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Collaboration Planning

Good course design is fundamental to effective teaching and requires thorough, thoughtful and careful planning. This becomes even more important when you are team teaching because of the inherent need to coordinate. Whenteam teaching includes the need to coordinate, integrate and collaborate between content and basic skills, planning may be what truly makes an effective, integrated learning community rather than several stand-alone classes, operating independently with little or no integration and cohesion. Teachers who prepare and teach a course together find it a synergistic learning experience.

What follows are some suggestions on how to go about collaboratively planning anI-Best course. These suggestions presume that the team of a content instructor and a basic skills instructor is in place, the classes are identified, and the certificate has a name.

I. Identify the outcomes for each course and integrate them.

The more course outcomes you can integrate, the better. This reflects careful thought and planning. There may be a few outcomes that are unique to an individual class (Basic Skills or Content), buteven pure content courses should have a basic skills component, and Basic Skills should be contextualized to the content. Some thoughts to consider when integrating outcomes include:

  • What should students be able to do with the knowledge and skills gained in the course?
    • Job skills
    • Academic skills
    • Preparation for further courses
    • Preparation for particular testing/certification
  • What portions of the content of the various classes are central to the learning goals (knowledge and skills gained in the course)?
  • In what ways will students be better thinkers when they finish this course? In other words, what critical thinking skills will they need to develop?

II. Jointly plan activities and assessments.

What activities or assessments will students perform in order to meet course outcomes? As you consider these activities and assessment tools, think about ways that these might be combined. That is, both instructors might have the same assignment but would grade it looking for different skills and accomplishments.

Some sample activities are:

  • Assignments- summarizing readings, research skills
  • Guest speakers - planning interview questions
  • Group projects or presentations - effective presentation or collaboration techniques
  • Exams - test-taking techniques, vocabulary from context
  • Field Trips - writing journals/observation reports

III. Choose textbooks and other required materials.

This step should be done prior to recruitment so that you can set appropriate entrance requirements for your students.

When choosing texts and other materials, keep in mind both the content and basic skills levels of your student population. Textbooks in the same content area can differ greatly in the reading skills required to decipher the information. Try to choose materials that deliver the required content in a clear manner appropriate for your population - slightly above where their reading skills are upon entrance. Also consider the outcomes targeted by these materials - will they be required to analyze the material or simply memorize the information? If analysis is required, the reading level should be a bit lower or more assistance should be given with the material so that students don't have to struggle so hard to understand.

IV. Schedule weekly meetings

Build into your schedule a time at least once a week when instructors meet outside of the courseto assess how the course is going and how the students are doing.

  • What is working well?
  • What needs to be changed?
  • How are the student-teacher relationships developing and how can these be fostered to maximize the success of the individuals and the learning community as a whole? Are there students on the "fringes" that one or the other can reach out to?
  • It is useful to keep some thoughts on how the course is going in writing as these thoughts make great planning materials for the next time the course is offered or to share with others who may teach the course in the future.

This video shows a sample meeting between a basic skills and a content instructor in which they debrief a specific class. The conversation progresses from 'what not to say' to a truly collaborative, student-focused plan-of-action.

V. Write your syllabi.

This will have some familiar feel to planning a single class alone, but it is an important process to work together on this document since it defines the contract between student and teachers. While writing, consider balance with respect to the content instruction and ABE/ESL.

Some points to include:

  • Combined course outcomes and any unique "class" outcomes
  • Explanation of course format and process especially as it may differ from traditional "stand alone" classes
  • Joint expectations and responsibilities for the students
  • Joint policies with respect to due dates, late assignments, attendance etc.
  • Combined course assessments and any unique "class" assessments
  • A schedule of class dates and topics including weekly reading assignments
  • A mechanism to clarify when the focus and is on content, when on basic skills and when the two are clearly connected. (Students like to know when they can expect one or more instructor(s) to be in the classroom.

For tips on co-teaching in the classroom, click here.