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Two Heads: Better Than One

co-teaching

Over the past few years some departments at the Academy have begun to implement co-teaching. Co-teaching involves more than one instructor teaching a class. This can take many forms, ranging from a 50-50 partnership in which both teachers plan and teach all classes together, to arrangements where instructors independently teach different parts of a course and may never set foot in the class at the same time. As you might imagine, each configuration has inherent challenges and benefits. In this tip, we’ll focus on some of the benefits of co-teaching, and look at ways instructors who are not co-teaching can achieve similar benefits by collaborating with colleagues.

Sharing a context

Co-teachers work with the same students, in the same space. They may teach at the same time of day, or even at the very same time. Even if they don’t, they can compare perceptions and troubleshoot challenges with someone who knows the situation and players well.

If you don’t have a co-teacher:

  • Talk with instructors who are teaching the same students you are. Discuss how to engage them and help them succeed.
  • Talk with instructors who teach in your room or who teach at the same time. How do they set up the space for critiques, deal with outside noise, plan their 6-hour class?

Observing and learning from each other

Co-teachers may have opportunities to see one another in action. This can expose them to techniques they might not otherwise see or try, and help them gain insights about ways to increase their own effectiveness as an instructor.

If you and your co-teacher don’t overlap, or if you don’t have a co-teacher:

  • Observe a colleague’s class to get some new ideas. 
  • Invite a colleague or faculty developer to observe you teach. Get feedback and brainstorm alternate approaches.
 

Diversifying the student experience

Having more than one instructor exposes students to various perspectives, sets of expertise and personalities. Some students might mesh better with one teacher than another. All students will benefit from multiple perspectives on their work and a broader understanding of the field.

If you don’t have a co-teacher:

  • Invite a colleague or industry expert to conduct a guest lecture or to critique student work.

If you are officially sharing a class with someone else, here are some ways to maximize the experience for you, your co-teachers, and your students.

  • Develop a shared vision. Talk about your goals for the course, your expectations for students, and your approaches to teaching to get on the same page and present a unified front.  
  • Plan how to distribute the workload. If possible, delegate your roles and responsibilities according to your strengths and areas of expertise.
  • Anticipate challenges and communicate regularly. Talk about how you will address conflicts if and when they arise. Check in about what’s working well and what’s not. Be flexible and willing to compromise when there are differences in opinion