Team Teaching During Field Experiences in Teacher Education: Investigating Student Teachers’ Experiences With Parallel and Sequential Teaching

January 1, 2020

Source: Journal of Teacher Education. Volume: 71 issue: 1, page(s): 24-40

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study compares two team teaching models, parallel and sequential teaching, and their application in secondary education. In parallel teaching, sometimes called “split class teaching” (Al-Saaideh, 2010), teachers divide the class into subgroups and they each teach the same contents to a subgroup of pupils (Cook & Friend, 1995; Graziano & Navarette, 2012).
The instruction is generally planned by both teachers (Cook & Friend, 1995) and during the instruction they may rotate between the subgroups (Thousand, Villa, & Nevin, 2006).
In sequential teaching, teachers divide the learning content.
They teach the same lesson to the same pupils, but each teacher is responsible for different lesson phases (Carpenter et al., 2007).

The underlying research questions (RQ) of this study are as follows:
RQ1: What attitudes do student teachers adopt toward parallel and sequential teaching during field experiences?
RQ2: What do student teachers report on collaboration during parallel and sequential teaching (during lesson preparation, course teaching, collaboration with the mentor and reflection)?
RQ3: Which advantages and disadvantages do student teachers observe for both models?
RQ4: Which conditions do student teachers consider critical to implement both models in teacher education?

Research Design
Based on the recommendations of the literature, the authors decided to answer the research questions through a quasi-experimental research design, comparing both models using a mixed method approach.

Context and Respondents
The authors report that 14 student teachers participated in the study.
They all had a bachelor’s and master’s degree and were taking a 1-year teacher education program for future secondary school teachers at the University of Antwerp.
The experiment was applied during initial field experiences.
The student teachers had no prior field experience.
Four student pairs applied sequential teaching: three others parallel teaching.

Conclusions and Discussion
The authors report that the study gives a detailed view on two equal status models, parallel and sequential teaching, by investigating the student teachers’ perspective.
Students display positive feelings toward both models.
Students mainly underline positive elements (less frightening, more fun).
Initial hesitation is mainly due to unfamiliarity with the model or a preference for individual teaching.
After field experiences, hesitations are mainly situated within the parallel model: they are related to organizational challenges and to the workload it imposes on mentors.
A mentor questionnaire (Simons & Baeten, 2017) confirms that mentors indeed experience more organizational problems in parallel teaching, but simultaneously consider both models useful for their own teaching practice and professional development.

The results indicate that it might therefore be better not to impose just one model, but to let the students choose—alongside their mentors.
The collaboration level is significantly higher in sequential than in parallel teaching, for all activities involved (preparation, teaching, evaluation and reflection).
The collaboration levels in sequential teaching almost entirely match the desired collaboration level.
Students mention almost twice as many advantages as opposed to disadvantages for both models.
Next to the advantages reported in the literature, two new advantages were found: decreased workload and better management.
Peer support is the advantage most commonly shared, which confirms previous studies (Gardiner & Robinson, 2009; Goodnough et al., 2009; King, 2006; Smith, 2004).
Next, professional growth, increased dialogue, and decreased workload are mentioned most often.
Sequential outscored parallel teaching on professional growth, decreased workload, and personal growth.
Peer support is the advantage most commonly shared, which confirms previous studies (Gardiner & Robinson, 2009; Goodnough et al., 2009; King, 2006; Smith, 2004).
Next, professional growth, increased dialogue, and decreased workload are mentioned most often.
As far as disadvantages are concerned, the elements from the literature were confirmed, but two new elements, mentioned by nearly all respondents, were found: interdependence and complex management. Interdependence can be professional (another pace or method), or emotional (influence of peer motivation and/or anxiety).
Complex management implies both class and time management.
Lack of compatibility and other disadvantages (e.g., lower level of involvement) are mentioned more often in sequential than in parallel teaching.
In regard to mentors and pupils, student teachers experienced more advantages and less disadvantages for sequential teaching.
In general terms the picture is less clear. Both models show advantages and disadvantages.

The authors conclude by giving three specific implications of this study for teacher education:
• Teacher education institutes search for alternative field experience models, inspired by cooperative and collaborative learning.
This study illustrates that the parallel and sequential teaching model, but particularly the latter have the potential to truly increase collaboration between student teachers, but, however, also shows that the application of those models should not entail the substitution of individual teaching.

• The study reveals that both team teaching models can help offset some of the issues that typically affect the more traditional student teaching model, such as lack of support and teaching in isolation.
In both models, the student teachers experienced ample support, both emotionally and professionally, which made them grow on a professional and personal level.

• To ensure a successful implementation of these teaching models in teacher education, teacher educators should prepare student teachers (and their mentors) for their new roles.
Teacher educators could not only inspire the latter by explaining and showing examples during their own lessons, but should also ensure peer compatibility, and vary individual and team-teaching models.
Particularly when implementing parallel teaching, they should not overlook specific practical issues (pupil repartition, room location).

Al-Saaideh, M. (2010). A rationale to adopt team teaching in prevocational education in Jordan. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 37(4), 269-285.
Carpenter, D., Crawford, L., Walden, R. (2007). Testing the efficacy of team teaching. Learning Environments Research, 10, 53-65.
Cook, L., Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practices. Focus on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 1-16.
Gardiner, W., Robinson, K. (2009). Paired field placements: A means for collaboration. The New Educator, 5, 81-94.
Goodnough, K., Osmond, P., Dibbon, D., Glassman, M., Stevens, K. (2009). Exploring a triad model of student teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 285-296.
Graziano, K., Navarette, L. (2012). Co-teaching in a teacher education classroom: Collaboration, comprise, and creativity. Issues in Teacher Education, 21(1), 109-126.
King, S. (2006). Promoting paired placements in initial teacher education. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 15(4), 370-386.
Simons, M., Baeten, M. (2017). Student teachers’ team teaching during field experiences: An evaluation by their mentors. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 24(5), 415-440.
Smith, J. (2004). Developing paired teaching placements. Educational Action Research, 12(1), 99-125.
Thousand, J. S., Villa, R. A., Nevin, A. (2006). The many faces of collaborative planning and teaching. Theory into Practice, 45(3), 239-248. 

Updated: Jul. 07, 2020