Teacher Collaboration is Not an Option: It’s a must

One of the best ways to support EAL learners in the mainstream is through collaboration with mainstream teachers.  I have been very lucky in my career to work with a number of teachers to deliver some highly effective and engaging lessons that met the needs of both EAL and non EAL learners.  Through a collaborative approach we work together to deliver the most highly effective form of language learning which is through the mainstream subject. 

Literature and research from Northern America, where there is more of a focus on co-teaching and collaboration shows how beneficial co teaching and collaboration can be.  A book on the topic of co-teaching and collaborating that I would highly recommended is:

It is a strong advocates of co teaching, co-planning and collaboration between a mainstream teacher and their EAL specialist.  In fact Chapter 1  is entitled ‘Teacher Collaboration Is Not an Option: It’s a must.’  As an EAL specialist this is music to the ears.  Below are some key points that I believe show why ‘collaboration is not an option: it’s a must’

  1. As an EAL specialist, I am not a subject specialist in English, Maths, Science, Geography, Drama etc.  My area of expertise is in the field of EAL and the approaches and strategies that are needed to support EAL learners in content lessons.  I can support mainstream colleagues but this can only be done if we are working in a collaborative capacity.  
  2. Working with a subject specialist increases my knowledge of the language that is needed for a particular subject and therefore enhances my ability to better plan and prepare my EAL learners for their mainstream subjects.
  3. On the flip side to No.2, working with an EAL specialist will increase the knowledge of the mainstream teachers I work with and in the particular language demands of their subject area.
  4. Some of the best lessons that I have prepared and been observed in were the lessons in which I had co-planned and co-taught with mainstream colleagues.
  5. With two teachers collaborating on topic or a scheme of learning there is less of a burden on the mainstream teacher to plan and prepare resources.  We work together to develop lessons and resources that are both subject and language related.  Thus saving time.
  6. Lastly and most importantly, collaborating and co-teaching with another professional is highly rewarding for our learners.

Co teaching takes on many forms and Dove & Honigsfeld outline 6 models of co teaching that are highly effective methods of supporting EAL learners.  I would highly recommend investing in this book if you are in a position in which you can co teach and collaborate

It could be argued that due to time constraints, particularly in U.K. schools, it is not possible to collaborate.  I was lucky enough to have previously worked in a school where co-planing was a non negotiable and the EAL specialist and mainstream teacher had at least 1 period a week to sit down together and plan for the week / lessons ahead.  Without doubt this was the most effective form of collaboration that I have worked in.  Unfortunately, it is not possible all the time but I would argue that through tools such as One Drive and Google Drive it is possible to set up a collaborative platform even if it is not done face to face.  Simply saying there is no time does not reward our EAL learners and does not serve to support their language development in the curriculum.

In conclusion, collaboration between a mainstream subject teacher and an EAL specialist has numerous benefits for all involved both the teachers and more importantly the learners both EAL and non EAL.  Collaboration is vital to the success of EAL learners and should be taken seriously and built in to planning and preparation time.  Together some of the most highly effective instruction and resources can be delivered.  Collaboration is a must!


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