Team Teaching with a Student by Tara Gray, Paige Harrison, Sami Halbert Geurts

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Feb 7th, 2014
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Consider team teaching with a student. 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).

We believe the promise far outweighs the problems but for a review of both the benefits and the challenges, as well as ways to avoid the challenges, see Gray and Harrison (2003). Because of the many benefits of team teaching, the professors and student teachers involved in this study all indicated they would like to team teach again (Gray and Harrison 2003). It is no wonder team teaching is sometimes touted as something that “every instructor should try” (Harte 1995:3).

  1. Many different students can serve as student teachers. The most obvious choice is a faculty member’s own graduate assistant, but there are other choices. Undergraduates can be effective as student teachers as long as they have good people-skills and have previously completed the course successfully.
  2. Student teachers invest a lot of time and learn a great deal about the subject matter and about teaching; therefore, they should be compensated with money or academic credit (for a special topics course).
  3. When team teaching with a student, the faculty member takes charge of course design (the student is often off-campus during this time), shares the daily delivery, and delegates most of the administrative duties to the student teacher.
  4. Before beginning to team teach, teachers and their student teachers should talk about the various teaching responsibilities that will arise during the semester and decide who will do what, in broad terms. Writing job descriptions for both parties that are as detailed as possible can help (see Gray and Harrison 2003 for sample job descriptions). In the most collaborative model, the teacher and their student teachers alternate speaking roles several times during each class. In other adaptations, the teacher presents the material and the student teacher’s role is as an active listener and questioner, clarifying content for students.
  5. Similarly, the teaching team will also need to determine how decisions will be made regarding the structure of the class. In the most collaborative model, all decisions are made jointly, including planning classes, designing quizzes and exams, and determining the strengths and weaknesses of each class. In other adaptations, some decisions are made only by the teacher, while other decisions are collaborative.
  6. For greatest effectiveness, team teaching pairs should plan to work together in the professor’s office during the class period before and after each class taught together.
  7. Often, the student teacher performs many administrative tasks, such as keeping attendance records, maintaining grades, and extending available office hours to address student concerns.
  8. Depending on the regulations of the institution and abilities of the student teacher, professors may decide the student teacher will assist with grading.
  9. Student teachers make excellent substitute teachers and mean that the day the teacher is missing is not a “wasted day.”
  10. Student teachers also serve as an ally to the teacher and as a source of much feedback about their teaching. Having student teachers perform all of these tasks goes a long way towards decreasing the burden of teaching and the likelihood of professor burnout, while giving teachers more time for course design and for research.

For more information, see:

Gray, Tara and Paige Harrison. 2003. “Team Teach with a Student: A Pilot Program in Criminal Justice,” Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 14(1):163-180.Gray, T. and S. Halbert. 1998. “Team Teach with a Student: New Approach to Collaborative Teaching.” College Teaching 46: 150-153.To purchase the full text of both articles ($34 each) see the Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Website: http://www.informaworld.com. [Note: Search by lead author’s name, Tara Gray.]

© Tara Gray, Ph.D., Director | The Teaching Academy |New Mexico State University
MSC 3TA P. O. Box 30001 | Las Cruces, NM  88003-8001 | Milton Hall Room 50
http://teaching.nmsu.edu/ | 575-646-1013,  575-646-1330 (fax) | tgray@nmsu.edu

Deputize... Then DelegateRemember that early on in the Top Ten Productivity Tips series, I encouraged you to do what only you can do. Delegation helps that become reality. To learn the specifics of delegation, sign up for the 2-part teleseminar “Deputize…Then Delegate.” All of us have the option to deputize others to handle tasks, projects, and appearances in our stead. What some of us don’t have is a clear sense of who, what, when, where, why, and how to delegate.

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