Co-teaching In the English Teachers in Seoul program Research, Reflections and Recommendations The ETIS (English Teachers in Seoul

) program is a new orientation on the part of SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) to promote English language instruction in the public schools of Seoul and help make for better English language instruction. As a new program, it is as much an experiment as a program. An experiment in how best to bring foreign teachers to a new land and see them successfully motivate and instruct Korean students. The core of the program is co-teaching. Many native English speaking teachers (NESTs) as well as Korean English teachers were skeptical about working in a classroom with a colleague. This was to be expected. There was little preparation and explanation about the co-teaching model this first year and this remains one of the biggest faults to correct. My own research shows that most NESTs are happy with their colleagues and teaching (see the attached survey results) but at the same time, have many concerns. It is those concerns I wish to communicate and address......... WHY CO-TEACHING? As with any good lesson, the objective needs to be clear and focused. There needs to be a present, communicated and enforced rationale regarding co-teaching in ETIS. All partners have to be onboard and believe in the objective. They have to buy into the program for it to be successful. As of yet, at least as concerns NESTs, there has been little explanation regarding WHY we are co teaching. To quote that eminent philosopher Nietzsche, “he who has a why to live for, can bear any how.” Co-teaching as an instructional model lacks much research and scientific data, being a new pedagogical approach (Nunan, 1992). Still, with the “No child left behind” act and the increasing focus on an “inclusive” classroom in the United States (starting with the Individuals with Disabilities Act), there is much evidence that having two teachers in the classroom helps all students. Classroom teaching assistants (TAs) are now common place and special education specialists have documented the impact they have on learning. There is less literature regarding the success of co-teaching in an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. Peter Sturman offers some great observations about the ESL program in Koto-ku, Japan and I will refer to his recommendations. Still, without much literature or research to rely upon, we can still use the wealth of material about the roles of TAs and regular classroom teachers to show that co-teaching in the language classroom really works. A brief list of benefits which research supports would include:


better student to teacher ratio and more individual attention (especially helpful to lower level students.). a wider use of instructional techniques, to better student learning more and better critical, planning and reflective practices by teachers social skills improvement / better classroom management a more “community” oriented classroom increased score results

See Walther – Thomas, (1997) and Sileo, (2003) for an in-depth discussion. I’ve also appended “The Ins and Outs of Co-Teaching”, (Wunder and Lindsey, 2002 ) where they discuss 4 student centered benefits of co-teaching. In the ESL classroom and in particular the situation in the ETIS program, further benefits can be noted. 1) Teacher training in-house. The Korean English Teacher betters their own language skills while teaching. 2) Both teachers develop new instructional techniques while teaching and sharing. They are more open and grow more open towards risk taking and creativity, a valuable instructional technique in a language classroom. 3) New teachers can be given guidance and mentoring. This is particularly the case in the ETIS program where many NESTs have little practical teaching experience. 4) NESTs are less alone and through a nurturing co-teaching relationship, have a better chance of successfully adapting and being a “happy” teacher in a foreign culture. 5) Students are given the example of teachers/two cultures sharing and accepting. They are modeled “English in use” and view through their two co-teachers, language as “alive” and useful. It does not matter which benefit ETIS decides to promote. What matters is that the program communicate how wonderful the idea of co-teaching is and how successful it can be. This has not been the case so far. ETIS needs to be more proactive in communicating the program rationale. The rationale could be promoted through better internal dialogue and also consistent workshop training on co-teaching. It is advisable that all new teachers undertake at least a one day workshop on co-teaching. There, they can learn about the benefits and also how to foster a successful relationship with their co-teacher. Workshops should be mandatory and should be attended by both Korean and Native speaking English teachers. Ongoing administrative support and nurturing is crucial to the success of a co-teaching program (Popp, 2000).

WHAT The most commonly accepted definition of co-teaching has been offered up as “when two or more professionals jointly deliver substantive instruction to a diverse, or blended group of students in a single physical space” (Cook and Friend, 1995). It is two teachers using their own skills to the best of their abilities within the classroom. Each teacher has strengths and should instruct in a way that best suits their strengths. As one NEST wrote,
“I have a good friend (co-teacher) and we share all the time. She rocks at assessment I rock at presentation. We meld our lessons and constantly trade information and lesson plans. What comes out in the end is great lessons and great assessment.”

WHICH Co-teaching can take many forms. Bauwens and Hourcade (1991) offer up 5 variations of the co-teaching structure. 1. One teach, one support--One person assumes primary instructional responsibility while the other adult assists students with work, monitors behavior, and corrects assignments. (This approach is most successful when it is used on an occasional basis in conjunction with the other approaches.) 2. Station teaching--Curricular content is divided into two parts. One person teaches the first part to half the students and the other professional presents the second part to the other half. The two student groups then switch. 3. Parallel teaching--Students are divided into heterogeneous groups in which each student has more opportunity to participate in discussions. Different types of presentations are structured to accommodate the various student learning styles. 4. Alternative teaching--Students are divided into two groups, and one person instructs one group while the other person pre-teaches the other group for the lesson to follow or re-teaches material using alternative methods. 5. Team teaching--Both professionals share leadership and are equally engaged in instructional activities. They might role play, stage debates, or model note-taking strategies. (Friend & Bursuck, 1999, pp. 82-85) These levels represent a continuum. Co-teachers need to discuss these levels of coteaching prior to teaching together. If there is a large difference in the knowledge of the curriculum by the teachers, the majority of the teaching should be left to the NEST while the Korean English teacher circulates and helps other students. If the Korean English teachers curriculum knowledge is greater, they could try real team teaching. If one teacher lacks experience and instructional skills, alternate teaching might be an option. The point is, there are many different ways of team teaching.

“I personally am not a huge fan of the current system and unless there is a bold change in how teachers are prepared for the co-teaching environment, I'm apt to tell most teachers to throw it out the window.? I see 99.999% of co-teaching situations fall back to the same models.? One of which, is the "I talk/you sit, you talk/I sit" model -- is there another way??

It is not all or nothing and the co-teachers have to find what works best. There are many ways. But both teachers should be in the classroom at all times. This has been a common complaint of many NESTs and should be addressed by ETIS. There should be a directive to schools to make this mandatory, both for the learning of the students and the professional development of the teachers. The situation of this one NEST is unfortunate and should never be the case,
“So, last semester it was becoming a struggle to even get my teachers to come to class, let alone actually co-teach.”

HOW Gatley and Gatley (1993) note that co-teaching is a developmental process. It just doesn’t happen over night. It proceeds through 3 distinct stages. This process is mostly based on increasing social and professional communication. They also note 8 components around which the co-teaching relationship is formed; interpersonal communication, physical arrangement, curriculum familiarity, goals and modifications, instructional planning, instructional presentation, evaluation. I have attached a co-teaching questionnaire which highlights these components and which all new co-teachers should fill out. ETIS should make the process of filling out the questionnaire and talking about it with each other, as mandatory. It is essential that new co-teachers start out their relationship on the right foot! This could be done by giving the teachers the time to do this during an initial pre-school year workshop. ETIS did not do this and thus many co-teaching relationships were wrecked before they even started because neither teacher really knew where the other one was coming from – pedagogically and socially. Knowing yourself and knowing your co-teacher is a priority for a successful co-teaching experience (Keefe, 2004) and the best co-teachers are usually the most reflective about their own teaching. ETIS could also be proactive about fostering the co-teaching relationship by having some social functions for co-teachers, especially early on in their co-teaching year. Good co-teaching needs much time spent on communicating/planning As such, extra time needs to be allowed for planning/meeting. Many NESTs described having Korean teachers who were too busy to have much time for meeting or planning. Teachers have to have the time to plan and co-teach and the administration has to make sure they are given that extra time. ETIS must make teachers aware that they have to take the time to sit and each week plan and reflect on their lessons.

ETIS has to avoid many pitfalls and make sure the co-teaching relationship allows for good quality teaching. Then everyone will be happy. WHO ETIS provided little, if any instruction to individual schools as to who should be a coteacher. This is a major shortcoming. Not just anyone can co-teach. Also, one must look for compatibility in many areas; teaching style, philosophy, age and belief system, to name a few. Most research suggests that not much else is important to the co-teaching relationship other than both having a common belief system. Both co-teachers must believe in coteaching and they also must have a shared belief system—a common way of viewing the world. ETIS should give schools direction on who can become a co-teacher. First, those who don’t really believe in co-teaching shouldn’t be “on the boat”. Secondly ETIS should “promote” to co-teaching, those Korean teachers who have better language skills, if possible. As one NEST wrote succinctly,
“Last semester my co-teacher knew less English than my students. On top of that she was head of the English department, a home room teacher and incredibly busy. I was basically left to find things out the day of or not at all. It was incredibly difficult. Thank-goodness she was transferred to another school. There was simply no way for me to communicate with her which is a horrible situation to go through, especially your first time in Korea. This semester I have a new co-teacher who is not as busy, speaks better English, and actually cares to help me. I know teachers simply get placed in these positions with no choice from the principal, but something really needs to be done about it. Lois really should have a criteria and/or standards for each school to choose coteachers. “

Further, ETIS must actively look for teachers with a modern , flexible and creative mind set. Both NESTs and foreign teachers. It is these teachers who are most successful in a co-teaching relationship (Pike and Dorney, 1997). Sturman (1992) says;
“it shows what I believe to be the essential components of successful team teaching; mutual personal and professional respect, adaptability and good humour.” (pg. 145)

Many NEST also don’t like the fact that they have more than 1 or 2 co-teachers. This makes it impossible to have a good co-teaching relationship and should be discontinued by ETIS. Teachers should teach in no more than 2 classrooms and ETIS should give support in having them develop strong co-teaching relationships. Some teachers have said they have more than 22 co-teachers!!!!!!!! Ideally, co-teachers should chose themselves. A NEST could be in a school for a period of time, ideally 6-8 weeks and work with a number of teachers. Then, they could chose themselves to co-teach based on their own perceptions which are usually the best indicators of success. I know that might not be practical but it is an ideal to work towards. Teachers should be treated as individuals knowing what is best and if a co-teaching relationship isn’t working, be allowed to teach elsewhere.

Finally, many foreign teachers have complained about losing their co-teaching partner mid-year as they were transferred to a different school. One teacher wrote saying,
“The new term staff change around in my district has meant that I now have a co-teacher who doesn't speak English. Whilst, at first, I didn't think too much about this (after all, how much English is needed for 'Hello Monkey') my two other co-teachers are fairly concerned about the situation.”

Although this is extreme, it does show that changing teachers part way through the year causes problems and doesn’t help make a good co-teaching relationship. ETIS should try as much as possible to avoid co-teachers being changed mid-year. What Next???? ETIS has to avoid some major pitfalls which other ESL teaching programs have run into. Sturman in his case study on the Koto Board of Education program noted 3 major problems which are particularly relevant to the ETIS program. 1. The foreign expert. Foreign teachers are viewed as knowing all. This creates an imbalance in the classroom and eventually resentment. There must be a shared power in the classroom. There is no expert or rather, a Native expert and a Foreign expert. Each have their particular skills and experience and relevance. Too often in the classroom Korean teachers don’t participate fully because they fall into this syndrome.... 2. The “walking tape recorder”. In this case, the Korean teacher feels that the foreign teacher lacks instructional skills or strength and uses the NEST as a kind of puppet, only good for pronunciation and a good laugh. It creates dissention if allowed to continue and many NESTs complain they aren’t treated with deserved respect in the classroom – as real teachers. Modeling in the classroom on the part of the NEST is appropriate but it isn’t all they should be doing . They must be equal partners in all matters. 3. The “token foreigner”. Here, the NEST is only there to give the school pride as being progressive. They aren’t used as teachers. They are just a symbol of being “international” and progressive. Many teachers do feel undervalued and this attitude is part of that problem. Sturman used the term, “flexible equality”. I like the term “primus inter pares” – equal but different. Teachers , Korean and foreign have to have equality in their relationship.

Let me summarize what I think are the main things ETIS must change or do better. I think most would agree that these are also reachable. 1. Promote and educate teachers and schools about the value and benefits of coteaching. Teachers must know WHY they are co-teaching. 2. Hold mandatory workshops for co-teachers. Especially prior to the school year. Also social outings to foster their relationship. 3. Have all co-teachers complete a questionnaire and discuss fully prior to teaching together. Also, give adequate scheduling and planning time for weekly co-teaching meetings. 4. Educate teachers about the co-teaching options they have. There are many different kinds of co-teaching. 5. Korean co-teachers MUST be in the classrooms with NESTs during lessons. 6. Allow for no more than 3 co-teachers / NEST. Preferably schools should provide an English only classroom and teachers shouldn’t have to travel to other classrooms. An English classroom should be like home...... 7. Create a process to chose the appropriate people/teachers to be co-teachers. 8. Set up a dispute resolving mechanism so that when a co-teacher has a complaint, they have a formal way to address the problem. Also educate teachers through workshops on how to maintain a good co-teaching relationship. 9. Schedule so that co-teachers will be with each other for the full contracted year. It is never one thing that breaks the camel’s back. The same with co-teaching. It is not just one problem that leads to a bad problem in the co-teaching relationship. All parts have to be attended to, to ensure that both teachers have a successful year teaching students. Essential, the most essential thing is having an administration that cares and doesn’t just want bodies in the classroom.

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