Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

What is Team Teaching

What is team teaching?

Davis (1995) defines it as “two or more faculty in some collaboration in the planning and delivery of a course.”

Source: Davis, James R. Interdisciplinary Courses and Team Teaching. Phoenix: American Council on Education/Oryx Press Series on Higher Education, 1997.

Types of team taught courses

From Vanderbilt Teaching and Learning Center.

  • Traditional team teaching involves two or more instructors teaching the same course. The instructors are involved in a collaborative endeavor throughout the entire course. Some team teaching is more like tag-team teaching, in which only one instructor meets the class to cover a segment of the material. Tag-team teaching has its benefits, but it misses out on the benefits of dialogue and the give and take engaged by the team of instructors.
  • The linked course approach involves a cohort of students, together taking two or three courses that are linked by a theme. For example, the theme could be “the environment” with the 3 courses being introductory biology, political science, and English. Once each week the instructors of these linked courses provide a one-hour seminar for the cohort in which the instructors jointly discuss connections, similarities, and differences between the content and objectives of the courses.
  • Connected Courses are those that arranged and connected by the instructors to meet at the same scheduled time so that the classes can meet as a whole when the instructors think it is appropriate. The instructors can illustrate and emphasize the interdisciplinarity of certain topics or approaches appearing in both courses. For example, a connected pair could be an introductory political science and an introductory biology course where the role of public policy affects the biological environment.

Advantages of team teaching

  • Responds to the diversity of student learning styles and strategies by diversifying teaching styles and expertise.
  • Changes the focus of the class from a teacher-centered one, in which the single teacher is the sole authority, to a more dynamic one.
  • Encourages students and teachers to view the material from multiple perspectives. This has the advantage of moving students away from dualistic, black-and-white type thinking towards higher stages of cognitive development.
  • Allows students to gain a wider base of content knowledge than would be possible from the instruction of one instructor alone.
  • Merges different content areas that otherwise might not be able to be brought together.

Challenges of team teaching

(Taken from: Harris, C., & Harvey, A. Team teaching in adult higher education classrooms: Toward collaborative knowledge construction. New directions for adult and continuing education. 87. 2000.

One prominent challenge for instructors team-teaching a course is accepting the differences in opinion and teaching style brought by the other faculty member who is collaborating with the teaching of the course.

  • The instructors also must share an interest in learning from each other, or the positive outcomes that will emerge from this experience will be limited.
  • In some cases, instructors co-teaching a course may be highly similar to one another, which may present some challenges of its own. Although similarities across professors teaching a course may have the advantage of leading to less conflict, this sort of similarity may deprive students of the opportunity to gain multiple perspectives on course content as would normally be the case in team-taught classes. In these instances, instructors may want to explore using disagreements as an educational opportunity for students.
  • Making sure that both professors spend an equitable amount of time teaching and preparing for the course. Resentment may be engendered if one instructor spends significantly more time than the other instructor.

Best practices

Taken from Stanford University Center for Teaching and Learning (Link:

  • All aspects of the course should be planned together by both instructors. Careful and extensive planning can help prevent arguments later regarding assignments, grading procedures, and teaching strategies. Frequent meetings between instructors will allow them to familiarize with each other’s working styles
  • Team-teachers should attend each other’s lectures. This provides the best opportunity for the integration of different subjects and disciplines.
  • Instructor’s should refer to (and be aware of) the idea’s presented by their co-teachers. The purpose of co-teaching is to push students to achieve higher levels of integration and synthesis in their study of new material. This can primarily be achieved by having instructor’s interweave their material with one another.
  • Instructors should debate with each other.  Intellectual debate is crucial to the learning process, and, when successful and not hostile, such debates can teach students how to view a variety of perspectives on a given issue. In addition, in a given debate a number of methodological approaches may be presented, and this allows students to discover which methodological approach best suits a particular line of inquiry.
  • Instructors who do not have primary responsibility on a given day should still participate and model to students what good participation entails.
  • Both co-instructors should apply uniform grading standards. Conflicts can emerge amongst instructors when evaluating student work, as they may disagree about evaluation procedures. However, when uniform standards are not implemented, a strong sense of resentment may emerge amongst students.
  • Instructors should let students play a strong role in the instructional process as well. One challenge of a team-taught course is that each instructor speaks less than they are accustomed to, so the instructors might compensate by allowing for less instructor-student interaction. This practice detracts from the benefits of team teaching and should be avoided.

Other Sources

Anderson, R., & Speck, B. (1998).“Oh what a difference a team makes”: Why team teaching makes a difference. Teaching and teacher education. 14(7). 671-686

Bachrach, Heck, & Dahlberg (2008) Co-teaching in Higher Education.  Journal of College Teaching and Learning. 5(3), 9-16.

Bess, James L.  Teaching alone, teaching together : transforming the structure of teams for teaching. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Cowan, M. A., & And, O. (1995). Creating Conversations: An Experiment in Interdisciplinary Team Teaching. College Teaching, 43(4), 127-31.

Davis, James R. Interdisciplinary Courses and Team Teaching. Phoenix: American Council onEducation/Oryx Press Series on Higher Education, 1997.

Eisen, M.J.(2000). The Many Faces of Team Teaching and Learning: An overview. New directions for adult and continuing education. 87. 2000.

Harris, C., & Harvey, A. Team teaching in adult higher education classrooms: Toward collaborative knowledge construction. New directions for adult and continuing education. 87. 2000.

Lester & Evans (2009) Instructor’s experiences of collaboratively teaching: Building something bigger. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 20(3), 373-382

Roberta Murata (Nov. - Dec., 2002), "What Does Team Teaching Mean? A Case Study of Interdisciplinary Teaming," The Journal of Educational Research, 96(2), pp. 67-77.

Seabury, M.B., & Barrett, K. Creating and maintaining team-taught interdisciplinary general education. New directions for adult and continuing education. 87. 2000.

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