Team teaching shows big can be beautiful

A classroom filled with more than 100 students could be a scary scenario.



But Chanel Herring is one of a group of five teaching the year three students, aged 8 and 9, at Cranbourne East Primary School in Victoria.

It’s called team teaching, where a group of teachers plan, deliver and assess a class together.

Students in the class are so used to this way of working, they question traditional classrooms.

“It’s good to have lots of teachers because one teacher could be like drawing pictures and the other could be like writing about something else so, in a big group everyone can like help you out,” 8-year-old Madison Morley said.

Madison’s classmate, Brodie Lloyd, agree.  

“You won’t learn much by yourself, but if you’re working with groups you can listen to other people’s opinion and then you can learn more,” Brodie said. 

The government school has been team-teaching since the school was built in 2011.

Ms Herring said students get the chance to work with other teachers if they’re having difficulties in class.

“All students learn differently,” she said.

“They have different learning styles and teachers all have different teaching styles. Having the two mixed together would enable students to be exposed to different teaching styles, different ways of delivering a lesson, which would help them learn and grasp different concepts.”

Principal Garry Rolfe said the benefits can go beyond academic performance.

“We find our students are a lot more confident, a lot more resilient,” he said.

“Children are used to working with many other teachers, and many other students in a learning space, and that sort of flows out into the playground where our behavioral issues are absolutely minimal.”

Smaller classes are often perceived as allowing teachers to focus more on the needs of individual students, but that’s not necessarily reflected in a recent report by the OECD, ranking of school performance across 76 countries.

In the top three – Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea – class sizes in primary schools were larger than the average Australian class size.

There’s evidence older students can benefit too.

At Dandenong High School, a quarter of students are from an asylum seeker or refugee background.

Team teaching means students can be split into groups based on their learning ability, and still be part of the same class.

13-year-old Lang Shen says it’s a nice learning environment where both she and her peers can learn at their own pace.

“People don’t find it comfortable to tell the whole class, so it makes people do what they can in the class,” she said.

“They take their time and go back home, and then see what they can do with their parents, if they can get help from them. If they can’t, they can go ask the teachers as well – they can ask any peers like us, and then you just get help from everyone.”

The school’s principal Sue Ogden said integrating the students in one class helped.

“We really need to make a sense of connection and belonging to our students at the school, so they can learn best,” she said.

“They they can feel that they’re in a safe and secure environment where they can explore all the possibilities of learning and develop curiosity.” 

Year 8 teacher Bronwyn Meneilly said the model also helped teachers develop their skills.

“When you’re a graduate and you’re put into this situation, you’ve got a lot of support there,” she said.

“If you are having trouble with managing behaviour there are other people to back you up or show you what they do.” ]

There’s been regional interest in this team teaching model.

Dandenong High School has recently had 52 teachers visiting from Fiji, and several groups of educators from New Zealand.

Ms Ogden said team teaching may not suit every school, but it proves that when it comes to getting an education, sometimes it helps to think big.