01 SES 12 A, Teacher Co-operation and Soft Skills: Analysis, Typology and Review
Teacher cooperation plays a critical role in the development and improvement of teaching (Kullmann, 2013; Maag Merki, 2013; Vescio, Ross & Adams 2008). Research indicates that the quality and focus of teacher cooperation is crucial, for example the focus of professional learning communities to explore ways to enhance student learning (DuFour & Eaker, 2009). The quality of teacher cooperation can be described as either only focusing on exchange of information or as co-constructive cooperation (Graesel, Fussangel & Proebstel, 2006). Exchange of information is seen as ‘low-cost cooperation’ whereas co-construction is seen as ‘high-cost’ (ibid.) as it requires more engagement and also request the teachers to opening up to a deprivatisation in sharing about teaching in class (Bonsen, Hübner-Schwartz & Mitas, 2013).
In Switzerland, primary school classes are usually taught by a main class teacher and several other teachers, i.e. teachers for a certain subject such as Arts and Crafts, English or sports, and a Special Educational Needs teacher. Part-time work is prevalent: only a third of teachers in primary school work full time or almost full time (bfs, 2018, p. 10). A public discourse has problematized the potentially high number of teachers teaching primary school age children, and some policy initiatives sought to reduce the number of teachers per class (Lozano & Simovic, 2018). Reasons for suggesting a limited number of teachers per class is seen in the possible difficulties of pupils to forge strong relationships with teachers as a foundation for classroom management and learning when only having a small number of lessons with them.
Whereas cooperation amongst teachers within the school has been researched widely, the cooperation amongst teachers teaching a given class has not yet been examined. For the purpose of this study, we coined the term “class team”, which encompasses all teachers teaching a given class, either separately, i.e. teaching the class in a certain subject, or in forms of team-teaching and co-teaching. The aim of the research project is to research the cooperation of the class team and possible effects.
For this contribution, first, it will be examined how class teams can be distinguished into types regarding their cooperation intensity and focus. Second, the types will be compared regarding as well as classroom management and class-related difference such as gender ratio, socio-demographic characteristics, class size.
Our sample includes 34 classes of fifth grade primary schools in Switzerland. Data was collected in different subjects taught by different teachers teaching the same given class focusing on German, English, Social and Natural Sciences as well as Arts and Crafts. Using questionnaires and interview methods we captured cooperation, measurements gave information about the cooperation standards at the level of school, intensity, focus and quality of cooperation at the level of teacher dyads, and information about each teacher. Observation and questionnaires were used to discern teachers’ classroom management. Measures were collected on the school level (cooperation standards), teacher dyad level (cooperation), on the teacher level (socio-demographics, classroom management), class/student level (socio-demographics). Results reported in this submission include N=81 teachers belonging to 34 different class teams in Swiss primary school classes.
Results of a cluster analysis show that it is possible to distinguish five different types of class teams according to their cooperation intensity and focus. Moreover, teams belonging to the different categories vary in regard of classroom management, team size, years of service, as well as the extent of cooperation at school level.
Our sample consists of 34 fifth grade primary school classes in Switzerland. Data is collected in different subjects (German, English, Social and Natural Sciences, Arts and Crafts) taught by different teachers while teaching the same fifth grade class. The data collection is completed with N=81 teachers belonging to 34 different teaching teams in Swiss primary school classes. Measures at teacher level were collected through a semi-structured teacher interview, focusing on school level cooperation standards, cooperation between colleagues, as well as a teacher online questionnaire capturing the intensity and quality of cooperation as well as demographics. For each class, standardized observations were carried out in lessons taught by the teachers constituting the class team, so two to four observations per class, capturing teachers’ classroom management. In order to measure teacher cooperation within the class team, a social network analysis was performed. To aggregate the dyadic cooperation ratings on the class team level, the scales of the different ratings were normalized via min-max normalization (Han, Pei, & Kamber, 2011). Then for each class team and rating, a global clustering coefficient for weighted, directed networks was calculated (Opsahl & Panzarasa, 2009). In regard of teacher cooperation networks, a higher value signifies that the teachers of the network invest more resources (time and/or effort) into the cooperation with other teachers that are themselves cooperating in the network (see figure 1 for an example of teacher networks with a low versus high global clustering coefficient). In the following, a principal component analysis implementing a varimax rotation was conducted. A solution with four factors explaining 77.7% of the variance is proposed. The following four factors emerged: exchange, co-construction, cooperation regarding student performance, and cooperation regarding classroom management (see table 1). Data analysis consisted, first, of a cluster analysis (ward-method, squared Euclidean distance) relating to the four factors describing the class team cooperation. Five types were found. Second, the five retained clusters were compared through Kruskal Wallis tests as well as univariate analyses of variance in regard of characteristics of the class teams, their school environment, and the students taught by the class teams. Moreover, pairs of clusters were compared through Bonferoni-corrected post-hoc tests.
This study shows that the class teams can be categorized in relation to their cooperation intensity based on four different dimensions of cooperation. Type A shows a consistently high cooperation intensity over all dimensions, while type B is identified by a consistently low cooperation intensity over all dimensions. Type C has the highest cooperation intensity regarding student performance, while type D shows the highest cooperation intensity regarding classroom management. Type E has high intensities of exchange and co-construction in general while showing low intensities of cooperation regarding student performance and classroom management. For the types, the observation data regarding classroom management is compared. Differences between types of class teams belonging to the different clusters were found in regard of classroom management ratings, in particular behavioral management. Class teams in the five types differ in regard of several context factors, such as size of class team. Regarding the cooperation standards at school level, type A has a high cooperation intensity and also shows more cooperation standards at school level compared to types B and D. The limitation of the study is the relatively small sample size, due to the comprehensive data collection procedure. Further, as only one lesson per teacher was observed, caution is needed. The findings have significant implications for the understanding of which school and class team factors could impact on the cooperation intensity in class teams. Moreover, the findings reveal the importance of these differences in cooperation intensity regarding teachers’ classroom management. The findings highlight the need to also focus on the class team when studying the impact of cooperation, as all teachers teaching a given class may together have the most formative impact on those students.
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