Our L3 Psychology teachers, Zara and Ange work together to meet the needs of over 40 students. There are no walls online so why create them?

Co-teaching in our context looks like teachers sharing the load across teaching and learning in an online environment. Everything is done in partnership from planning to task setting, VC meeting agendas, writing assessments, marking assessments and problem solving when things arise. Having two teachers working together results in richer learning experiences for students and a less stressful and isolated environment for the teachers.

How do we do it?

It all starts with planning and creating a shared vision of the big picture and what we want our students to know and what we want them to be able to do. We also ask ourselves the question: How can we allow our students the freedom to explore ideas that interest them? We meet via Zoom regularly to discuss tasks, assessments, how our classes are going, what is working and not working. This allows us to reflect, discuss and make any changes to our planning as things arise.

All students across both classes have access to the same resources, complete the same weekly tasks, use the same online platform and are set the same assessment tasks (with some freedom to explore their interests). Each teacher is responsible for their own class’s administration, contacting eDeans, checking in on student’s well being, answering questions from students and writing reports. 

What about weekly VC’s?

The two classes have their VC calls on different days and times which has allowed some flexibility for students who may have timetable issues. Students at the beginning of the year were able to (within reason) change to which VC meeting day and time was better suited to them.

The agenda for the weekly VC’s are sent to students at the beginning of the week and are loosely the same for both classes. However due to different class dynamics and how the teacher likes to run their VC’s, it is up to the individual teacher. This allows the teacher to use their own personal style and veer off to where the students lead the discussions while still ensuring some consistency across the key concepts.

What platform do we use?

MatterMost is used as the ‘online hub’ where weekly tasks, assessments, meeting agendas are posted. MatterMost has a sidebar where all of these things can be easily accessed.

L3 Psychology online hub using Mattermost

Each module of work (weekly or fortnightly) can be accessed by clicking on the MatterMost sidebar and then clicking the link which takes the students to a Google Doc where the tasks and instructions are listed.

Students are encouraged to respond to set tasks in a specific channel with comments on MatterMost, creating a massive shared collection of answers. Teachers and students can give feedback and feed forward by replying to each other or using emojis. Because both classes use the same site, students are able to interact with their own class mates and also have the opportunity to engage with students in the other class.

This year we have also increased our use of MatterMost by using it as a vehicle for ako (learning with and from each other) by creating private groups for students researching the same topic so they can share their thoughts, resources, ask and answer each other’s questions. A motivated student even created their own channel for students to share and provide extra feedback on each other’s work! It was titled “ Extra Feedback for Perfectionists”. 

Mattermost allows a one stop shop and we are constantly trying to maximise its functionality. For this upcoming assessment we are getting the students to submit their milestone work and file assessments using a link to Google Forms. This way it populates all the student’s work into one Google sheet where it can be found easily for both teachers when it comes to marking and moderation.

How do we promote ako in an online environment?

There are many opportunities for students to learn with and from each other in an online environment. Break-out rooms during VC are a great way to get the students talking, discussing and collaborating. This year we have increased our use of them to further promote working together and collaborating.

Another way for students to connect is through a peer check process. This year we introduced a more formalised process for assessments using Google Forms, where students would submit their work and we would pair them up with someone from the other class investigating a different piece of research. See snippet from the Google Form below. This allowed students to make sure they understood the criteria and what was required for each grade.

What are the advantages of Co-Teaching?

Overall there are many advantages of Co-Teaching in an online environment and the online platform MatterMost is structured in a way to support this.

For teachers, co-teaching can:

  • help reduce planning time (as you do it together),

  • enable the sharing of ideas to create rich learning experiences for the students

  • assist in reflection on your own practice

  • takes away the feeling of being isolated in an online teaching environment

By Zara Heath and Ange Fox