Being brave enough to disrupt: Co-teaching and teacher education

Year: 2021

Author: Grimmett, Helen, Willis, Linda-Dianne, Heck, Deborah, Green, Mel

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Faced with growing unpredictability in education, Initial Teacher Education courses have a strong obligation to prepare pre-service teachers for using pedagogical strategies which welcome uncertainty and acknowledge the importance of collaboration and learning through dialogue. As an example of this, the authors of this paper believe that co-teaching provides pre-service teachers with explicit modelling of collaboration and dialogue in action. We define co-teaching as two or more teachers working together to explicitly expand opportunities for learning for all participants (i.e., pre-service teachers and teachers). This paper focuses specifically on the use of co-teaching in a 2019 pilot project investigating development of dialogic pedagogies in a first-year Bachelor of Education (Primary) English curriculum course. The co-teachers—a Lecturer and sessional Teaching Associate (both members of this research team)—jointly developed the content of each weekly three-hour workshop (76 pre-service teachers). Teaching about, and through, dialogic pedagogies was a key focus of the course. After the semester, semi-structured interviews with the two co-teachers and two pre-service teacher volunteers were conducted by the other research team members. These interviews were transcribed, read through, and formed the basis of four recorded metalogue conversations among all members of the research team. Metalogues are meta-level conversations about conversations (in this case, about the interview transcripts), allowing deeper, collaborative interrogation of ideas raised in the initial conversations. These metalogue conversations were then also transcribed and added as data sources for further analysis using Leximancer.  Key findings relating to co-teaching which emerged from the data analysis include the importance of generative conversations, developing collaborative ways of working that simultaneously accommodated different staff roles, and having time for thinking together about what dialogic pedagogical approaches might look like in practice. Co-teaching allowed the co-teachers to feel supported by each other and ‘brave enough’ to do things differently in the teacher education classroom, disrupting pre-service teacher expectations. The subsequent changes in pedagogical practice had educative value for pre-service teachers’ deeper understanding and learning in the co-taught classroom. The implications of these findings for reimagining initial teacher education include the need for increasing co-teaching opportunities in teacher education. It is also recognised that creating these opportunities carries implications for workload and staff allocation that need consideration in challenging economic times. This co-teaching example provided an opportunity to explore quality research in teacher education practice as well as opportunities for ongoing professional learning for the teachers involved.