Making Dual Language Tandem Teaching More Effective, More Efficient, and More Equitable

Several years ago, the two of us worked together as English (Shera) and Spanish (Liz) co-teachers in a dual language program, an arrangement that we refer to as Tandem Teaching. Since then, we’ve been working with other teachers, presenting at conferences, and writing about the topic, and we’ve developed six Big Ideas about Tandem Teaching that guide this form of co-teaching. In this blog post, we unpack the first Big Idea: Tandem Teaching makes dual language education (DLE) more effective, more efficient, and more equitable.

First, Tandem Teaching is designed to make dual language instruction more effective, because without coordinated instruction, your practice really isn’t aligned to DLE guidelines. The Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (Howard et al., 2018) clearly indicates the need to coordinate instruction across languages to achieve the three goals of DLE. So, without this coordination, no matter how skilled or knowledgeable each individual teacher may be, the overall aims of DLE will not be met, because they cannot be achieved through parallel monolingual instruction, regardless of the level of quality of that instruction. As the saying goes, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,’ and for Tandem Teachers, that means that they work together as part of a single system.

Second, Tandem Teaching is designed to make dual-language education more efficient. As we all know, DLE teachers are required to provide content and literacy instruction through two languages, but don’t have twice as much instructional time as a monolingual teacher. This is most pressing in language arts, since it’s taught in both languages, and many of the standards overlap. There’s neither the need nor the time to teach all of those same standards twice! By figuring out what’s ‘yours,’ ‘mine,’ or ‘ours,’ Tandem Teachers will be able to streamline instruction.

Finally, Tandem Teaching is designed to make DLE more equitable, because it brings inequities and imbalances in the teaching relationship and instruction in both languages to light. Tandem Teachers who are using a social justice and equity lens to explicitly attend to their relationship and the purposeful coordination of instruction across languages will begin to have more insights about imbalances or inequities in terms of workload, availability of materials in each language, language use with students and families, and the varying needs of subgroups of students in each language.

What are your thoughts? What do you do to make your Tandem Teaching practices effective, efficient, and equitable? Let us know in the comments!

Interested in learning more? See our book Dual Language Tandem Teaching: Coordinating Instruction across Languages through Cross-Linguistic Pedagogies!

Liz Howard
Author: Liz Howard

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