Creative Learners

Creative Learners
Learning Brief


BlendEd in the CLIMMB project – Using co-teaching facilitation to empower

Category: Creative Learners | Education system improvement | 30 May, 2013 - 02:00


The Institute for Mathematics and Science Teaching, IMSTUS, is a not-for-profit organisation based in the Department of Curriculum Studies within the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University. The Institute aims to mobilise learners from disadvantaged communities by improving learner performance through effective teaching, learning and academic research. IMSTUS provides school interventions, professional teacher development as well as learner intervention programmes. Given that teachers don’t have the mathematical content knowledge to be confident in their teaching, IMSTUS’ CLIMMB project offers assistance in numeracy to teachers in Grade 1-3, as well as Literacy coaching and curriculum leadership to 10 primary schools and 5 high schools.

After three years of intensive, full-time support by two specialist field workers, working across the curriculum with teachers, parents, learners as well as principals, in an effort to lift the literacy levels of participating schools, we have learnt that learner performance in our schools is still determined by technical teacher knowledge (Habermas’ theory on teacher knowledge).  

It was strongly evident that teaching is strongly curriculum (CAPS) driven, and that the average mainstream teacher in our system is not prepared to try out alternative, more effective teaching strategies, because they are still dependent on instructions “the advisor says we must…”. 

Despite the opportunity for specialised, accredited, in-depth training of two reading teachers per school, participating schools did not regard specialised teacher knowledge as a priority; some schools did not even respond to this offer. Those that did respond, have not fully applied or managed newly acquired knowledge and skills in their schools to the benefit of the learners’ literacy needs. 

The fact that too many schools still do not make use of the advantages and opportunities that the regular systemic and national literacy assessments offer, is a sad symptom the lack of seriousness that our schools afford to improving the literacy standards of their learners.     

The co-teaching facilitation model of learning

The main aim of the CLIMMB teacher intervention initiative was to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics in the Foundation Phase, with primary focus being on:

  • Enhancing the mathematical content knowledge and understanding
  • Improving the teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching
  • Improving the teachers’ classroom management skills.

The schools in this initiative were schools that were performing poorly in mathematics and whose systemic score were below the pass percentage of 50%. To achieve this, the initiative used the following strategies:

  • Classroom visits to offer on the spot advisory service
  • Cluster workshops
  • Co-teaching.

In co-teaching, the teacher asked the facilitators to teach topics that he or she (the teacher) had difficulty with or topics that the learners found difficult to understand. This was usually addressed in a co-teaching session between the teacher and the facilitator. Although the lesson was prepared and conducted by the facilitator, the teacher was not a passive observer but participated in the delivery of the lesson. The facilitators involved the teachers so that they could gain experience in teaching the difficult topics. 

The teachers appeared to like co-teaching as the facilitator and the teacher worked together in a practical and realistic manner. Co-teaching improved the teachers’ confidence. The fact that the teacher was the one who requested the co-teaching of the specific topic made this form of intervention more meaningful than a workshop as it responded to the client’s specific needs. Initially many teachers did not use this option because they felt that they were exposing their weaknesses to the facilitators. As the relationship between the facilitators and teachers improved, requests for co-teaching increased.

Overview of the Schools management component of the CLIMMB project

  • Onsite support sessions allowed educators to openly share their issues and challenges, which led to the formulation of school-specific strategies. Some of these issues and other common challenges faced by schools were used as topics for Powerpoint presentations/roundtable discussions at cluster meetings.
  • Through the presentations at cluster meetings, participants could share information and ideas with each other. This process assisted and empowered them to find alternative and innovative strategies to address the challenges at their own schools. 
  • One outstanding feature of the cluster sessions was the thorough planning and research done by educators for the presentations. Participants rated these sessions as extremely beneficial and more than 20 different topics were discussed/presented at the cluster meetings.
  • Schools were also willing to share, giving written feedback and examples, good practices with each other. 
  • Onsite support visits assisted the school managers to enhance their curriculum planning, development and management thereof.

Challenges experienced:

  • Many unplanned meetings by District Offices disrupted the pre-planned programme.
  • Not all the principals were involved in the programme. Some educators were consequently reluctant to participate and found it difficult to implement new ideas.
  • Extra-mural activities at schools – especially in the Paarl – sometimes clashed with visits to schools. This resulted in not having all educators at planned on-site meetings.

It is, however, very encouraging to report that most schools appreciated the opportunity given by the project/university to be part of such a programme. The dedication of many educators in the teaching profession is inspiring and it was demonstrated many times during the many interactions afforded by this project.  

Implication of the learning experience on the organisation

Although three years may seem like a long time, the organisation is of the opinion that this intervention is coming to an end just when the teachers had just warmed up and are only now making use of the facilitators’ advisory service. The facilitators could have had more impact with one more year with the teachers.

Implications for other organisations, general practice and policy

Organisations working with people need to invest in relationship building. There is a definite need to factor in time for relationship building in a project where people need to change. Moving forward, we would factor relationship-building time into intervention projects and specify this time in the implementation plan, which may be something to consider by other intervention projects.


From the co-teaching experience we learnt that educational interventions are not a quick fix; one needs time to gain the trust and confidence to become an effective agent of change as he or she works with the teachers who like any other professionals are very sensitive to “foreign intervention”. However, with time and investment in relationships, this mode of intervention can be beneficial for teacher development and learning.



Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch University, 3rd Floor GG Cillie Building Stellenbosch  

 (021) 887 2093

In Short

Learn about the IMSTUS CLIMMB initiative’s use of co-teaching as a meaningful alternative to traditional workshops to equip teachers with practical skills to use in the classroom.

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