Ideally, team teaching utilises the coordinated expertise of several faculty members to achieve a common course goal. This pedagogical method is widely practised in many universities, local and overseas, especially in the science discipline, where one modular subject matter often covers a wide array of specialised topics. As a university student before and now a faculty member at NUS, I have witnessed both success and failure in team teaching.
At its best, team teaching provides the students with a wide range of challenging and eye-opening viewpoints on a broad subject matter expounded by different faculty members who themselves are the experts and authorities in their area of specialisation. At its worst, it becomes a disorganised and confusing presentation of unrelated and contradicting information. In addition, it can become an excuse for the teacher to evade his teaching responsibilities.
Here are some fundamental rules to follow to achieve a successful team teaching endeavour:
- To be effective, the teaching team must have a dedicated coordinator who has a clear curricular vision of the module.
- The choice and sequence of delivery of topics should be agreed upon beforehand among the participating faculty with the coordinator in the leadership role.
- The coordinator should make the course goal and lecture timetable clear to the students on the first day of the class.
- The topical discussion at each class meeting should reflect and relate to the main theme of the modular subject matter.
- There is some truth to the adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. Ideally, a teaching team should not consist of more than three lecturers.
- The coordinator should attend, at least during the first time of the course implementation, all of the lectures.
- It is mandatory that the coordinator should always maintain a proper overview of the modular offer to assure topical correlation and synthesis of the knowledge with help from the students.
- The full attendance of the coordinator also assures that the final exam questions can be comprehensively constructed to evaluate fairly and objectively the learning outcomes expected from the students.
- All participating faculty members should be repeatedly made aware that the success of the team-taught module depends on the combined effectiveness of the team performance.
- In planning the tutorials, it is best to involve and divide the responsibility among members of the teaching team, instead of passing the assignment to other department staff.
- It is necessary and important for the coordinator to do internal control and adjustment should a disruption arise during the semester owing to the failure of a team member to deliver the anticipated performance.
- Most importantly, because of the limited number of lecture hours assigned to each of the team members, the course coordinator becomes the only person who has the opportunity during the semester to build good rapport between the teaching group and the students that is essential and a pre-requisite to an effective learning environment.
Team teaching is like running a relay marathon. The members of the team should be well selected to complement each other not only in the area of knowledge and expertise, but also in terms of compatibility of personality and willingness to work as a team.
The best team teaching effort is therefore like the making of an Oscar-winning movie with the coordinator as the producer and director. Once the teaching roles are scripted, the teaching cast should do its best to give an impressive performance. The participating lecturers should be made to realise the importance of playing the supporting role and to stay focus on the topic assignment(s) in order to make the entire production unified and outstanding. If possible, the team members should also audit each others lectures at least once during the semester in order to establish an organic connection between individual lessons. In my opinion, only this kind of well-coordinated teamwork will bring a rich and colourful educational experience that will benefit both learners and teachers.