L&S Policy Guidance: Team Teaching in L&S

This document attempts to dispel myths and offer guidance about team-teaching in the College of Letters & Science, including factors to be considered by departments and programs that are considering and approving requests for teaching assignments involving team-teaching and collaboration.

CONTACT INFORMATION: Shirin Malekpour, Associate Dean for Teaching & Learning Administration

The L&S Excellence in Teaching & Learning Taskforce identified “team teaching” as an opportunity for faculty and staff to engage in innovative teaching, since this approach spans differences in disciplinary expertise and allows instructors to model the ways in which topics can be approached from different perspectives. This approach can bring new interest and energy to traditional topics, foster nuanced critical thinking about complex questions, and challenge teachers and learners in exciting new ways. The Taskforce recommended that L&S offer policy and procedural guidance for faculty, instructional staff, and supporting units about team teaching in L&S.  What can the College do to support this form of innovative teaching?

But first, what do we mean by “team teaching?”  In this document, we use “team teaching” to refer to courses where two (or more) instructors fully collaborate to enrich student learning.  Collaborators design the course together and are active throughout the course, attending and participating in all (or nearly all) class meetings.  Course design involves full collaboration to develop the syllabus and materials, instructional strategies, assignments, assessment procedures, and policies for the course. Teaching styles vary, but full collaboration involves being present and active in classroom sessions, using one of the following two approaches:
There are other ways to describe and coordinate the contributions of multiple instructors across a course or curriculum: our focus on this form of team teaching is intentionally narrow, to foster a high degree of instructional engagement. It’s also important to note that our definition of team-teaching does not include guest lectures, colleague coverage, or teaching course modules in rotation with others who aren’t present and who don’t collaborate in the ways listed above.

Team Teaching Policy and Planning Considerations

The Excellence in Teaching & Learning Taskforce expressed concern that there is a perception that “L&S doesn’t allow team teaching.” On the contrary, team teaching is allowed – but it should be supported by careful planning by instructors, departments, and programs.  To generate more interest, L&S will support Team Teaching activities by fielding a team teaching pilot project. In this project, L&S will provide a limited amount of “backfill” for approved team teaching ventures (see memo).  The following issues related to pedagogy, curriculum planning, and administration, should be considered when planning team-teaching activity.
  1. Approval. Team teaching arrangements affect the array of courses offered, course scheduling, credits generated, and instructional workload. Plans to team teach must therefore be approved not only by the department or program curriculum planning body, but also by the Divisional Academic Associate Dean (who will consult with the Associate Dean for Teaching & Learning Administration).
The following factors should be considered by the department/program, and should be addressed by the time the Associate Deans weigh in:
  1. The benefits of team teaching should be “baked in.”  That is, the syllabus should reflect how this instructional design enriches student learning in the course.
  2. The proposed course should not infringe on any department or program’s ability to staff other courses it needs to offer.
  3. Each instructor participating in the course attends and participates in each class session.  This is particularly important if they receive full credit for teaching the course (see section 4, below).
  4. Team-taught courses should not have a negative effect on the department/program’s contribution to instruction.  In other words, these courses are expected to enroll at least as many students as would have enrolled in separate courses that otherwise would have been taught.
  1. Course Design.  Departments and programs should consider designing purpose-built team-taught courses, which may be crosslisted by participating departments.  Courses may be offered initially under a “topics” course listing; however, once the course has stabilized, it should be proposed as a standard course.
  1. Teaching Metrics.  Enrollments are allocated to departments using the standard “Credits Follow Instructor” rules. That is, when multiple instructors are assigned to a course, credits are allocated equally among those instructors, according to the set of rules that apply to that individual’s payroll allocation.  
  1. Workload.
  1. Each L&S department has a teaching load for its faculty and instructional staff that is reported to and discussed with L&S Administration annually, and which is reviewed as part of the regular Short-Term Staffing allocation.
  2. Department workload policies should be adapted to take team-teaching into account, and practices for assigning teaching credit for team-teaching should be clear to members of the department and to L&S Administration. These policies should be equitably applied.  
  1. Special considerations.  When conditions 1c. and 1d. are satisfied, additional consideration to approve team teaching requests may be given to courses that also meet the following criteria:
    1. The course is taught by faculty from different departments or disciplines, and leverages those differences to have a substantial interdisciplinary aspect.
    2. There is a compelling pedagogical reason that requires the team-taught format.
    3. The team-teaching format demonstrably improves the quality of students’ learning.
    4. The course has anticipated enrollment far greater than what would be expected were the instructors involved teaching independent courses.
  1. Sustainability.  After an approved team-taught course has been taught at least once, and the department/program has determined how the course fits into its overall instructional profile in terms of course array and workload, further approval of the team-teaching aspect of the course is not required.
L&S will monitor these arrangements and as our experience with them accumulates, policy and procedures will be further refined.

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