UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Team teaching practices in selected elementary schools of british columbia and the united states Kallus, I. Barbara


The purpose of this study is to review the literature related to team teaching developments in Canada and the United States, and to examine current team teaching practices in British Columbia elementary schools in order to: (i) ascertain the extent, definition, objectives, various methods, problems and difficulties of team teaching at the elementary school level; (ii) attempt to draw warranted generalizations from these findings about the practices of team teaching; and (iii) assess the potential value of team teaching with reference to commonly accepted principles of elementary education. The thesis rests on both secondary and primary sources limited to the years 1960-1971. The literature reviewed included books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The basic information on British Columbia elementary schools was taken from a survey conducted by the author. Initial response from district superintendents indicated that 45 districts had some schools that were using the team teaching approach, the total number of schools being 110. Permission to conduct the study was given by all districts. Survey instruments were distributed in April, 1971, to principals and teaching teams in all 110 schools. Returns were received from 85 principals and 301 teachers in 85 schools, 77.73 percent of the sample. The principals and teachers represented 142 teaching teams and returned between them 228 (85 + 143) questionnaires. Annual reports, timetables, evaluations and floor plans from 8 other team teaching elementary schools were also obtained. All the teaching teams in one Lower Mainland school district were visited and interviewed. The study is divided into four chapters. The first attempts to clarify the definitions and characteristics of team teaching. The most commonly accepted definitions were found to be: a cooperative structure in which several teachers plan and carry out the instructional programme with no specific ranks designated to staff members; two or more teachers exchanging classes on an informal voluntary basis; and, a formalized structure of teaching peers with leadership designated on a rotating basis. The generally considered important characteristics included: cooperative planning, instruction, and evaluation; flexible scheduling; flexible arrangements providing for large group, small group, and individualized study; maximum use of teachers' strengths, skills, and interests; professional and para-professional staff; some curriculum alterations; extensive use of audiovisual and other instructional media; and, students assigned to a team, not to a particular teacher. The second chapter outlines the different organizational patterns, teacher roles, groupings and facilities associated with team teaching. Informal organizations identified include: a simple voluntary collaboration without structure or assumption of permanence; division of responsibility to simplify workload preparation; interchange of pupils for specific grouping purposes; combination of classes for specific experiences; and, an experienced teacher working with an apprentice or younger teacher on a temporary basis. Formal organization identified include: a formalized team structure with leadership designated on a continuing or rotating basis and peer status emphasized; teachers assisted by teacher aides on a continuing basis; a formalized team structure on a hierarchical basis, with the leader assuming a permanent role; and, a formalized hierarchical structure with several levels of responsibility above that of teacher. Concepts of the roles of team members vary somewhat from school to school but generally include a team leader, professional teachers, regular teachers, teacher interns, teacher specialists, clerical aides, teacher aides, resource and support personnel. Varying group sizes ranging from small groups of 12 to 15 pupils, working groups of 3 to 8 pupils, and large groups of 40, 75, 100 or 150 pupils are a central aspect of most teams. Joint planning sessions, around which the team's activities generally centre, tend to focus on making overall curriculum decisions, on scheduling, on discussing the special problems of students, and on assessing and reporting student progress. Detailed planning of individual lessons is usually done by one or two members who specialize in each area. Planning sessions in most teams are very time consuming and frequently overwhelm teachers by the increased work load. Most of the teams operate in open area schools. A few are housed in double-sized or large classrooms and a small minority function in traditional schools. On the whole, the facilities for large group activities are adequate but many teams find that small group or individual study facilities are poor or nonexistent. The third chapter gives the results of research studies completed to date in the area of elementary school team teaching. Most studies, however, have been descriptive rather than evaluative and any research done is generally of poor quality. The summary of findings is, therefore, somewhat hypothetical and represents only a crude start in gaining an understanding of team teaching and its validity. Almost without exception, pupil achievement, as shown on standardized tests, has been found to be about the same in team teaching programmes as in self-contained classrooms. Findings on student adjustment are all highly similar with most pupils favoring the team approach. Team teaching, as any other plan of organization, seems to improve the adjustment of some students and lessen the adjustment of others. As far as parental attitudes are concerned, research studies consistently show that a considerable majority of parents hold favourable attitudes toward team teaching. The findings are, however, generally not sufficiently specific or detailed to indicate what features of team teaching were chiefly responsible for these attitudes. Not surprisingly, because most are volunteers, the majority of teachers who have worked on teams express favourable attitudes. These teachers also, however, apparently undergo a rather stressful period in adjusting to the demands team teaching makes on them. Even in schools that have been engaged in team teaching for a considerable period of time, there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that greater teacher competency or efficiency results from this type of organization. Writers in the field of team teaching give considerable attention to team planning. Most reports agree that this area poses many problems. There is usually a lack of time for planning and it takes much longer to make plans as a team. Frequently planning sessions are hampered by personality conflicts and disagreements over ideas or basic philosophy. Teachers, however, generally feel that the results are worth putting up with such difficulties. Research on flexible grouping within team organizations is limited and when available remains inconclusive as to the relative merit of large group instruction, small group activities and independent study. Conviction does seem to be building up, however, that the size of group is best determined by the nature of what is taught, the ability of those being taught and the competence of those doing the teaching. Claims for enormously increased flexibility of pupil grouping and teacher assignment in teams are often exaggerated. The basic restraints are the amount of school time, the number of pupils, and the number of teachers. These factors usually remain unchanged in team organizations as compared with traditional school arrangements. In general, the new patterns of team teaching in themselves do not require greater outlay of funds, nor do they effect great savings. Increased costs may arise through the purchase of needed equipment and materials when team teaching is initiated, but once established costs are the same as self-contained classroom organizations. Many educators believe that one of the greatest benefits a school derives from introducing team teaching, is that such a plan is a catalyst for needed changes. Installing team teaching is apt to expose needs for improving curriculum materials, for purchasing instructional equipment, and for developing better instructional techniques through in-service teacher education. Frequently, team teaching has stimulated fresh thinking about class size and organization, grouping practices, basic curriculum decisions, division of the workload among teachers, and the bases of pupil welfare. School architecture appears to be considerably influenced by the demand for flexible and varying space. The decision as to whether team teaching should be continued, discontinued or even propagated is not dictated by these findings. The final chapter points out that team teaching is one approach to the search for new ways of organizing personnel for the teaching function. If team teaching projects are undertaken, it should be with the full understanding of what can be achieved and what shortcomings are inherent in the structure. As an organizational plan, it offers opportunities for conducting instruction but does not, in itself, guarantee any instructional outcomes. It is encouraging, however, to note that most schools involved in team teaching have expressed approval of it. They are generally also the schools which are pioneering with the problems of facilities, scheduling and grouping. If a catalyst is needed to accomplish changes in an attempt to provide better conditions for instruction and learning, team teaching could be the agent.

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