Transformational Teaching: A Team Approach to Adult Education

Published sep. 28, 2016

In honor of Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, Jobs for the Future is excited to share the latest publication from Accelerating Opportunity, our national initiative to integrate Adult Basic Education and career and technical education  in order to increase the number of adults who enter postsecondary education and earn credentials that lead to family-supporting careers. Transformational Teaching: A Team Approach explores the power of team teaching to support adult education students’ educational and career goals. This brief draws on the experiences of team teachers from across the AO states as well as the implementation evaluation conducted by the Urban Institute and Aspen Institute. Our goal is to share insight into the experiences of team teachers from a variety of colleges and states.

Accelerating Opportunity shows that team teaching, while highly challenging, is powerful for students, faculty, and the college as a whole. Team teaching is integral to the initiative, and represents a major change from the way education is usually structured, with one teacher per classroom covering one content area. This instructional approach puts a career and technical education (CTE) instructor and an Adult Basic Education (ABE) instructor in the classroom at the same time, with shared responsibility for delivering instruction. As team teachers, instructors actively collaborate and contribute equally to the class.

To develop this brief, JFF talked to adult education and CTE instructors from across the AO states. The instructors shared stories of students who had previously struggled in their classes, but were thriving in their team-taught programs. ABE instructors talked about students finally being able to see the relevance of their basic skills classes to their career goals. CTE instructors described how collaborating with another instructor helped them discover new ways to support their students. Many talked about the challenges of working with another instructor to plan and teach a course, but they also described how inspiring it can be to watch students build their self-confidence, see themselves as learners, and achieve their educational and career goals. The interviews left us feeling inspired by the dedication and commitment of this diverse group of instructors.

Helping the nation’s 36 million adults with low basic skills achieve economic mobility requires innovative approaches to education and training. Fortunately, faculty are ready, willing, and able to work together to provide them with high-quality learning experiences. The early experiences of team teachers in Accelerating Opportunity show that, while team teaching isn’t easy, it holds tremendous potential and is a strategic solution for making learning more effective and relevant. We encourage you to consider how your programs can use promising practices like team teaching to help more adult learners build their academic skills and earn credentials with labor market value. As one AO instructor put it, “If you can be flexible and try it—embrace it for a while—you will see the benefit.”