Series: New Tech Network Deeper Learning

Collaborative Teaching for Interdisciplinary Learning
Lesson Objective: Work together to plan and co-teach a class
All Grades / All Subjects / Professional Learning

Thought starters

  1. How do students benefit from cross-disciplinary connections?
  2. How do teachers benefit from cross-disciplinary connections?
  3. What do you notice about the collaborative planning process?
Wow! I would love the opportunity to team teach - great job - teamwork, communication, thinking about what is best for the students.
Recommended (1)
I love the openness that is there in the team which allows you both to grow as educators and models growth for your students.
Recommended (0)
One of the aims of Common Core is for students to experience and internalize that learning does not occur in a vacuum. Specifically, education should teach life skills and prepare students to problem solve in the real world. By integrating the Science and History curriculum, these teachers are better preparing their students to apply their learning in untraditional educational realms and experience the relevancy of the subject matter. I appreciate the example of the discussion of “theory” as the term possesses multiple meanings depending on the context it is taught. Equally, the two instructors demonstrate exemplary methods for how team-teaching is possible through communication and planning. While teacher collaboration takes considerable time, effort and compromise, it is invaluable in preparing students for success in higher education and life.
Recommended (1)
What comes to mind after watching this video is a book I read in grad school entitled Environmental Change and Globalization; Double Exposures by Leichenko and O'Brian. Its thesis similar to the thesis of this video is that creative solutions can only be achieved through collaboration across disciplines. As the world becomes more globalized, mirroring those conditions in the classroom allows students to gain exposure to similar paradigms from different perspectives that allow for creative solutions. This approach also adds a much need consistency to the curriculum in that by having teachers work together, unique and different materials can be blended along similar approaches allowing for consistency throughout the day. Lastly, by having co-teachers teaching similar themes within different curriculums, reinforcement of the material is achieved as the two disciplines are blended together to reinforce the core concepts that are meant to be achieved.
Recommended (2)
It is refreshing to witness how truly effective the co-teaching model can be. It is evident that the two educators in the video have created a student-centered classroom culture.
Recommended (0)


  • Collaborative Teaching for Interdisciplinary Learning Transcript

    Teacher: Good morning, everybody. We’re gonna start out with some teamwork time.

    Teacher: As you come up

    Collaborative Teaching for Interdisciplinary Learning Transcript

    Teacher: Good morning, everybody. We’re gonna start out with some teamwork time.

    Teacher: As you come up with websites, just take a moment and share those with us to make sure that that’s gonna give you information that’s relevant for the project.

    Teacher: After that, you’re gonna create a research plan.

    Leah and I co-teach. I’m the social studies part of the brain, and Leah’s the science part of the brain.

    Teacher: We’re accountable to one another.

    Teacher: The reality is we both know these subjects pretty well.

    Just remember post all your work in your team Google folder, and just so everyone has access to it.

    Teacher: Can I add a couple points, Mr. Morel 00:40?

    Teacher: Sure.

    Teacher: When you did your benchmark one and you identified the cause and effects for each of the environmental and social issues, that information remains relevant.

    One thing that really excites me about co-teaching is that we find that the real world is not siloed into disciplines. You take a problem like climate change. Can you call that a scientific problem? Do you call that a social or political or economic problem? The answer’s all of the above.

    Teacher: Now, it’s just a matter of putting deadlines to those benchmarks.

    Teacher: While co-teaching isn’t always the easiest thing to do, it really models for the students the way we need to tackle problems in the real world, and so we have to make sure we understand each other’s language.

    What’s the first step in your teamwork time?

    Student: Choose deadlines for all the benchmarks.

    Teacher: Good.

    Teacher: Nice.

    Teacher: I think we had one conversation earlier in the year about what a theory is. A theory in social studies and a theory in science are totally different. For me a theory is law. Having those cross-disciplinary conversations I think really enriches what we’re able to offer the students. It’s simplistic, but two minds are really better than one.

    Mr. Morel and I will each be working with half of the teams, and we’ll help to identify…

    One strategy we use that’s helpful for the students is to take the teams—we have usually between eight and ten teams—and divide them between the two of us. During that formative assessment period when we’re going around meeting with the students, they know who their key mentor is.

    Teacher: What do you know about that currently?

    Student: About our topic?

    Teacher: Right. How to answer that bullet point related to your topic.

    Teacher: I would look up another source because this tells you about its existence but not its impact.

    Student: Say what it is. Give an example.

    Teacher: We tend to keep tabs on and have more of a detailed analysis of what that particular team is doing just cuz it’s smaller in number.

    Tomorrow when you have your meeting, that’s one thing you’ll be looking for for accountability is making sure that everyone had that posted and complete.

    In terms of their content, one of the most helpful ways I’ve found to formatively assess what they’re doing is to get right on that Google Doc with them.

    Planning is key. I mean we meet two to three times a week for common planning time.

    I think that real-time formative assessment is key cuz then if they don’t get that feedback right away, they’re walking down the wrong road.

    Teacher: Right.

    Teacher: During that time, we create our agendas for the class and we decide who’s the lead for different activities and who’s the support.

    Why don’t I take the lead on helping them develop the need to know?

    Teacher: Okay.

    Teacher: Do you wanna take the lead on—

    Teacher: Developing the workshop?

    Teacher: - the workshop?

    Teacher: Absolutely.

    Teacher: Okay.

    Teacher: It’s balanced.

    Teacher: Exactly.

    Teacher: Honestly, I think it comes down to a few basic things, and that’s respect and openness. I think if—

    Teacher: Mm-hmm, and communication [laughs].

    Teacher: And communication.

    Encourage the kids to show their passion. What is convincing versus not convincing look like?

    Teacher: Exactly.

    I think that just having another brain there to say, “Well, why? Why do you wanna choose that article and not this article?” slows you down enough to apply your full intelligence to your profession.

    That’s a content you’ll need to know, so I would look at what you’ve already done for your benchmark one on your topic. Put all that information as know and then figure out what your gaps are in your research. I can help you with websites.

    Teacher: What could be a cause for environmental racism and what are the effects of it? Excellent.

    Teacher: One thing I appreciate about this faculty is that we’re all expected to be flexible and innovate. If Tom has an idea and I don’t necessarily think it’s a great idea, my job is to be willing to give that a try.

    I’m not so excited about the politicians.

    Teacher: That sounds great.

    Teacher: I might suggest modifications, but we have an experimental mindset.

    Maybe we can build in some scaffolding around modeling.

    Teacher: The other day I was saying to Leah—Leah was trying to convince me of something. I said, “You know, Leah, I just don’t get it. Convince me.”

    Teacher: Did I convince you [laughter]?

    Teacher: On that point, I don’t remember. I don’t know if we resolved that one.

    Teacher: I think it’ll remain a challenge for them to come up with something strategic and doable within the timeframe.

    Teacher: The biggest role we take is helping coach them to make sure it is manageable.

    Teacher: We try things. We learn. We modify. That sort of spirited inquiry, having that between us, has been helpful too.

    Teacher: Part of the reason why it appears we’re on the same page is because we’ve gotten to this point through that process.

    [End of Audio]


Tom (Thomas) Morrill
Leah Penniman



All Grades / All Subjects / Tch Tools

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, All Subjects, Class Culture

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, ELA, Class Culture

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Students / Class Culture