George Lucas Educational Foundation

Team Teaching: How to Improve Each Other's Game

Through video observation, collaborative planning, and candid, and constructive criticism, math teachers Mike Fauteux and Rose Zapata, who teach at Leadership Public School in Hayward, CA, have devised a formula to improve their practice and increase student achievement.
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Team Teaching: How to Improve Each Other's Game (Transcript)

Mike Fauteux: We're two teachers at the same school. Both of us teaching two sections of geometry. And yet, even in the same school, the variance can be so wide at how two people teach the same lesson. And so our practice minimizes that difference in how we teach, so the kids get a more equitable, stronger lesson. I'm Mike Fauteux, and I teach Geometry, and Academic Numeracy at Leadership Public School of Hayward.

Mike Fauteux: And here's your challenge. You're going to be silent. You're going to be right there in your seats, and for the next minute-and-a-half, I want you to think of at least three solutions to this equation.

Mike Fauteux: And I collaborate regularly with my co-teacher, Rose Zapata.

Rose Zapata: My name is Rose Zapata. I teach Geometry and Pre-Calculus at Leadership Public Schools in Hayward.

Rose Zapata: So the definition, all angles are equal. And more specifically like Aaron said, they're all 60 degrees, and that's always going to be the case. They're always going to be 60 degrees.

Mike Fauteux: We're a network of four schools, and we're very much all about trying new ideas. Succeed at some and fail at others, with the idea of eventually making wide-scale change in our communities. On a daily basis, our goal with the video camera, besides general feedback, is to build a library to match completely with the curriculum. And we'd like full lessons. And we'd also like to edit and code by practice or task.

Rose Zapata: I try more things when a video camera is there, than when it's not. Because when it's not, you get kind of comfortable in your every day trend of things. But when the camera is there, it forces you to want to do something extra. And then you see that extra thing actually make a difference.

Mike Fauteux: The way we create that curriculum is after Rose teaches a lesson, we will meet, sit down, and for a minimum of 15 minutes a day tear apart that lesson. We'll talk about the pacing.

Mike Fauteux: [ speaking to Rose ] And you got through this in a timely fashion. It was really good to see the pace at which you went through all -- was it six?

Rose Zapata: [ speaking to Mike ] Yeah.

Mike Fauteux: And we'll talk about expected errors and missed conceptions.

Mike Fauteux: [ speaking to Rose ] And this here would be at least, I think it was valuable to take those two minutes.

Rose Zapata: [ speaking to Mike ] Yeah, I agree. This is what they missed, at least.

Mike Fauteux: [ speaking to Rose ] So in the common misunderstanding, missed conceptions, errors section of the teacher notes. That definitely has to go in there.

Mike Fauteux: We'll edit, put sticky notes all over them so we can make them better. She'll give me feedback; I'll give her feedback. And that's how we continue to have the curriculum evolve and make it more precise and powerful.

Rose Zapata: Teaching isn't just about standing up there and giving them instruction. It's also about developing yourself, so that they go to the next level.

Mike Fauteux: Last year, Rose and I felt this relationship out, and we got to a point where we felt comfortable challenging each other. Sometimes arguing a lot; sometimes supporting each other a lot. But all very productive.

Rose Zapata: We're very open to going to each other. And it's because we have this camaraderie that took some time to form.

Mike Fauteux: With the benchmarks, I noticed that my classes were under-performing her classes by an average of ten percent. And so I had to sit down and just look at that data dispassionately. And as a competitive person, that wasn't easy. I got into her classroom, and I watched her teach a lesson, and then I went and tried to teach the same thing. And then she would come in and video me. Give me feedback. And this give and take, back and forth, eventually helped me refine my own practice. I was being a little too verbose. So I wasn't getting through the whole lesson. And I wasn't getting to some of the higher level tasks as consistently as she was. And when she saw this, and I saw this, I was able to adjust, make changes, and by the end of the year, our data was indistinguishable.

Rose Zapata: In order for any of us to grow and be better, which ultimately means student achievement, we need someone to tell us, "This is going well, and this is not going so well. Here's a potential way to fix it."

Mike Fauteux: It's a reciprocal, positive relationship, where we both improve from that feedback, and so this type of relationship, I think, is more or less the secret to our success.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Alyssa Fedele
  • Karen Sutherland

Post Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely


  • Ken Ellis

Tips for Videotaping a Class

We asked Mike and Rose how to go about videotaping and reviewing a colleague's class. Here are their suggestions:

What do you look for when you shoot video of your partner?

When shooting video, the biggest concern is actually the audio. Students, particularly teenagers, tend to speak in a low voice. We use a handheld, external shotgun mic for audio. An onboard mic rarely picks up students from across the room, and when you’re trying to pick out a single voice in a room that has ambient noise, it is tough to get a clear recording. The mic input on our camera lets us use our external shotgun mic to target individual student voices, even from across the room.

Besides audio, we usually capture the posted objective for the day regardless of what we are focusing on because this helps us when we’re looking at old footage. Then we spend most of our time trying to see what the students are doing. Most people make the mistake of capturing the teacher almost exclusively. Although that is helpful if one is trying to analyze a presentation style or a specific pedagogy, if the goal is to analyze a lesson, you should focus on the students. What students are actually doing can be different from the stated objective or task for many reasons. Generally, the most important things to focus on are what we are asking our students to do and how well they are able to do it. Capture student work samples -- by zooming in on papers -- and move in to capture conversations whenever possible to make later analysis richer.

One thing to note: How a teacher presents the camera to the students matters. We always say we’re recording our teaching so we can analyze it and get better as teachers, the way athletes do with their performances. Students will eventually tune out the camera as it becomes the norm.

If I were just starting this out with another teacher, what would I need to do to get prepared? Should teachers make agreements about how they're going to use this before they even start?

Besides securing the equipment, teachers should speak ahead of time about what they are trying to capture. A focus question helps the observer target the most relevant elements of a lesson. It’s also important to talk about how the lesson artifacts will be used for analysis. Whether it is a video clip, a lesson plan, or a sample of student work, the teachers involved need to agree about how the evidence will be analyzed in a safe, professional, objective way.

What are you looking for when you review it together?

What we look for in a video depends on our focus. If we're analyzing the students' use of content vocabulary in their thinking, we'll look at what the students say and write. If we're looking at questioning, we'll capture specific examples and go further, quantifying things like the number of questions asked by the teacher and by students, the number of "what" questions versus the number of "how" and "why" questions, the amount of student/teacher talk time, and so on. We'll see how the students engaged the tasks we set up and if they actually met our objective. We always have a copy of our lesson plan and try as often as possible to have student work to accompany our videos for the fullest analysis possible.

What type of camera do you use?

We use a standard-definition (SD) Canon digital camcorder. It has a jack for an external mic and another for headphones, and it stores its data on an SD flash card. We use a handheld, external shotgun mic for audio. If a person gets a high-definition (HD) video camera and plans on storing the video files, she should turn the capture quality down so the files are smaller and more manageable. Also, look at the recording format. Some cameras, like the Canon, record in a proprietary format that some video programs can’t read unless you purchase a plug-in. File formats such as MP4, MP2, and .mov are very common and easy to use.

About Leadership Public Schools

Rose Zapata and Mike Fauteux teach at Leadership Public School (LPS), in Hayward, California. Leadership Public Schools is a network of public charter schools that serve ethnically and economically diverse student bodies and are located in or near low-income urban neighborhoods. The schools' vision is that all students -- regardless of background, ethnicity, or neighborhood -- receive an excellent education that prepares them to succeed in college and improve their community.

LPS-Hayward ranked third in 2010 among high-performing schools statewide in API gains and ranked in the top 3 percent of high schools statewide that serve majority low-income students.

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Luria Learning's picture
Luria Learning
3rd Grade Teacher and Founder of Luria Learning

Thank you so much for this post. I am inspired by what you are doing in your classrooms. Who does the video taping? Do you have planning time to view the tapes together?

I've started video taping some of my own mini-lessons and viewing them myself. This has really changed how I teach those lessons. Here is one lesson. I would love to hear some feedback on what you think.


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