One of the things that I find most moving about the work of the Hands Up project is the relationship that develops between the remote teacher and the classroom teacher. Alex Guzik in Russia and Sahar Salha in Gaza have been working together for well over two years now, planning online sessions together, feeding back to each other after the online session has taken place – even negotiating together what will happen next while the session is going on.
I’m particularly looking forward to their joint talk at the Hands Up Project conference on the 14th April entitled, “Enhanced teacher performance through remote team-teaching”, where they’ll be sharing some ways in which their classroom practice has been improved through working together online.
The interaction between this team teaching pair, and between others, has also been the subject of a Masters dissertation by Hornby scholar from Venezuela, Maricarmen Gamero, studying at the university of Warwick, and the following blog post, looking at some of her findings was kindly written by her.
Over to you MariCarmen….
TEACHERS’ INTERACTION DURING VIDEOCONFERENCING-MEDIATED CO-TEACHING
Videoconferencing- mediated co-teaching in the context of the Hands up Project is carried out by two instructors, who are in different geographical spaces, working collaboratively to enhance English language learning. The main purpose of applying such practice in an online setting is to give learners the opportunity to improve their language skills, and to have contact with other cultures, people and varieties of English. Obviously, the successful outcomes of the process rely mainly on the relationship dynamics between the classroom teacher (CT) and the remote teacher (RT). The former is the one who, at the time of the live session, shares the same space as the students in Palestine. The latter is the volunteer teacher in another country, for example Russia, England, Chile, Belgium, among others.
The common principles that sustain the relationship between the teachers are: 1. their social responsibility of contributing to the progress of communities in need; and 2. the value they give to innovation in their teaching practice, promoting change through the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) to the classroom. Depending on those beliefs, and considering the purpose and moment of the process, each pair of teachers in the Hands up Project adopts a co-teaching model. This coincides with what Heo and Mann (2015) mention about co-teaching models, claiming that the adoption of a particular style depends on many contextual and personal factors. So, it is impossible to assert that there is a fixed model within a particular context or even within a particular teaching team for a prolonged time.
The relation between the CT and the RT becomes stronger or weaker depending on the time length and frequency of communication with each other, as well as the distribution of tasks between them. Commonly, they communicate in an asynchronous way during the planning and evaluation stages, and in a synchronous way mainly during the implementation stage. Hence, the mechanics of the relationship between teachers rely on the use of different ICT tools. For instance, emails and Facebook chats to agree upon logistic aspects of the videoconferencing-mediated sessions; and Google Docs to write reports about the activities carried out during them. This shows how co-teaching gives place to informal collaboration, as mentioned by Honigsfeld and Dove (2010), who highlight that such exchange of information can be done “via teacher mailboxes or designated folders, school e-boards, e-mail correspondence, blogs, and wikis” (p. 63).
During the planning stage, collaboration comprises feedback between the teachers who agree on how to enhance language learning for a specific group of students. The RT requires the help of the CT to verify the appropriateness of the content to the learners’ level and culture, as well as to arrange time, date and materials for the videoconferencing session. Owing to planning procedures, RTs have an opportunity for professional development when learning about cultural matters and putting into practice their skills for content adaptability.
During the implementation stage, the RT acts as the leader and the CT as support. The former delivers content through story-telling and the application of activities that promote critical thinking skills, and in which students experience intake and perform output. The CT is the one who sets the conditions for the videoconferencing, checking internet connection and the necessary devices for communication. The CT is also responsible for classroom management, monitoring and scaffolding. The RT depends on the CT´s help to clarify meaning, whether through translation or gestures, to check if instructions are being understood and to help learners answer questions.
Generally, in the days after the videoconferencing sessions, the CT teaches alternative information, since the content given in those sessions is seen as the introduction to the ones included in the formal curriculum. So, the CT develops the formal content using the vocabulary, phrases and story taught by the RT. On the other hand, when sessions are not completed owing to any external or technical interruption, the RT establishes follow-up activities with the CT. In this particular case, learners and the CT become a team preparing a performance for the RT. Owing to this; the teachers learn to trust their students’ skills, their relationship improves, and a climate of collaboration happens to be a key feature of the classrooms. Such benefits are analysed in the evaluation stage of videoconferencing- mediated co-teaching, which corresponds to the CT’s views about their students’ progress and their perceptions of the sessions.
The success of videoconferencing-mediated co-teaching depends not only on the tool itself, but on the interaction established between the RT and CT. The relation between teachers is reinforced through their interpersonal skills, and the use of other ICT tools that allow regular asynchronous communication. In that way, the rapport between teachers can give place to a community of practice that grows beyond teaching and includes researching, creating and implementing other classroom projects.
Likewise, the use of videoconferencing-mediated co-teaching brings opportunities of professional development for teachers, since the recordings of the sessions can be used to review the performance of the learners and as a self-reflection tool for teachers about their methodology and style. In fact, this is supported by the ideas of Tripp and Rich (2012) and Mann and Walsh (2017) who consider that reflecting on recorded class sessions can be beneficial for in-service teachers to make pedagogical decisions.
Heo, J., & Mann, S. (2015). Exploring team teaching and team teachers in Korean primary schools. English Language Teacher Education and Development Journal, 17(3). Retrieved from: http://www.elted.net/uploads/7/3/1/6/7316005/v17_3heo&mann.pdf.
Honigsfeld, A. & Dove, M. G. (2010). Collaboration and co-teaching: Strategies for english learners. Doi: 10.4135/9781452219516.
Tripp, T., & Rich, P. (2012). Using video to analyze one’s own teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), 678-704. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01234.x.
Mann, S. & Walsh, S. Reflective practice in English language teaching. Research-based principles and practices. New York: Routledge.