How Team Teaching Can Boost Teacher Retention

How Team Teaching Can Boost Teacher Retention

Giving teachers more control over their collaboration with peers may boost the effectiveness of teacher teams and encourage educators to stay in the classroom, according to Education Week.

At Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz., special education teacher Kelly Owen and four colleagues organize freshman students’ schedules, lessons, and grouping for four of the six class periods each day as part of the Next Education Workforce program.

“Before I came to Westwood, I deeply undervalued the need to work on the team, to focus on things like psychological safety, good processes for running meetings, clear expectations, good communication, even radical candor,” Owen says. “Teachers are not trained like that.”

Early results of an ongoing study of the NEW program, developed at Arizona State University, in the Mesa public schools suggest the team-teaching model gives educators flexibility to play to their strengths.

In the NEW model, groups of 100 students are assigned to teams of four to five teachers, who work together to cover core-subject areas as well as social-emotional learning. The 80,000-student Mesa district, the largest in Arizona, has expanded the teaching teams to most of its schools, and NEW has also expanded to schools in California and Texas.

Collaboration can be one of the most effective instructional strategies, but studies find teachers often don’t have enough planning time or control over their schedules and pacing to make the model work.

The NEW teams don’t just meet to plan lessons and then separate into their own classrooms; from day to day, they may co-teach all together, take small groups in individual classes, or other instructional configurations. Protected, unstructured planning and collaboration time has been key to making the team-teaching work.

“It’s truly the five of us in a room for 110 minutes, five days per week,” Owen says. “We spend a lot of time working on psychological safety [and] vulnerability. How do we create an atmosphere so that all five of us feel brave enough to say, ‘I need another co-teacher,’ ‘I wanna try something and I need some help doing it,’ or ‘I don’t feel comfortable doing this.’”

The teams also have significant instructional autonomy. This year, the team’s math teacher moved to another school. “We went out and found [a replacement] math teacher, and our principals let us do it. It was a person who was in the building and we were like, look, she fits the vibe. She’s the person who’s gonna work well with us,” Owen says.

Team-based educators in Mesa also received higher average effectiveness ratings from their principals than solo teachers, particularly when later in their careers.

Owen agrees. Her team includes a nine-year veteran and others who just finished their second and third years of teaching.

“We get to bounce ideas off of each other. We all co-plan. So the amount of feedback that we’re getting on a regular basis is really increasing [teachers’] efficacy and … skill set,” she says. Her early-career colleagues “are developing huge levels of confidence, and I see them taking on leadership that second year and third year [that] teachers just simply don’t take on,” such as developing demonstration lessons and serving as model teachers.

Education Week

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