Team Teaching in the World History or Regional History Classroom
Melanie G. Krob and Stephanie Enseñat Davis
Prominent educational coalitions and professional associations, including the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Asia Society, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU), and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), have identified global awareness along with the ability to communicate and work with others of different backgrounds and opinions as key competencies for 21st century learners.1 World history and regional studies courses introduce global content and multiple perspectives, but team teaching provides teachers with an additional tool. Not only does it rely on multiple perspectives, it also models the interpersonal skills we are trying to foster as 21st century educators. As world history and regional history teachers, we have traditionally taught global awareness through course content, perspectives through documents, and interpersonal skills through group projects. However, in a team-taught class, the instructors' perspectives, dialogues, and behaviors become an essential and integral part of the lesson as well.
Language teachers have long recognized the potential of team teaching as a tool to deliver content-specific instruction in a target language. Team teaching, where two teachers are present in the classroom and active in the instruction, has been a feature of French-language, content-based instruction in Canada since the 1960s and English-language, content-based instruction in Japan since the 1970s.2 As demand for English-language proficiency has increased in Europe and among immigrant communities in the United States, content-based team teaching has become the favored model for language-immersion classrooms as well. In these language classrooms, a content expert pairs with a language expert to engage students in a target language by focusing on a particular subject area. Similarly, there are now several models for team-teaching in K-12 differentiated instruction, where a general education teacher pairs with a special education teacher to address the learning needs of specific students. The research shows that when the team collaboration works, student engagement increases and content mastery improves.3 As Anne Beninghof, a consultant and trainer for k-12 team teaching, writes, "rather than becoming overly familiar with one teaching style to the point of tuning it out, students can be unexpectedly presented with a new view, a new sound, or a new perspective."4
The improvements in student engagement have also been observed in collaborative interdisciplinary team-teaching environments in higher education.5 Because team teaching forces teachers to step out of their comfort zones and become learners themselves, students feel more empowered to contribute to discussions.6 Similarly, the collaborative environment inherent in the team-teaching model promotes increased student-teacher interaction and opportunities for student participation.7 In our own experience teaching a Latin American Studies course in Spanish, where one teacher is a native speaker of Spanish and the other is a historian, we have seen this same phenomenon. Since one of the teachers is not a native speaker, the students have been more willing, if not eager, to express themselves in Spanish and engage in the discussions in Spanish. Similarly, having a non-history teacher teach history and engage in dialogue with the history teacher empowers the students to ask relevant questions to clarify or expand upon various historical points themselves. Professors Joshua Landy and Lanier Anderson, who have team-taught an interdisciplinary course in the Humanities Program at Stanford University, agree. In fact, Landry recommends using the first few meetings "to set up a pattern in which people do intervene in the discussion from all kinds of angles."8 He and his partner make a conscious effort from the beginning of the class to create an environment in which, as Landy explains, "student contributions are going to be valued and expected."9
Having two teachers teach the lesson, deliver the lecture, or facilitate a discussion provides additional benefits for a world history or regional history classroom. First, with the right teaching pair, this style of team teaching highlights different perspectives, contrasting approaches to the material, and different personal experiences. This is an effective strategy for a history classroom where different points of view and distinct styles enhance the material and make for a more interesting and dynamic learning environment. Second, although world history and regional history courses are by their very nature interdisciplinary, having subject area expertise in particular fields related to world history enhances the depth of discussion of those particular topics and both teachers become learners in the process. As Julia Ketie writes in an article for The Harvard Crimson, "the best team-taught classes are not watered-down versions of each expert's background, but instead provide a strengthened level of discussion and argument."10 Finally, team teaching by its very nature requires teachers to model collaboration, empathy, and respect for one another's opposing views, all skills that are essential in our 21st century, global world.
The value of team teaching in world history and regional history course is easy to defend, but what does team teaching mean in practical terms? How do two or more teachers from different departments work together effectively in a classroom without stepping on each other's toes?
Our Latin American Studies class, which we have been co-teaching for the past three years, is taught entirely in Spanish. This course, which began as a Spanish elective with three students, is now a Global Studies course for which the students earn a dual credit in history and Spanish. We currently have thirteen students in the class, and that number is expected to grow. Listed below are some of the strategies we have found to be useful in creating a successful, balanced partnership in the classroom.
We have found that the presence of both of us has been particularly important in our regional history course since the purpose of the partnership is to provide two areas of subject expertise and two different perspectives. In our case, we more or less follow what Anne M. Beninghof calls the "Speak and Add Model" or what Joshua Landry and Lanier Anderson of Stanford University have facetiously called the "lecturer and kibitzer," describing their own teaching roles in their interdisciplinary humanities course.15 In our class, generally, Stephanie stands in front of the class and does the main presentation in Spanish. Melanie is usually seated and contributes by asking questions in Spanish to the class in order to assess the students' comprehension of the material and to explore related topics. On days where we present certain topics, such as the Enlightenment philosophy or the Reformation, which feature more of a European perspective, Melanie is the main presenter and Stephanie asks the discussion questions.
As for the assessments, all written and oral assessments are graded by both, together. This requires significant time and we have to meet frequently after school or on the weekends, if necessary. When grading the assessments, Melanie generally overseas the content, and Stephanie the written language. Sometimes these roles are reversed and some content issues will be determined by Stephanie and some language issues will be determined by Melanie, depending on how strongly each teacher feels about the issue.
Working together in the classroom:
Team teaching is risky. Even with the best intentions and the best organization, two personalities with two different teaching styles working in the classroom together can be a recipe for disaster. Here are the precepts we follow to ensure smooth working relationship with the fewest number of bumps along the way.
Team teaching is an effective strategy for teaching and modeling the 21st century skills of cooperation, collaboration, and communication. This model provides students with examples of how to integrate different and at times conflicting perspectives. As world history and regional studies teachers, one of our primary goals is to prepare students for a global and fluid society where at times conflicts arise that can be solved with diplomacy. In our experience, team teaching has been both a valuable and intellectually stimulating means to achieve that objective.
Melanie G. Krob is Director of Global Studies at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Stephanie Enseñat Davis teaches Spanish and Global Studies at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, LA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 The framework for 21st century skills published by each of these individual organizations is available on their respective websites. In addition, see Douglas C. Bennett, Grant H. Cornwell, Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, and Celeste Schenck. "An Education for the Twenty-First Century: Stewardship of the Global Commons," Liberal Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities, 98, no. 4 (Fall 2012), 1–8; Elizabeth A. Duffy, "Educating Students for their Futures: Three Trends for Schools in the Conceptual Age," Independent School Magazine, 74, no. 1 (Fall 2014), 6.
2 Merrill Swain and Robert Keith Johnson,"Immersion Education. A Category within Bilingual Education," in Johnson and Swain, eds. Immersion Education. International Perspectives (New York: Cambridge, 1997), 1; Timothy Stewart and Bill Perry, "Interdisciplinary Team Teaching as a Model for Teacher Development," TESL-EJ Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 9, no. 2 (September 2005), http://www.cc.kyoto-su.ac.jp/information/tesl-ej/ej34/a7.html.
3 Ibid; James R. Davis, Interdisciplinary Courses and Team Teaching. Phoenix: American Council on Education/Oryx Press, 1997). Melissa C. Leavitt, "Team Teaching: Benefits and Challenges," Speaking of Teaching: The Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University, 16, no. 1. (Fall 2006), 1–4.
4 Anne M. Beninghof, Co-Teaching that Works. Structures and Strategies for Maximizing Student Learning (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012), 76.
5 Rebecca S. Anderson and Bruce W. Speck. "Oh What a Difference a Team Makes: Why Team Teaching Makes a Difference." Teaching and Teacher Education 14, no. 7 (1998): 671-86; Theresa Watkins, Richard L. Miller, and William Wozniak, "Team Teaching: Student Satisfaction and Performance," Teaching of Psychology, 22, no. 2 (2002), 118-120; James R. Davis Interdisciplinary Courses and Team Teaching (Phoenix: American Council on Education/Oryx Press, 1997); Julia E. Ketie, "Team-taught classes," The Harvard Crimson (February 7, 2011), accessed January 8, 2015, http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2011/2/17/professors-students-two-teamtaught/; Leavitt.
6 Anderson and Speck, 671.
7 Theresa Watkins, Richard L. Miller, and William Wozniak, "Team Teaching: Student Satisfaction and Performance," Teaching of Psychology, 22, no. 2 (2002), 118.
8 Jessica Palmer, "Professors Preach 10 Commandments of Team Teaching." Stanford Report (March 15, 2006), accessed December 7, 2014, http://news.stanford.edu/news/2006/march15/team-031506.html.
11 Melanie G. Krob and Stephanie Enseñat Davis, "El Día de los Mártires: High-School Student Revolution and the Emergence of Panamanian National Identity," The Latin Americanist. Annals of the SECOLAS Annual Meeting 2013 30 (2014): 55-66.
15 Beninghof, 71-77; Palmer; Leavitt, 2.
16 Anderson and Speck, 681; Palmer.
17 Leavitt, 2.
18 Beninghof, 36-37.
19 Qtd in Leavitt, 1.
21 Ibid, 71.
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