Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Part 3-What is Partnership Teaching and does it really work?

Benefits of Partnership Planning and Teaching

According to Vygotsky, children need to be able to talk about a new problem or a new concept in order to understand it and use it. The instructional technique in which the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task and then gradually shifts responsibility to the students is called scaffolding. Vygotsky stated that a child follows an adult's example and gradually develops the ability to do certain tasks without help or assistance. He named this as ZPD (Zone Proximal Development). It shows the difference between what a child can do without and with support. Actual developmental level is determined by independent problem solving skills and the level of potential problem solving under the adult guidance or in collaboration with the other more able children.
Experience showed that a child with a larger zone of proximal development will do much better at school”

Vygotsky also stated that the child’s strong points in a foreign language are his weak points in his native language and vice versa. In first language, the child conjugates and declines correctly but without realising it. In a foreign language s/he needs to learn all the elements of the language in order to speak correctly. Second language success depends on the level in first language so that the child can transfer his/her knowledge into the second language.     

I think this focus point may be valid for subject teachers. Many of them, while studying their subjects, may not have been necessarily studying English grammar. However, recently all teachers are expected to teach English through their subjects. This requires a lot of knowledge on students’ language needs. This is where an EMA/EAL teacher’s skills may be necessary to collaborate. 

The subject teacher and the EAL teacher support students in different ways. The EAL teacher helps the students to decode the language to reinforce the comprehension of the context. It is very important that the subject teacher recognizes the importance of collaborative support to meet all the students’ different needs in class.
The EAL teachers are good at eliciting answers but are not able to respond to these answers using the full range of confirmations, rejections, repetitions, elaborations and reformulations for subject teaching which described as part of the complete range of teachers’ responding moves.   
A. Creese

When supporting in the classroom, EAL teachers are able to focus on smaller target groups and ask open questions which leads to a better understanding about the topics.  Without this element, EAL students may not have access to the topic. In many cases, the subject teachers give answers straight away, due to the pressure of external exams and league tables but EAL teachers use the questioning to guide the students through the task. Therefore, it is very important to plan and share the tasks before hand to ensure that all students benefit from having two teachers inside the classroom.
On the other hand, Pauline Gibbons also emphasises the importance of talk by saying; ‘Through talk that much learning occurs. Talk allows children to think aloud, to formulate ideas, to set up and evaluate hypotheses and reach tentative decision in a context that is not restricted by the more formal demand of written language’. 

All teachers should be aware of these factors. If they collaborate with EMA/EAL teachers, they should have the best use of their specialist skills reflected in the planning. I believe that partnership teaching may be a great way for where there is identified need for extra language support.     
By shared planning, subject teachers should be able to reduce the planning time and all the students are specifically targeted and produced and trialled by the team. In addition, the input of knowledge, sharing resources and unity of faculty should lead to more peer visits, build and share good practice and work with wider range of strategies in classroom. When teachers model ‘talk’ which according to Vygotsky and Gibbons is the most important part of learning, the confidence of the EAL and other students in speech should increase. The teachers and students should be able to take more risks and teachers should be able to spot the challenging students and support them as well as care for more individuals. Partnership Teaching also helps with social relations between teachers. It provides a positive learning and teaching atmosphere in schools.

Partnership Teaching was promoted as a way for teachers to engage in their own classroom 'action research' by experimenting with different strategies to support pupils with EAL. (Bourne, J. and McPake, J. )

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