“As teachers we all bring different gifts, and handicaps, to the table” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 102).
This quote originates from Brookfield’s (2015) chapter on teaching successfully in diverse classrooms. He suggests that no matter how much effort an instructor makes on meeting the diverse needs of each learner, he or she will never be fully successful. Brookfield proposes the idea of team teaching – where two or three instructors with “different racial identities, talents, and personalities form a teaching team” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 102). Having a team of instructors teach a course will generate more opportunities for the varied learning needs of students to be met. One instructor who wrote an article on her experience with team teaching stated, “we magnified each other’s successes and minimized each other’s failures” (Tomlinson, 2015, p. 90).
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? So why aren’t we seeing it in our classrooms? Most likely because of the budget. It’s an unfortunate but true fact that post-secondary education administration is more focused on budget than on learning. And of course they need to balance the books. But we’re doing a disservice to our students when we don’t make “maximizing learning” the primary focus in every aspect of adult education.
Although I don’t foresee team teaching due to fiscal constraints, I can still try to help meet the diverse needs of learners. I am obligated to try to offer the variety of teaching methods that students would receive if they had multiple instructors. Bain (2004) tells us that outstanding teachers conduct class in a multitude of ways: sometimes visual, other times auditory, individual and group work, learning sequentially and globally. This would require a real commitment to self-reflection and making changes that may be challenging but would increase student learning. And what Bain (2004) and Brookfield (2015) both agree on, is that the best teachers do whatever it is that helps students to learn.
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Tomlinson, C.A. (2015). Teaching in tandem: A reflection. Educational Leadership, December 2015/January 2016, 90-91.