New Pathways to Learning: The Team Teaching Approach. A Library and Information Science Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Universities in Australia, and throughout the world, have begun to explore team teaching as a means of promoting student learning outcomes. Whilst in recent years some examples of university level teaching have emerged in the literature (Bakken, Clark & Thompson, 1998; Letterman & Dugan, 2004; Vogler & Long, 2003), for many university teachers team teaching remains unexplored territory. Speer and Ryan (1998) suggest that team teaching "offers a promise of change to those who desire transformation in their teaching lives" (p. 48). They challenge university teachers to take the risk and "[share] their class room with another" (p. 48). The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is committed to providing "one of the best learning environments in Australia" (QUT, 2003, p. ii). To this end QUT encourages its academic staff to "develop and evaluate innovative and experimental teaching programs" (QUT, 2004a, p. 4).

Taking on board the challenges posed by Speer and Ryan and QUT, the current paper will outline and critically discuss the application of team teaching to foster student learning within the Faculty of Information Technology at QUT. More specifically, after considering the difficulties of establishing a clear definition of team teaching within the higher education context, the paper will discuss how the implementation of collaborative teaching within the Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies articulates the authors' understandings of socially constructed knowledge. The paper will outline the team teaching and learning model used within the core unit ITN336 Information Sources. The preliminary findings on student perceptions and experience of team teaching will be discussed.

Team Teaching

Attempts at a Definition

In 1995 Davis suggested that team teaching was not easily defined. He suggests that it refers "most often to the teaching done in interdisciplinary course by the several faculty members who have joined together to produce that course" (pg. 6). Davis highlights the difficulty of determining what actually "constitutes the 'team' part of team teaching" (pg. 6) and proposes that teaching teams function along a continuum. At one end of the continuum there are "courses planned by a group of faculty and then carried out in serial segments by the individual members of the group" (pg. 7). At the other end of the continuum sit the "courses both planned and delivered by a group of faculty working together closely as a team" (pg. 7). McDaniel and Colarulli (1997) use the term "team coordinated teaching" to describe the interdisciplinary delivery of courses, while the term "team teaching" refers to the more collaborative, interactive process of teaching. The continuum is presented as four dimensions of collaboration that impact directly on student learning: the degree of integration of ideas and perspectives within the curriculum; the degree of interaction between academic staff and students in the teaching and learning process; the degree of active learning and student engagement in the learning process; and the degree of faculty autonomy or independence in the teaching and learning process.

Watkins and Caffarella (1999) present four models of team teaching that are based on variations in working style: parallel teaching, serial teaching, co-teaching and co-facilitation. Eisen and Tisdell (2000) contend that the definition offered by Davis (1995) and the models offered by McDaniel and Colarulli (1997) and Watkins and Caffarella (1999) focus too strongly on teacher control which can blur the essential relationship between teaching and learning. They stress that "teaching and learning are inextricably connected and that a key strength of the teaming process is that it generally serves to solidify this connection" (pg. 6). It is suggested that "teaming can improve the delivery of teacher-centered education... and can... create practices and environments that are fully inclusive of learners" (Eisen & Tisdell, 2000, pg. …