If we have no doubt about the benefits of cooperative learning, we should start by setting an example. Two teachers and a teacher trainer can work together in the same classroom and the outcomes can be really positive.

I should start by saying that I work as a teacher trainer for the Department of Education of the Basque Government. I would like to tell you about a really motivating session that took place last year and which was very different both for me and for the teachers who collaborated with me.

All of you will have read about  the benefits of working with another teacher inside the same classroom and I do not aim at describing the theoretical approach to this topic. I just want to share what happened at this Secondary school where I work as a link advisor.

To begin with, I must say that I had heard a considerable  number of people say that teachers do not like  “being observed” and that they would not let another teacher enter their classroom unless they really had to work in coordination because the management team of the school had  told them it was compulsory for them to work together.  Needless to say all the people who had this view on the issue stated that the negative perception of this approach increased if the observer was“an external agent”, such as an inspector or a  teacher trainer.

By the time you have read the paragraphs above, you will have guessed that I am writing this short article to describe a positive experience so I will proceed to let you know about the steps  I followed in order to tackle my intervention inside the classroom where  two teachers were working together.

During three 90-minute sessions at this school I was  delivering training on how to motivate students towards reading. I talked to them about reading strategies that should be carried out before, while and after reading and I emphasized the importance of making the right questions, including those that would allow students to infer, contrast and compare and develop critical thinking. Teachers took a very active part in the sessions   and pinpointed essential issues, such as the lack of motivation towards reading and the difficulties that arise due to the big number of students in some groups.

After teachers had shared their concerns,  I asked them if they had the opportunity of working with another colleague in any of the classrooms and they told me that they could do that in some sessions. Therefore, I encouraged  them to  write to me if they liked the idea of working together with me and the next day I opened my mail account and found that two teachers had written so we met that afternoon and started talking about the  reading project they wanted to develop, the difficulties, the activities they had planned, etc.

 I considered everything they had presented to me and the first thing I told them was that  I was going to suggest several activities that could help them to tackle some of the tough parts they had described. Apart from that, I emphasized that I was going to enter the classroom in order to collaborate with  them by giving them some feedback on their practice and I  stated I was sure it was going to be a great learning experience for the three of us.

Therefore, I went back to my office, prepared the resources they were lacking and we had another meeting before the sessions with the students took place. It was a project on “Around the world in 80 days”. To cut a long story short, I will say that it was a very enriching approach. I observed and took notes while the two teachers interacted with the teenagers. There was individual work and group work throughout the project and the reading strategies and types of questions were very appropriate.

Honestly, they worked really well and I made some comments mainly related to timing, above all  students’ talking time and teachers’ talking time.  I also suggested some follow-up activities that could be useful to recycle some vocabulary students had had difficulties with.

I hope I have been able to convey the message that we cannot  simply take for granted that teachers do not like working with another colleague or a teacher trainer inside the classroom. As I witnessed, it can be done and the learning process benefits immensely.

 

About the author:

Loli Iglesias comes from the Basque Country and has been teaching English at Secondary level for 17 years. She is currently working as a teacher trainer for the Department of Education of the Basque Government. She develops seminars on Professional Development for English teachers  and CLIL. Her main interests are CLIL and ESL methodology . She blogs at clilingetxo.blogspot.com.

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