Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Team Teaching on a Shoestring Budget

Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Team Teaching on a Shoestring Budget

Article excerpt


Team teaching is an established pedagogical practice, particularly in honors education. Many institutions have long traditions of combining the gifts of multiple faculty in one honors course. For schools that lack such a tradition, however, securing the institutional resources to support team teaching can be a daunting obstacle. If team teaching is really a part of "The New Model Education," as Gary Bell argues (57), can it be done on a shoestring budget? The Rogers State University Honors Program began in the fall of 2005 with an extremely tight budget and no money for compensating faculty. Despite this challenge, we have experimented with a number of ways to implement team and collaborative teaching in honors courses. This essay will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of five different models for team teaching, none of which involves significant financial expense.


We decided to team teach because of our shared academic values and intellectual passions. Our discussions of literature, art, and philosophy enhanced our individual experiences, and we came to recognize the benefit of a shared classroom. Laura is Associate Professor of English at Rogers State University while Jim is Founding Director of the Honors Program as well as Associate Professor for Philosophy and Religious Studies. Each of us has also team taught with other professors and found those experiences rewarding as well.

Such collaboration is not without its obstacles. Questions of authority and credibility can be intertwined with preconceived ideas of gender and discipline in the classroom. Some students, especially incoming freshmen, perceive Jim's additional role as director (the person ultimately in control of their scholarships) differently than Laura's role as classroom professor. Consequently, some students consider Jim more powerful, at times more important, and at other times more threatening. Further, few students have experience in the academic areas of philosophy and religion prior to college while all have studied English for years (for better and worse). We have found that emphasizing our equal positions in the classroom and sharing in all class discussions and presentations, regardless of perceived academic area, alleviates some of these inherent complications. Recognizing and dealing with student perceptions are essential for the successful team-teaching experience.

The value of team teaching is immense. Discussions of successful team-teaching experiences are common in the honors literature. John Zubizarreta recounts that, at the 2007 Teaching and Learning Fishbowl, students cited team-taught courses as one of their best learning experiences (114), a perception borne out by subsequent fishbowls as well. Kateryna Schray describes an intriguing bird-watching course that shows how multiple professors can facilitate the interdisciplinary nature of honors education. In such accounts, however, the funding for multiple faculty almost seems taken for granted. For instance, a group of faculty at Drake University teach "Paths to Knowledge," an interdisciplinary course in which not only do all faculty members "receive a full course credit" but they also enjoy a "paid faculty summer workshop to prepare" (Vitha et al. 141). Such a situation is ideal, but the reality for many programs is that, in times of scarce resources, paying two or more faculty for teaching one course can be difficult to justify.


We have adopted five alternatives to full compensation, each of which is briefly described below, then discussed more fully, and finally summarized in the Appendix. The first model is the unpaid overload: one professor receives full credit for the course while a second donates his/her time to the course even though both are teaching equally. The second model is an extended series of guest lectures; while this model differs from full team teaching since one professor is always present and the other professors make one-time appearances, it can still be a worthwhile approach to collaboration. …

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