Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Team Teach

I told a colleague yesterday that I found team teaching to be an intriguing idea, one that fits with our center's emphasis on student responsibility for learning.  I just team taught for the first time and had a wonderful experience.  In the first year studies course, peer mentors (upper-class students) assist in the classroom; it was up to the two of us to figure out what that would look like.  My peer mentor participated in class, joining students as they worked, but we also added some activities that others might not consider typical.  His experiential expertise is in scheduling and planning, so I asked him to talk to students about how to plan for and schedule their courses.  We spent two days listening to and talking with him about how to manage different resources at UT.   He asked a few students to join him up front to try out the planning resources, particularly the online degree audit report system. His time on this topic was one of the highest rated experiences in the course.  Second, he met students after class in groups, where the conversation was much more informal.  This helped me too, since I did not have time to meet with all of the students.  Again, they rated this experience very highly.

In research and trials by Gray and Halbert (1998) and Gray and Harrison (2003), professors and students reported multiple benefits.  Student comments were positive, including appreciation for hearing a student's perspective.  Student comments (see Tomorrow's Professor) included:
 “The student teacher stops the professor and asks questions that are helpful to make the topic clearer. She’s good at telling [the teacher] when he has lost us.”

"It’s like a tag team where one is always there to back the other up. If one teacher does not understand a question [from a student] or how to relate it to the class, the other can easily step in.”  

“The team-teaching is a good approach, I think because this way we don’t feel intimidated by a big professor teaching the class and we get the insight of an undergrad.”

In general, research suggests that professor-student teaching teams offer several benefits to students, student teachers, and professors. Students reported enhanced learning because the method gave a student perspective and improved the availability of teachers; student teachers felt they learned a lot about teaching and the subject matter; and professors felt it gave them an ally in their teaching, excellent substitute teachers and a valuable source of feedback for teaching improvement (Gray & Harrison 2003). 

Have you tried team teaching?  Tell us about your experience!

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