Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 44(4)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study investigates CCT as an effective teaching approach in higher education from the perspective of lecturers, rather than students, to demonstrate how it can be adopted in a university context.
It approaches CCT through a case study of two early career academics’ coteaching experiences within a philosophy and ethical practice subject for 35 final-year primary teacher education students.
The coordinator of the subject suggested the coteaching approach to accommodate the needs of a larger class and to generate research opportunities for the coteachers.
She acted as a critical friend and as a third author of this paper.
The study provides an in-depth overview of the coteachers’ experience of CCT.
It documents the gradual deepening intensity of collaboration and describes how CCT helped the coteachers enhance their teaching.
The self-study methodology was used by the authors to explore collaborative coteaching within one academic semester of a philosophical and ethical practice of teaching unit for final year Australian primary teacher education students.
The subject coordinator for the unit arranged to have both tutors work together for one semester to explore coteaching’s potential to generate innovative teaching practice and improved student learning outcomes.
The tutors had equal power levels as they were both casual academics who had been teaching the subject separately for approximately four to five semesters.
They were not well-acquainted with each other prior to this experience,
The researchers attempted to generate principles of effective coteaching through investigating their own practice.
The coteachers acted as the researchers in this study to observe, record and experience the changes through being a part of the social world that is studied (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1995).
They believed that acting as the researcher and practitioner would give them deeper insight into the impact of CCT as they could experience, reflect on, evaluate and research the coteaching process firsthand.
The main sources of data were weekly reflective journal entries written by the coteachers and a tape-recorded interview discussion with a critical peer.
The subject coordinator acted as the critical peer who conducted the interview with coteachers.
Other data sources include student surveys, email communication, notes from weekly face to face meeting between both tutors and classroom observations.
Using this data, the researchers sought to investigate the nature of the coteaching partnership, as well as CCT’s benefits and challenges.
As the study progressed, the coteachers/researchers established three research questions, which included:
1) What was the nature of the coteaching partnership in this study?
2) What were the benefits of coteaching for tutors and students?
3) What does this study reveal about the practicality of adopting coteaching in higher education?
How Did the Coteaching Relationship Evolve Over Time?
The authors stress that it is important to note that the coteaching partnership does not remain static.
Flexibility and openness to change can enable coteachers to maximise the benefits of teaching together.
In the beginning of this study, for instance, both teachers had a limited understanding of coteaching and subsequently planned and delivered the teaching separately to ‘save time.’
Their level of collaboration was minimal as they focused on efficiency rather than on learning from each other.
They were also unfamiliar with the coteaching approach and the possibilities for collaboration.
Both instructors progressively became more interested in maximising the advantages of coteaching.
After the first four sessions, the coteachers decided to try alternative strategies to intensify collaboration and to explore its potential benefits.
This began the second phase of the coteaching, which was more closely aligned with CCT as it involved greater levels of collaboration at all stages.
The instructors’ online communication supplemented rather than detracted from their face to face meetings,
The Benefits of CCT for Teachers and Students
Without intense collaboration, the coteachers believed that they could not maximise the benefits of coteaching.
This took place through cogenerative dialogue about shared practice, where teachers could develop a critical and reflexive approach to teaching.
Their cogenerative dialogue touched on both the similarities and differences in their practices.
Discussion about similarities acted as a powerful source of affirmation.
Author 2 and Author 1 expressed feeling comfortable teaching together as they both valued dynamic and interactive environments that involved spontaneously choreographing learning activities.
Observing and engaging in cogenerative dialogue about the differences in teaching styles also enabled practitioners to learn.
Finally, coteachers engaged in cogenerative dialogue to explore new online teaching platforms such as Google classroom.
In their weekly planning sessions, they discussed ways to experiment with Google classroom’s questioning functions to help students to discuss and reflect on their learning.
As they evaluated the benefits of this platform, they were able to extend their usages to include forms to survey students.
They used Google slides to share materials and enable student to contribute to the resources in real time and Google drawing tools to create mind maps to help students to think critically about key philosophical and ethical issues.
It was the first time both instructors used this online forum in their teaching.
Their supportive partnership allowed them to experiment with new teaching tools to enhance their practice.
Coteaching also provided opportunities to develop greater reflexivity.
In an informal mid-point student survey, many students used the “any other comments” space to provide feedback on this teaching mode.
The positive comments reflected the coteachers’ experiences of working collaboratively together.
Students described how they felt that CCT facilitated a supportive, informed and energetic learning environment.
A formal student evaluation survey at the end of the unit further revealed that Author 2 and Author 1’s class ranked in the top two classes delivered by the entire Education Faculty.
Finally, the tutors received an email from the Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning, commending them for their excellent teaching.
Exploring the Viability of Coteaching in Higher Education
The need to explore the practical viability of coteaching in higher education emerged through the interview.
The coordinator was interested in coteaching’s practical advantages and its applicability to higher education.
She noted that CCT was successful in this study due to the coteachers’ compatibility and their dedication to their work, which she considered to be a “lucky” turn of events.
She also noted the “lack of ego” in their partnership, which may have been attributed to the fact that Author 1 and Author 2 were early career academics and casual tutors for the subject.
To explore potential challenges, the critical friend asked what they thought would happen if one coteacher did not equally contribute into the partnership.
Author 2 described how an unequal partnership could possibly generate mentoring opportunities for the less experienced instructor.
He reflected on how this could raise the overall teaching quality of the faculty.
They also discussed the maximum number of students undertaken without compromising on learning outcomes.
Although their tutorial had 37 students in total, both Author 1 and Author 2 agreed that they could even cater to double that number whilst still maintaining quality through the effective use of technology.
Technology helped the coteachers cater for the needs of large class sizes by allowing students to post their ideas onto Google classroom through their mobile devices.
Google docs also allowed students to contribute to the teaching materials as they were being delivered.
Both Author 2 and Author 1 believed that CCT did not need to be systematically implemented, but they agreed that it needed to have a ‘presence’ to provide preservice teachers with a visible model of effective collaborative teaching.
This case study demonstrates how coteachers learnt to view their practice from a ‘growth orientated’ perspective through engaging in co-generative and reflective dialogue from lived teaching encounters.
Through a supportive and collaborative environment, both early career academics were able to experiment with new and innovative forms of teaching and acquire greater reflexivity in their practice.
Learning to teach is an ongoing process and CCT can be a powerful tool for transformation.
As teachers make their habitus visible, they can see their world through another’s eyes to perceive learning possibilities that could be difficult to imagine when teaching alone.
Hammersley, M. & Atkinson, P. (1995). Ethnography: Principles in practice. New York: Routledge.