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Team-teaching integrates science and English

Issue: Volume 97, Number 12

Posted: 16 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9jbM

Y9–10 students at Westmount School undertook project-based inquiry learning

Year 9 and 10 students at Westmount School undertook project-based inquiry learning combining science and English curriculum strands.

To address challenges to traditional teaching, including the need for constant teacher reflection and the need to explicitly teach and model processes, two Palmerston North teachers worked together to team-teach their Years 9 and 10 students through project-based inquiry learning.

Westmount School’s science teacher Laura Bennett and English teacher Elizabeth Whiterod began by looking at the content and skills they needed to cover for each of their subjects, before looking at possible areas for integration.

“The context that we chose was film, because film has a lot of special effects and we thought that would be quite a cool way to have the English area, because you’ve got the study of film, along with the actual science process that backs up those effects to make them look realistic, which was Laura’s science classes,” says Elizabeth.

The teachers used rubrics to guide their focus on and monitoring of students’ development of key competencies. These had to be considered in the contexts being investigated to ensure the necessary content for each subject was being delivered and learned.

“We thought ‘how do we actually know that we’re progressing?’, because, as much fun as it is, you want to make sure that you’re doing it for a purpose rather than just ‘oh, this sounds cool’.”

Surmounting the challenges

One challenge was finding the time to explicitly teach and model processes within the available class time. However, through their team-teaching, Elizabeth and Laura found their students were learning curriculum content without having been explicitly taught the material.

“I guess one of the drawbacks of team-teaching is that you do lose some time for that explicit teaching in your own subject area, but I would say that while it’s a drawback I don’t necessarily think that it’s an insurmountable drawback. I just think it’s something to be aware of and maybe something we would work on personally,” says Laura.

“One of the reflections that I made for my own practice was that when my kids have got actual true audience and true purposes rather than ones that I’ve made up for them they do so much better. I think one of my concerns was that I explicitly teach each part of the writing process and my kids have done really well in the past and I thought ‘oh, they’re gonna bomb this year because we haven’t had the time to do that,’ but they did better than ever,” Elizabeth adds.

In order to reflect on their own practice, the teachers sought both informal and formal feedback from their students through discussions and anonymous online surveys.

Teacher development

From this experience, the two teachers have developed professionally and have learnt a lot about team-teaching in an innovative learning environment at secondary school level.

One of their observations was that although the rubrics were helpful in planning the key focus areas, it was also important to manage the workload of their students.

Although they plan to change aspects of their practice based on what they learnt, both teachers are pleased with the student engagement levels resulting from their integrated classes, and encourage other teachers to be open to new and effective ways of delivering content to their students.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:00 am, 16 July 2018

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