The VPM Blog

Professors Collaborate in the Classroom

Posted by Gray on Feb 15, 2013 5:04:20 AM

Probably the two sentences I dread hearing come out of my professors’ mouths most are:

  • [on the first day of class] “Why don’t we go around the room and share an interesting fact about yourself?”
  • “This assignment will be a group presentation.”

Collaborating with others can be as frustrating and awkward as my first middle school dance. My “date” was a good foot taller than me, and much like Ricky Bobby being interviewed, I didn’t know what to do with my hands. But then again, collaboration can be a good thing. My senior prom wasn’t so bad; by that time I was even a couple of inches taller than my date.

As much as our teachers encourage group work, I’ve noticed I don’t see many of them practicing what they preach. Now, I’m not suggesting there should be a group of professors teaching a group of students. That’d be a little excessive and and downright ineffective.

On Tuesday, Don - with the help of wrestling analogies - took us through three “tag team teaching” methods that could be effective in university classrooms. One of those, the traditional tag team, which involves two professors joining together to lead a class session, has been used at William & Mary Law School. Sarah Stanford, associate professor of economics and policy, along with Alan Meese, professor of law, decided to (in keeping with Don’s wrestling metaphor) step into the ring together.

Stanford and Meese both confess to some awkwardness in the new system; a simple issue such as students not knowing whom to address their questions. Also, it seems that it may have taken the two professors a little time to figure out how to be an effective dynamic duo. Meese says that, “I think the hardest thing was day-to-day class management.” Basically, making sure one professor would not dominate the lecture time while the other served more of a sidekick role, thus negating the entire purpose of the tag team method: pulling from two brilliant minds, knowledgeable on a specific topic, but with varying backgrounds.

I want to iterate that I’m not suggesting every class should operate using this method; it wouldn’t work for every course. I groan at the thought of group work in the classroom, but it's a vital part of students’ education/preparation for post-grad careers, as more and more cubicle walls are knocked down in favor of openness - both aesthetically and mentally - in the workplace. Higher ed could benefit students by reflecting this shift in its educational methods. Students could benefit from seeing more collaboration from the faculty, highlighting the cumulative value of higher education.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a poignant quote from Kathryn Plank, editor of Tomorrow’s Professor Blog, on this topic:

There's a messiness to team teaching that presents some of its biggest challenges, but also some of its most promising opportunities. Team teaching moves beyond the familiar and predictable and creates an environment of uncertainty, dialogue, and discovery. And that is what learning is all about.

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Author: is our Spring Editor & Word-Smith here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Topics: higher education

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