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Team teaching

Teaching strategies

Team teaching: what is it and why use it?

Team teaching – students receive instruction from multiple teachers who share teaching duties. Sometimes called co-teaching.

A picture of an active classroom with multiple teacher aides working with students.

Team teaching is a strategy that involves 2 or more teachers working together to teach a class. It is also known as ‘co-teaching’ or ‘shared teaching’. In this scenario, the teachers simultaneously work in the same classroom with the same students on the same topic, delivering the same activities and using the same resources. In other words, teaching duties are shared. Like 2 mechanics working together to fix a car, team teaching requires coordination, organisation, a good working relationship and a set of shared goals.

Team teaching is most effective when teachers work well together – in other words, when they ‘click’. Advocates of team teaching say that it has a number of key benefits, such as:

  • improving the work environment, staff morale, job satisfaction and staff retention
  • teachers learning from one another (as otherwise, some teachers never see other teachers in action)
  • challenging students responding more positively to a different teacher (due to personality type)
  • a shared workload in terms of planning, resource development and marking
  • the addition of more expertise (especially in specialty areas)
  • additional one-on-one and small group support from 2 or more teachers
  • the pairing or joining complementary teaching skills (for example, a maths teacher with poor IT skills pairs up with a maths teacher with good IT skills)
  • modelling teamwork and cooperation to students
  • the practicality of merging small(ish) classes (especially if they are scheduled in adjoining rooms)
  • additional support for behavioural issues
  • fewer issues if one teacher is absent
  • inexperienced or struggling teachers being matched with experienced teachers that act as mentors.

While working with teacher’s aides is not technically team teaching by definition, teachers regularly turn to them to provide educational, behavioural, personal care and logistical support.i Purely from a time management perspective, a teacher can only help so many students in any given lesson. Additionally, many students with special needs require one-on-one support. Teacher’s aides often have more experience with children (whether as a parent, in the classroom, or both) than the classroom teacher (particularly graduate teachers).ii Teacher’s aides are a lifeline for new teachers and for those operating in challenging classes.

Like 2 mechanics working together to fix a car, team teaching requires coordination, organisation, a good working relationship and a set of shared goals.

The teacher’s aide also has the unintended and somewhat positive effect of reducing the class size (by working with a ‘table’ or group, the number of students under direct teacher supervision is reduced by the number of students in that group – this can be up to 20%). The ratio of adults to students is also doubled (students, particularly younger students, don’t differentiated all that much between the teacher and the teacher’s aide – they just see two adults particularly if the teacher’s aide is competent and enforces rules and consequences consistent with the teacher).

However, while teacher’s aides are common (around 30% of school staff or more), unfortunately teachers are rarely taught how to effectively manage and direct them. Teachers are excellent managers of children – but not necessarily of adults. Many are hesitant and struggle to manage teacher’s aides who are much older than themselves; they prefer not to address issues that may cause tension. Thankfully, there are a number of simple steps that teachers can take to maximise the effect of teacher’s aides in their classroom such as:

  • including all team members in planning and resource development activities
  • hiring only teacher’s aides that have qualifications from reputable providers and who agree to the tasks outlined in their job description (such as admin tasks)
  • holding regular team meetings and communicating throughout the day
  • clearly defining roles, expectations and tasks (such as administration tasks)
  • ensuring that there are no misunderstandings and resolving issues quickly
  • setting, enforcing and maintaining a high standard of professionalism (for example, in dress code, language use, organisation, not using mobile phones in class, only drinking water during class time, and so forth)
  • specifying exactly and how often all relevant tasks are expected to be undertaken in the teacher’s aide job description. There are many examples of issues arising from a teacher’s aide being asked to do non-instructional tasks such as admin work, shopping or cleaning. If this is part of their job (and it should be as it is part of the teachers job), it needs to be clearly stated in their job description (which should be read and signed by the teacher’s aide before they are offered a position).

Foot notes:

  1. Harris, L.R., Aprile, K.T. (2015). ‘I can sort of slot into many different roles’: examining teacher aide roles and their implications for practice. School Leadership & Management, 35(2), 140-162. doi: 10.1080/13632434.2014.992774.
  2. The average graduate age of a teacher’s aide is 37 according to data from Fast Track Training Australia, whereas the majority of graduate teachers are in their early 20s.

About the author

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

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