The L&S Teaching & Learning Excellence team has rounded up some simple (and necessarily incomplete) guidance for instructors and departments/programs interested in pursuing team teaching for L&S courses.
Best Practices and Recommendations for Team-Taught Course Design and Planning ProcessesThis document briefly describes design elements and planning processes for Team-Taught courses, with guidance for both instructors and departments. Advice offered below supports L&S procedural considerations for approving team-taught courses and instructional assignments.
InstructorsTeaching and Learning Excellence should be the foundation for any team-teaching initiative, and instructors should think carefully about how multiple instructors who bring different disciplinary expertise and experience into the classroom will enhance learning – and not distract or confuse students. Instructors should expect to collaboratively to ensure that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. In such courses, instructors:
- Ensure that they are prepared for team teaching, from navigating group dynamics to sharing the instructional role and modeling the discourse of experts who are also learning.
- Use one syllabus with common outcomes, aligned with campus syllabus information and providing contact information for all instructors involved in the course. The “team taught” nature of the course should be clearly communicated to students, as should the anticipated impact on their learning.
- Help students navigate shifts between the instructional styles of the teachers, and offer guidance about how to integrate information from multiple sources.
- Adhere to one set of course policies – these cannot shift from instructor to instructor.
- Adhere to one policy for managing grade disputes and other complaints; this should be clearly communicated to students, and consistently applied. (If the course is shared by faculty in multiple departments, chairs should be informed of the procedures.)
- Share responsibility for evaluation of student learning (and communicate that responsibility and process to students).
- Ensure that student evaluation of instruction affords opportunities to evaluate each instructor independently, as well as for the course as a whole.
Departments and ProgramAs with all courses and academic programs, team-teaching occurs within the context of departments and programs.
- Assignment of instruction to a team-taught course represents a departmental investment in delivering curriculum; therefore, team-teaching arrangements must be approved by the department(s) or program(s) before they are scheduled. Generally, this approval would be granted by the curriculum committee or other body responsible for assignment of instruction.
- Because departments are responsible for the whole curriculum they offer, team-taught courses should be offered in the context of the department’s need to teach courses that meet students’ needs (i.e., required and elective courses that keep students on track to complete their programs of study). Assigning multiple instructors to a team-taught course should not have a negative impact on the department’s ability to meet other course obligations. In other words, the needs of the whole curriculum must be in balance with the desire to offer a team-taught course.
- Similarly, because department should pay attention to maintaining (or even increasing) its share of enrollments, team-taught courses are expected to enroll enough students to justify the allocation of multiple instructors to them.
- Departments should have a transparent and equitable procedure for assigning workload credit for faculty and staff who participate in team-taught courses. When multiple departments/programs are involved in the arrangement, all partners should be informed about the arrangement and agree to it.
- This is not a comprehensive list; as we learn more, we will add to this list of “best practices.” Please send suggestions or comments to Associate Dean Shirin Malekpour (shirin.malekpour<at>wisc.edu).
As with many aspects of higher education, there are volumes of resources available on this topic. Instructors who are interested in team-teaching are encouraged to read widely, and seek out resources that seem most appropriate to their discipline or instructional milieu. The documents below may serve as a starting place, with useful references and resources cited. (Please feel free to suggest additional readings or links for this list.)
Harris, C and Harvey, A. Team Teaching in Adult Higher Education Classrooms: Toward Collaborative Knowledge Construction. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education No. 87, Fall 2000.
Lock, J. et al. The Lived Experiences of Instructors Co-teaching in Higher Education. Brock Education Journal 26(1) 2016, 22- 25.