As a result of poor performance in Mathematics at Grade 9, which stood at an average of 10.8% nationally (ANA Results, 2014), the minister of Basic Education said:
“Our Achilles’ heel remains the unacceptably low performance in Grade 9 Mathematics. All ANA results and diagnostic reports have flagged the problem of Mathematics teaching and learning throughout the system. This calls for “Business Unusual” if we are to take head on what remains the elephant in the room – learners’ poor grasp of mathematical concepts, and teachers’ apparent lack of requisite academic level in Mathematics to teach Grade 9 Mathematics.’’ –Minister Angie Motshekga: Release of Annual National Assessments results 2014, 4 Dec 2014.
The department has since 2015 introduced various intervention programmes, more specifically the System-wide training on MST in Intermediate and Senior Phases. Majority of the senior phase teachers are trained one day per week by the department of Education on the concepts that they are going to teach that week. In Mpumalanga specifically every Monday the senior phase Mathematics teachers in high schools are in MST workshops aimed at arming them with the necessary knowledge and pedagogical skills. This bold intervention by the department is commendable.
However, teachers still need a lot of classroom based support in order for them to be confident to teach some concepts such as Geometry. Classroom support can take different forms but for some concepts demonstrations and team teaching is effective in boosting the teachers’ confidence in teaching mathematical concepts. Instead of the facilitator or advisor only showing the teacher how they will teach how an angle of sixty degrees is constructed for example, it is vital if you in the initial stages hold the teacher’s hand, prepare a lesson with the teacher and also present the lesson jointly with the teacher. This means that only improving teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge is necessary but the sufficient condition is teachers need to be coached so that they are confident enough to teach even topics like Geometry and Probability that are rarely or taught in Grade 8 and 9.
Team teaching, or collaborative teaching, is when two or more teachers jointly in a purposeful way prepare, present and evaluate a lesson for the same group of learners or class. This can take various different forms such as:
two or more teachers teach at the same time
when team members share ideas and resources before the lesson but each of them teaches independently.
In the process of mentoring and coaching mathematics teachers, team teaching is a vital tool that can be used in ensuring teachers not only improve their content and pedagogical knowledge but to also improve their confidence level when teaching mathematics.
Coaching and mentoring of Mathematics teachers aims to improve the content knowledge of the teachers as well as equipping them with effective skills of teaching mathematical concepts so that learners can understand and perform better in Mathematics. The target is that the teachers’ skill level and classroom practices should improve so as to create a conducive learning environment where learners are able to understand concepts and to perform better.
Team teaching ensures that teachers adequately prepare for lessons. Lesson success is mainly determined by lesson preparation. It is very difficult to achieve lesson objectives if thorough lesson preparation is not done. Team teaching demands that teachers adequately prepare for lessons and this means lesson success rates are very high.
Team teaching results in the following
Hands-on support to teachers:
While content workshops are key to increasing teachers’ content knowledge, team teaching exposes teachers to a variety of practical teaching methods. The advisor or coach is able to provide relevant up to date skills on the job skills to the teacher as they prepare and present the lesson together.
Reflection is possible with team teaching:
The best teachers are a product of reflection. They always ask at the end of the lessons what they did, how they did it, why they did it and most importantly how they will better it next time. Team teaching provides the teacher with the chance to re-look at the lesson and the teaching and learning process.
More individual attention:
With more than one teacher in the class at the same time, it means the teacher-learner ratio reduces. While the learners work on their activities different teachers are able to attend to different groups of learners at the same time and this is likely to result into better understanding of mathematical concepts.
Creativity and innovativeness increases:
More are likely to be improvised especially in under-resourced schools like our target schools.
The purpose of mentoring and coaching is that it should result into independent professional results-oriented teachers who are able to uplift the teaching standards even when the coach has stopped working with them. Team teaching results into teachers becoming more self-reliant.
It is important that when mathematical concepts are developed the focus for learners should be on understanding and not only on passing exams. Learners should be helped to understand mathematical concepts and to be able to apply them in everyday life. With a better understanding of concepts, learners’ performance will definitely improve.
While division is an important aspect of mathematics-it is one of the four basic operations but a number of learners in the intermediate phase cannot divide, yet when you ask them to share money amongst themselves they do it perfectly. At a certain primary school in Ehlanzeni district one teacher disclosed that none of her learners are able to do division of numbers despite the fact that she had taught the concept for a number of days.
My first request to her was to shows me how she was teaching the concept – which she gladly agreed to. I found out that by focusing on digits that make up the number rather than focusing on the values and place values of the digits the learners had been confused enough.
While the teacher’s method would yield correct answers, her teaching method was not really effective in teaching division. When we re-focused, did lesson preparation and taught together, we agreed to start from sharing, draw relationships between multiplication and division as well as focus on place values – the learners understood the concept better and by the end of the lesson, lesson objectives were met and the learners and teacher were happy too.
WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY?
According to research team teaching improves the working relationship between teachers and learners; it provides teachers with the opportunity to think about the learners’ thinking process. In the article Team teaching: The learning side of the Teaching- learning equation, Eison and Tidwell (2003) advocate sharing power with students and including them in some of the decisions about their own learning.
A teacher can prepare with one or two learners and team teach with them. This improves learners understanding and confidence in Mathematics.
Mary Jane Eisen, Residence University of Connecticut and Elizabeth J. Tisdell, Pennsylvania State University—Harrisburg state that “Common to diverse team teaching-learning situations is the centrality of: (1) negotiating relationships; (2) providing a relevant and integrated curriculum and pedagogy; and (3) focusing on the participants’ ongoing construction of knowledge.”
Team teaching and a collaborative pedagogy enhance the possibility that students will see themselves and their peers as constructors of new knowledge. Robinson and Schaible (1995) remind us that the success of collaborative pedagogy depends on how effectively team members practice it. In their words, “If we preach collaboration but practice in isolation…students get a confused message. Through learning to ‘walk the talk,’ we can reap the double advantage of improving our teaching as well as students’ learning” (p. 59) in the task of jointly creating new knowledge. Team teaching is one mode for developing more critically reflective learners who engage in the ongoing construction of knowledge in a knowledge-creating society.
Team teaching is thus not only between fellow teachers, or between a coach/advisor/senior teacher and a teacher being coached or supported, but can also happen between a teacher and students. The key to success is thorough preparation and agreeing on what each of the participants will do at different stages of the process.
Written by: Fahadie Lukyamuzi, Penreach Maths Field Advisor