Benefits & Challenges of Team-Teaching in a 100-Level History Course

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Jennifer Spear, Department of History

Photo credit: Tammy Theis

Project team: Candice Klein, Mark Leier, Emily O’Brien, Aaron Windel, Department of History, Leah Weiner, research assistant

Timeframe: July 2017 to August 2018

Funding: $5800

Courses addressed:

  • HIST 135 – Capitalism & the Making of the Modern World
  • HIST 1xx – Crime & Punishment
  • HIST 1xx – Empire

Description: This will be the first of two projects that will develop and evaluate a new model of team teaching to be applied in a series of new thematic global history survey courses. Each course will be taught by a team of three to four faculty members along the model of “participant-observer team teaching” (Taylor Halverson, “Team Teaching: A Brief Summary,” BYU Center for Teaching and Learning, Each faculty member will be responsible for developing and delivering three to four weeks of content (lectures, readings, tutorial assignments) but will participate throughout the entire semester as an audience member for lectures given by the other faculty and as the leader of one weekly tutorial section.

Research on team teaching has found that “it can help create a dynamic and interactive learning environment, provide instructors with a useful way of modeling thinking within or across disciplines, and also inspire new research ideas and intellectual partnerships among faculty” [“Team Teaching: Benefits and Challenges,” Speaking of Teaching, The Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University, Fall 2006, p. 1]. Additionally, we hope that this approach will foster mentoring relationships between students and faculty in the small group setting of the tutorials (a goal of FASS in its new FASSFirst program to improve the Faculty’s retention rate: see FASSFirst: Mission Document, 2017); introduce first- and second-year students to the nature of scholarly historical debate by presenting them with faculty with different interpretations; and expose students to a range of faculty with different expertise (in methods, geography, and chronology), thus increasing the likelihood that they will find one approach that they appreciate enough that they may enrol in additional history courses.

Questions addressed:

  • What are the best practices of team teaching?
  • What advantages and disadvantages did the students perceive in having multiple instructors? In what ways did the students perceive that team teaching helped and/or hindered their learning as compared to traditional lecture courses? In what ways did they enjoy it more or less than traditional lecture courses?
  • Would the students encourage their friends to take a team-taught History course? Would they themselves take other team-taught courses?
  • What instructional resources and other supports do the instructors need? What did the instructors learn about teaching from observing each other?
  • Did students who enrolled in HIST 135 in Fall 2017 take additional courses in History? If so, were those courses with one of the instructors of HIST 135?
  • Is the team-teaching model attractive to students?

Knowledge sharing: Once the best practices guide has been completed and is ready for distribution, we will hold a teaching workshop as part of the department’s colloquium series.