What are the factors in successful partnerships?
Role of Senior Leaders in schools to participate the Partnership Teaching; in my opinion, it is crucial that the senior leaders back up the Partnership Teaching in schools. They need to recognize the aims and objectives of the project and the role of teachers within the project to ensure the values and principles are embedded across the school, check on the progress of individuals and groups within the target class, make sure protected planning time is available, ensure all teachers are released for network meetings, incorporate the Partnership Teaching objectives into faculty reviews and observations, undertake active leading role in completing action plans and progress reviews and monitor the use and effectiveness of the Partnership Teaching funding.
At whole school level; there should be a tradition of staff working in collaboration. This is a very important factor. If the teachers are not used to working in partnerships, it will be very difficult without any training or school policy to expect them share the teaching. It is likely to work much better if Partnership Teaching is tied into staff development plans and curriculum review. If a policy about partnership teaching is created in schools, it should be a joint decision by all staff. Structures should be developed to support Partnerships and strategies should be placed in schools with different abilities. Flexible groupings and modes of assessment should be provided in order to lift the pressure of league tables. Finally, explicit policy in the allocation and deployment of support staff should involve the whole staff negotiation. All staff should be aware of the nature of support if they have an EAL/EMA teacher in class.
At classroom level; the short term goals should be clearly defined linking to school and department priorities. Identifying the correct target group and their target levels termly is one of the main starting points to the partnership teaching. An action research approach should take place giving the opportunity for all teachers to become learners, roles should be defined but open to change and development. Teachers should be given time for planning. There should be regular and honest evaluation, feedback to the school and department should be given and the most of all there should be willingness to share and to change.
What are the barriers of successful partnership teaching?
According to a recent report commissioned by a government agency, there are very few qualified EAL/EMA staff working in schools today. Many of the EAL/EMA jobs are done by teaching assistants rather than qualified teachers. This had an effect of lowering the status of EAL knowledge, skills and support within schools. In addition, EAL/EMA is often embedded with SEN (special educational needs) and learning support in many schools, therefore it causes to a lack of visibility and status for EAL and conflates the distinctions between EAL and SEN.
Although the current EAL policy and practice seem to be student-oriented but the mainstream curriculum itself is not EAL oriented.
In addition, school management may have reservations about partnership teaching due to the high cost of having two teachers in one classroom. It is quite difficult to measure the success of the partnership teaching. It needs to be very well planned and organized as well as structured and timed for a certain period. The teachers who are undertaking partnership teaching should evaluate the impact honestly and change the strategies which are not found to be effective immediately.
What I also realised during my experience that the ‘language centres’ may still exist in some teachers’ minds. There may be a very strong tradition of teaching and learning privacy in classes and some teachers may not be ready to open their doors to ‘strangers’. The Partnership Teaching approach is likely to take time to establish in some schools. Furthermore, EAL/EMA teachers’ self confidence plays a crucial role to establish the successful partnership teaching. If they are not feeling confident in teaching Science and Maths, it may be a good idea for them to observe lessons for a while or go for training sessions.
If schools’ senior managements lead and direct the teachers, team teaching should be successful. Otherwise, it is likely to be a struggle for EMA/EAL departments that they have to overcome because they should convince the teachers who are not ready for collaboration.
As an EAL (English as an Additional Language) Teacher, I worked in many different ways of collaboration with subject teachers. However, I realized that one of the most effective methods that the EAL/EMA students would progress is to plan and deliver the lessons in partnership with the subject teachers. There is nothing worse for a qualified teacher to get into a classroom and sharpen the pencils. This is a waste of teachers’ skills! In my reflective journal, I explained how our collaboration with Science faculty raised the students’ achievement and attainment level.
Gibbons says; ‘No one teacher can answer all the language needs of bilingual children alone. There is no such thing as a magic language ‘fix’ which will suddenly turn a child into a fluent English speaker’. I entirely agree with Gibbons about taking a whole school approach to identify the EAL/EMA students’ language needs and plan the curriculum accordingly.
Many factors play a role in successful collaboration but I believe the main factor is readiness and open mindedness. Flexible goals and frequent evaluations are definitely very helpful but the work should be consistent and for an appropriate length of time. The success may not be instant, although I saw the progress immediately. Through differentiated resources and planned activities in multiple learning styles, all students were able to participate and raise their level of achievement.