Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Team Teaching Early Thirsty from Fiery Frank.

I volunteered for a new team teaching initiative at my middle of the road state university. It was sold as half the work for 66% of the pay, and I jumped in. We were told we'd get paired with someone in another department and then the class was all ours.

When I got my assignment a few months ago, I came face to face with Wallflower Will, a polite and nice - but deadly dull and nearly comatose - proffie from the Humanities.

We struggled to get our syllabus together, to find readings, to arrange schedules.

Suddenly, mid August looms and I have to tread the boards with this guy for a whole semester. I've got a great deal of anxiety about it. I don't want my student evaluations to suffer because half the class will be led by this guy, who, I have to say, is boring. He seems to know his stuff, but we're teaching a room of 80 people.

Plus, neither of us has ever team taught before.

Q: What are your team teaching experiences like? What is your best tip? How important is it that the teachers mesh or get along? Am I wrong for thinking I've got to jazz things up because Will is so washed out? Should I take any of my concerns to Will?


  1. I've team taught several classes. Here's my advice:

    Divide the labor. You prepare the syllabus, I'll find the readings, etc. If a task requires only one professor to complete, then rofessors will make it slower.

    If you t single chunk of the class, like the first half of the semester, students can complete evaluations after you finish that chunk.

    If you are teaching together, all is not lost. Consider this an opportunity to shine relative to Will. When you give students the evaluation, make it clear that they need to differentiate between the two faculty.

  2. Gawd I hate gimmicky shit like that in the classroom. I narrowly avoided one of these scenarios myself a few years ago.

    It's going to end up being like a group project that we might assign student/prof does all the work, and the other student/prof coasts along.

    If he's as dull as you say though, you'll look like a rock star. I can't imagine they'd brutalize you on evals for being paired up with him.

  3. Like the Beaker says, if you are splitting the lectures--in blocks or even alternating days--then just teach your part and deal with it. At least I hope that's what you are doing. Having both of you standing in front of the class simultaneously never works well.

    More importantly, however, my suggestions would be that you should probably reserve judgement until you actually see this guy in front of the room. In my experience, people are often very different in different contexts. I have known plenty of introverted proffies who are dynamic fireballs when they are standing in front of an audience. Right now, for all you know, you might be about to be outshined.

    In other words, split the lectures and do not stand in front together or on the same day. Beyond that, you won't know what's up until the semester is in motion. That's how team-teaching works. In fact, even if you were set to go with someone you knew well already, you would have no way of knowing what his or her teaching style/affect is really like until it was too late.

    As for the evals, Beaker is also right, just ask them to differentiate their comments. But unless you are untenured and have a reasonable (not an imaginary) expectation that the evals will affect you in T&P, why do you care? And if that is the case, and your evals are all stellar except for this one class, you can certainly insert a sentence of explanation in the teaching section of your tenure statement.

  4. My only experience in team-teaching was an unmitigated disaster, at least from my perspective. A lecturer went into the hospital (and then died) just as the semester started, and even though I already had five sections of Intro to Hamster Fur Weaving to teach, I got recruited to team-teach two more sections of the same course. My "partner" ended up being dead weight; she didn't know anything about hamsters, let alone the intricacies of their fur, and I ended up doing most of the teaching and grading. In fact, my partner disappeared just when semester-ending major projects needed to be graded. It would've been far preferable (financially, and for my own sanity) to have a TA.

    From that perspective, I suggest following Da Beaksta and Archie's advice: set up a clear division of labor up front, In particular, decide who's grading what, and set firm deadlines for returning assignments. Make sure you're using the same criteria for grading.

    I assume you're going to be taking different tacks on a single subject, not just teaching the same material in tandem, so I also suggest going to class when the other prof is lecturing. Like Archie sez, though, avoid sitting up front or interjecting anything unless Wallflower Will asks for your input. Students will exploit breaches in your unity.

  5. Having just graduated from a program where most courses were team-taught, I can confirm Dr. Cranky's statement that being paired with a poor lecturer will only improve your own evaluations. I had one professor team-teach two different classes, one with an awful lecturer and one with decent lecturers. In the first case, the general opinion seemed to be that he was "hard, but fair", while in the second he was "an asshole with unreasonable expectations".

  6. If you have to team up with a boring prof, meet and agree to play to each others strengths. It may look like Laurel and Hardy, but anything that keeps you sane is good.


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