How do you know? What assessment tools do you use? What do you assess?
I'm thinking about this because as part of the Teacher Leadership Initiative, I've embarked on a shared teaching model with two colleagues at fifth grade. It's a model I believe in for many reasons, and a model that I believe has been successful. I think it's a better way to teach and learn for the following reasons:
- Less isolation, greater team.
- Better ideas and practice due to greater collaboration.
- More variety and people who care which translates to better service for students.
- Greater depth since we have more time to plan and teach better, more targeted lessons.
- Less comparison between classrooms since we're all working together.
For years, I worked in a mostly one-teacher-one-classroom model. For the most part, that was a lonely place to be and as the only teacher for the students, I could only stretch myself so far. Now, with a team of three classroom teachers, special educators, specialists, and assistants, there's greater opportunity to serve the children with greater depth and breadth.
There are many structures in place that support our efforts including the following:
- a supportive principal
- classroom spaces that are in the same area of the school
- weekly PLC time
- shared communication routines and vehicles (mainly Google websites and documents)
- a good weekly routine of teaching and learning
But, back to my original question, how do we know if this model is successful and what do we mean by successful.
For some, success in school means success on standardized tests. So far, for the most part, student have done quite well on the tests to date. Yet, I think this measure is only partly important as not every child is going to succeed on a standardized test for multiple reasons and the tests only test a discrete set of learning/teaching points.
For others, success at school means happiness. It seems that overall, students are happy. When conflict occurs we deal with it right away with respectful conflict resolution. We've surveyed the children and parents too, and the results have been favorable with regard to happiness.
Still more would say that happiness is establishing time for project/problem based learning. We're doing that, and measure it mostly by observation and informal discussion.
And, success to some would be all about collaboration and team. We are are working a lot to build team through direct experience and discussion. We are further developing this through our work with Open Circle and social competency.
Is the success now any different than success before? I'd say that in my case I'm able to spend more direct time on teaching since there is less transition work of changing from one subject to the next. There's also less behavioral issues since about the time that students don't want to attend anymore is just when it's time to transition to another class. As far as the deep relationships that happen with one-teacher-one classroom, we're able to do that during our homeroom time and theme days when students spend the whole day in the classroom focusing on a grade-wide theme and project/problem work.
If I wanted to develop the model more, I think I'd reach out to a consultant whose expertise was shared teaching/learning models, someone who was willing to challenge our work, study our collaboration, and push our model even deeper and more successful with regard to our service to students. It's difficult to continually develop what you do by essentially looking in the mirror--it's helpful to have other invested educators take a look, consult, and coach forward in positive, up-to-date, and well researched ways.
I also want to reach out to family members for ideas about the model and where they see its strengths as well as room for improvement. So far the notes we've received have been very positive. Even notes where ideas for better work have been shared have noted the good things in place already.
As schools move forward to better practice, structure, roles, and routines, I recommend shared teaching models at grade-level or multi-grade-level. I think these models help step us in the right direction with regard to school redesign to better affect teaching and learning. Do you agree?