Collaborative Teaching of a Social Studies Methods Course: Intimidation and Change

Article excerpt

In this article, we describe our initial apprehensions, difficulties of working across our differences, and changes in our understandings and teaching practice as we collaboratively taught a social studies methods course.

We began with stereotypes of each other implied by our university/school and professor/graduate student/classroom teacher roles. After 4 years of working together, we have come to understand our positions, knowledge, and expertise in different ways and as a result have changed our teaching.

We began our co-teaching experience as members of a Professional Development School (PDS) project. In this PDS, university faculty, graduate associates, school principals, and class, room teachers work closely to construct and evaluate the redesign of the university's elementary teacher education programs. One important aspect of this collaboration is co-teaching the methods courses for the M aster of Education certification students in the program. Classroom teachers, doctoral students, and university professors make shared decisions about course syllabi, assignments, and evaluation to bring theory and practice into a productive dialogue.

Despite initial support for co-teaching the methods courses, both university faculty and classroom teachers were reluctant. Classroom teachers were uncertain about working with university faculty, about the time necessary for planning, and especially about leaving their classrooms for half a day each week. University faculty were hesitant to relinquish their autonomy and worried about the time required to team teach.

These hesitancies resulted in less concern about teachers' expertise in the subject area and more on their willingness to participate. Rather than participating in a formal selection process, faculty and teachers were asked to volunteer; decisions about which teachers would teach with which faculty were left to informal negotiations.

This article focuses on the co-teaching of a social studies methods course. We do not include practical descriptions of how we organized the social studies course, the students' evaluations of the course, or assessment of student learning. This is not to deny the importance of student outcomes that we discuss in other work in progress, but to situate this study within the literature on collaborative work and professional development.

Studies of teachers' professional development supported our interest in looking at our own learning and development. Traditionally evaluation of change initiatives have considered classroom instruction and student performance more than the teachers who managed the learning environments. Attention to teachers' growth and development has been slow in coming, particularly studies that include self-study and reflection.

Recently, researchers have been using case studies, collaborative methodologies, narrative forms, and feminist theories to look at the complexities and perspectives of teachers (Miller, 1990; Witherell & Noddings, 1991). Action research is enjoying a resurgence, and teachers are increasingly studying and publishing reports on their own teaching and beliefs (Bricher, Hawk, & Tingley, 1993; Nalle, 1993; Paley, 1989). Journals are increasingly including collaborative studies by teachers or between teachers and researchers (Gitlin, 1992; Hunsaker & Johnston, 1992). Greene (1988) argues that stories--and myths, and diaries, and histories--give shape and expression to what would otherwise be untold about `our lives' (p. x). Multiple forms of expression help to reveal the complexities of personal lives as they are reflected in professional lives and development. These studies point to the value of teachers considering their own thinking and teaching as sites for reflection, inquiry, and change.

The authors (Lisa Westhoven, a classroom teacher; JoAnn Hohenbrink, a graduate teaching associate; and Marilyn Johnston, a professor) co-taught a two-quarter course for 2 years (1991-1993). …