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Teaching and Learning

Strategies and Approaches: Building Learning Centred Teams

Selecting an appropriate form of team teaching is a task that requires careful consideration of student needs, teaching requirements and available resources. This initial planning may lead to more inclusive strategies associated with Team Teaching such as cross-disciplinary teaching or the involvement of professional staff.

For example, professional staff from service areas within the University may help facilitate student learning by tailoring support services to specific students and unit requirements as identified by the teaching team. Such examples illustrate how Team Teaching supports a learning centred approach by establishing active partnerships that contribute to student learning outcomes and enhanced support.

Who, How and Why

Working with other teaching staff in teams, particularly across different physical locations, requires collaboratively establishing:

  • Expectations regarding student contact and support
  • Content, teaching approach and responsibilities
  • Expectations for assessment and moderation
  • Methods of communication within the team

If these collective understandings are not established early in the process, the opportunity to create learning centred teams will be diminished as a result. As a baseline, every academic staff member in a team should share a clear understanding of the unit learning outcomes and of how the group will support student mastery of these.

Inclusive teaching teams: overview

Who: all staff who support learnersHow: share and seek information widelyWhy: an integrated approach aids student retention

Examples:

  • Sessional staff
  • Staff associated with academic skill and the library
  • Staff associated with support, administration, student liaison
  • Other non-teaching staff who already have regular contact with students
  • Other non-teaching staff whose contact with students would be of benefit

Examples:

  • Discuss the course experience and the learning outcomes that you wish to achieve with team members
  • Keep staff up-to-date with changes to help students get accurate and timely information
  • Provide the 'team' with a list of student FAQ's including answers
  • Share information on student resources across the team, to support student access to these
  • Check with the team for student feedback or for specialist advice, to inform unit or course improvements
  • Arrange regular meetings as well as pre and post moderation meetings

Examples:

  • Sharing information, especially about changes during a teaching period, prevents conflicting advice being given. Frustration with receiving inaccurate and conflicting advice is common in student feedback.
  • Accessing feedback on your unit or course from a wide variety of staff in differing roles allows you to help create a better overall course or unit experience.

Team teaching with sessional staff

Sessional staff may be excluded from teaching communities and have limited opportunities for professional development of their teaching practice. The following tips provide guidance for supporting sessional staff through team teaching.

Quick Tips: team teaching with sessional staff

  • A strategy for enhancing the professional development opportunities open to sessional staff is to include them in any peer review processes already in use in your teaching team.
  • Involve sessional staff in the design and planning of units. This can include seeking and using their feedback in unit reporting and renewal processes.
  • Leverage the diverse experiences that sessional staff can bring to a teaching team to enrich student learning, by actively drawing on these experiences in sessions and in designing learning activities.
  • Be aware of the contract hours given and if possible, factor in time for meeting/induction.

Example: Teaching at SCU
In this podcast, Dr Kath Fisher speaks with SCU staff, Dr David Lloyd and Dr Kristin den Exter, about the benefits of working as a team in a converged delivery model of teaching.

Common Issues in Team Teaching

Team Teaching requires a significant time commitment due to:

  • The effort of collaboratively planning what and how you will co-teach, communicate, negotiate, and resolve team conflicts.
  • The resource intensive nature of whole team attendance across each teaching session.
  • The difficulties of fairly representing contributions in workload models.

As the last point above suggests, establishing roles and responsibilities is a major challenge in team teaching. If this is not handled well, the resulting conflict can damage collegial relationships and also have a negative impact on student learning. It is important to support and respect the dedication of casual staff. Always be aware of contractual arrangements.

Video - The Teaching Team

Comprehensive solutions for managing some of these challenges can be found on a dedicated section of the University of Sydney website.

SCU has a range of useful resources that support team teaching. For example, see the Teaching Practice Online self-study module Teaching Large Groups.