What Is Team Teaching?

An image of a teacher smiling.
... omgimages/iStock/Getty Images

Team teaching, which is also called collaborative teaching or co-teaching, is an instructional strategy in which two or more teachers are responsible for teaching a course or a group of students. Collaborative teaching can be used in K-12 classrooms as well as college-level or graduate courses. A number of different methods of team teaching may be utilized, depending on the circumstances.

1 Collaborative Teaching in Higher Education

Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching outlines three approaches to collaborative teaching at the university level. Traditional team teaching is when several instructors teach the same course simultaneously and engage in dialogue about the topic. In another type of team teaching, instructors teach connected classes together as a unit. In the third type, the linked course approach involves a cohort of about 20 students who take several courses that are linked by a common theme. Once a week, the instructors provide a seminar in which they discuss how the subjects relate to one another.

2 Team Teaching at the K-12 Level

The Connecticut State Education Resource Center provides six approaches for team teaching of K-12 students. These formats are often used in collaborative special education classes, but can be used in general classroom settings as well. The first is the tag-team format, where two teachers deliver instruction together. Second, the "one teach, one assist" method is characterized by one teacher who provides instruction while the other assists students. In the "one teach, one observe" method, one teacher instructs while the other observes and collects data. Using the fourth method, teachers divide the class into two groups to cover the same information simultaneously in the parallel teaching format. The alternative teaching format is when one teacher works with the larger group while the other instructor works with individual students or small groups. In the sixth method, called station teaching, two teachers divide the students into groups, and divide up the content to be taught. Each teacher provides content to each group, and if needed, a third station is used for independent work.

3 Benefits of Team Teaching

At the middle school level, team teaching can provide a bridge from the one-teacher-for-all-subjects model students experienced in elementary school to the one-teacher-for-each-subject model they will encounter in high school, according to educator Heather Coffey. It also helps students see the interdisciplinary nature of subjects and to learn from teachers with different teaching styles that may better match their learning styles. Upper-level and college students may benefit from observing teachers as they use different methodological approaches in debating a topic, while lower-level students can make academic gains through additional individualized attention and extra small-group time.

4 Making It Work

Team teaching can lead to serious conflicts if co-teachers have differing opinions regarding grading standards or evaluation criteria, or very different teaching styles and philosophies. Team teaching also may require more work, since teachers must plan courses together. Some teams may only consist of two teachers, while others may involve several, making it harder for teachers to coordinate with each other. With enough time to plan together and a manageable size class, teams can overcome the challenges that team teaching poses.