Resource teachers, teachers with special skills to work with low achievers, began to be employed slowly in high schools during the late 1970s in Queensland. I was given access to such a teacher to use with my year nine Mathematics class of low achievers. At that point in time we, teachers, were given no guidelines on how to use these teachers.
What follows in this article is how I went about using that teacher to enhance the learning of my students. The original article was written in 1978, at the request of the regional advisory teacher for Mathematics, and was published in the Brisbane West Region Secondary Maths Newsletter.
It was my intention to use the resource teacher with me in the classroom. A more usual approach had been for low achievers in Mathematics to leave the classroom for one or two periods per week and have special remedial work in another room with the resource teacher. This could have the effect of creating a further problem for the student when the student returns to the classroom in comprehending the work which the other students had been doing while the student was away.
If this teacher can work with the students in the context of a normal lesson, then greater classroom cooperation with the student can be obtained. Better liaison can be fostered between the resource teacher and the classroom teacher as each will have a better understanding of each other’s role. This method was successful with my year nine general Mathematics students.
Below is the process I used to make the best use of the resource teacher. Firstly, since the resource teacher was not a specialist Mathematics teacher, the school decided that the resource teacher would work with a Mathematics teacher with low ability students. I was one such teacher. I began the process giving each student a basic Arithmetic test to determine their weaknesses and therefore a starting point for the remediation by the resource teacher.
Each Tuesday, my class had a double Mathematics lesson at the start of the day and the resource teacher would work with four students at a time in each of the two periods. Meantime, the students were divided into groups of four where they played Mathematics games. These games included Equable, Vectors, Tutor systems, Tangrams and Space Lines to name a few I used. The short-term objective of the games was for the students to begin to enjoy Mathematics while the long-term objective was to improve basic numeracy skills. As the rules of the games and the games session were explained to the students, their degree of student cooperation increased. This was considered extremely important for this group of students.
Other lessons set about improving basic Arithmetic skills of the whole class through team teaching with the resource teacher. (What this meant is that this teacher began to develop a greater understanding of Mathematics teaching practice).
The resource teacher was very useful in examining critically the Mathematics questions given to students in terms of language. Generally, teachers of Mathematics set questions which cause reading problems for many students. This was noted and led to tests being developed that were less “verbal” for the less able students. What Mathematics was tested remained the same. It was the way the questions were asked that changed.
Now, in the twenty first century, these resource teachers, (now called special needs teachers in Queensland), work with the teacher and the students in the room. As well, they use a withdrawal room doing remediation based on the class work at that time.
This collegiate approach has an in-service component attached to it in that working together both teachers learn from observing each other. This can only enhance the learning of their students.