing tasks for delivering instruction and assessment means that you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk. If the process is to be a partnership, not a dual track distribution of who does what, partners need to build opportunities for self reflection and communication into the collaborative model of teaching. Critical thinking and creativity abound when teaching partners share ideas and insights from different perspectives.
Reflection and Communication While the Co-teaching Plan is in Progress:
Time is at a premium for co-planning and co-assessing, and often these tasks are done on the fly outside the class time through shared documents and folders, IM, Skype, email, or a learning management system interface such as Edmodo or Moodle. Face to face synchronous sessions should be a priority, too, and built into the schedule for both partners. During the implementation phase of the co-teaching plan, partners set up a framework to check in and assess the daily/weekly progress or challenges of the students, and the learning plan. The framework can include a process for students to keep track of their work in blogs, in online discussions, Google documents, forms, and so on. Open accessibility to student work allows communication between teacher and students in a continuous feedback loop, or to ask/answer student questions. Responsibility for responding and tracking students can be divided between the partners, but there also needs to be a process for continuous conversations about adjustments to lesson plans and learning activities based on the variability of students on the road to achieving learning outcomes. Sometimes the road that has been laid out needs to take some unexpected turns. That is what makes the co-teaching so organic and interesting. No need to wait until the planned activities are completed before co-teachers review the plan.
If our expectation is for students to be metacognitive and reflective in their learning, educators should be mindful of that in their collaborative teaching, also.
During the year, I have been following Buffy Hamilton’s excellent blog posts (Unquiet Librarian, 2015) that demonstrate reflection about co-teaching that highlight the dynamics of her work with colleagues in a high school. I have mentioned her blog before, but it continues to be a source of inspiration. Take a minute to read this post that shows that partnerships can include teachers and students, too. It is clear that the communication between the partners is continuous and thoughtful, and leads to changing ideas. You will want to retrace many of her other posts, too.
Post Instruction Review and Reflection:
Once the co-teaching plan has been completed, it is equally important for partners to take time to reflect together on the process and the success/and or challenges that were encountered along the way. Once again, time is always an issue, so partners need to make sure to have some face to face conversations and analysis about the evidence that has been collected to show that students were able (or not) to transfer their understanding and demonstrate knowledge and skills. This is an important piece of evidence based practice for both teaching partners. The collaborative work should be documented and shared with administrators and other stakeholders, and will lay the groundwork for repeating the curriculum unit another time, or to begin to build another collaborative experience.
Key ideas to assess with a critical stance:
- Process/Learning Plan-what was successful? What didn’t work? What misconceptions became evident? What adjustments should be included?
- Product-Was the performance task authentic and did it demonstrate student learning? Are there changes that need to be made?
- Student reflection and feedback-How did the students respond to the process and the learning? What are their suggestions for improving the learning plan?
- Communication-How effective was the communication between partners?
- Individual reflection-Impact on my own teaching and learning
Once you find your teaching partners, they will want to join the party, too. Tell us about your adventures in co-teaching-it’s all the rage!
Hamilton, Buffy. “Bridge to Presearch and Growing Student Understandings: Connect, Extend, Challenge.” Unquiet Librarian. Weblog. March 4, 2015. Accessed June 24, 2015. https://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/bridge-to-presearch-and-growing-student-understandings-connect-extend-challenge/
Judy Kaplan Collection