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Best Practices

The LTO Best Practices

Issue No. 61: Team Teaching

Welcome to the sixty-first issue of The LTO Best Practices. Each month, the Learning & Teaching Office will be spotlighting a timely topic in education and professional development in teaching. This January, our topic is "Team Teaching."

The information in this issue is excerpted from our Teaching Tips document on Team Teaching [pdf].Check out our page of Teaching Tips handouts for more downloadable documents on a variety of teaching topics.


Best Practices

In the broadest sense, team teaching is defined as a group of instructors working together to “plan, conduct, and evaluate the learning activities of the same group of students” (Quinn and Kanter, 1984, as cited in CELT, 1998), however team teaching can take a variety of different forms. Examples of team teaching situations include:

  • Interactive team teaching: members of the team teach the same group of students at the same time (CTL).
  • Rotational format teaching: members alternate teaching the class. This is often done to allow the course material to be divided according to individual instructor specialties and skills (Quinn and Kanter, 1984, as cited in CELT, 1998).
  • Participant-observer team teaching: “all participating faculty are present for all the classes, but only one is ‘teaching’ at a time.” The other members of the team are “participating observers” and can play the role of “model learner, observer, panel member, or resource” (Klein, 1990, as cited by CTL).
  • Team coordination:
    • Meeting to share ideas and resources but teaching independently.
    • Sharing planning for instruction of a common group of students, with each instructor responsible for a portion of those students.
    • Using a curriculum level approach to develop paired or linked courses or integrated clusters of independent courses (CTL).

Benefits of Team Teaching

For students:

  • Team teaching deepens students’ analytical abilities (CLT), encourages higher level learning objectives, and improves student performance and learning outcomes (CELT, 1998).
  • Team teaching creates a model for intellectual discourse, allowing students to witness how scholars work through discussions and disagreements (Quinn and Kanter, 1984, as cited in CELT, 1998), and providing students with greater interpersonal and communication skills (CLT).
  • Team teaching increases students’ active involvement in the material – even in a lecture format, the presence of multiple instructors allows students to engage with differing viewpoints and personalities – the “exposure to views and skills of more than one teacher can develop a more mature understanding of knowledge” (CELT, 1998).
  • Team teaching creates a sense of academic community, “build bridges of understanding across disciplines,” and give students a greater sense of curricular coherence (CTL).

For instructors

  • Team teaching provides instructors with a supportive, rather than isolating environment, as well as the opportunity to build collegial relationships (CTL).
  • Team teaching gives instructors the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary setting, to learn from other subject matter experts, and to be exposed to different styles of teaching (CELT, 1998).
  • Team teaching uses resources effectively – instructors can split up the responsibilities of creating course material and planning activities, and share expensive equipment and space (Quinn and Kanter, 1984, as cited in CELT, 1998).


Getting Started

To effectively team teach there are a lot of decisions and agreements that must be made up front. These can be divided into three areas – planning, conducting, and evaluating.

  • Who will be on the team?
    • William Newell describes the ideal team teacher as someone who is “open to diverse ways of thinking; wary of absolutism; able to admit that they do not know; good at listening; unconventional; flexible; willing to take risks; self-reflective; and comfortable with ambiguity” (Newell as cited in Davis, 1995). The optimal team has a good mix of subject matter expertise, interests and perspectives, backgrounds and qualification levels, and personality characteristics. This mix can “contribute to the collective strength of a team and the growth of individual team members” as well as “add to the experience the students get from interacting with the team” (CELT, 1998).
  • Who will lead it?
    • The team leader has two levels of responsibility – internal and external. Internal responsibilities include setting the agenda, keeping records, coordinating schedules, and keeping the team on task. External responsibilities include communicating with the department to make sure the team has sufficient resources and is meeting expectations (CELT, 1998).
  • What is the role of each team member?
    • All team members must take an active role in team meetings and planning sessions, and by following through on decisions that were made. If each team member fails to contribute equally to formulating and then completing the tasks that the team set out to accomplish, the team teaching experience will break down (CELT, 1998).
  • What are realistic team goals?
    • Team teaching requires practice – it can take years to become truly effective as a team. Setting goals and timelines and having reasonable expectations for what can be accomplished is key. It is also important for each team member to know what they others hope to get out of the experience and what they hope to accomplish (CELT, 1998).

Planning Your Team Teaching Experience

We have used suggestions made by the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning Teaching at the City University of Hong Kong and the Center for Teaching and Learning at Brigham Young University and adapted them into a Team Building Tool [pdf] which team members can use to set priorities and responsibilities.


Work Cited

Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT). (1998). Team Teaching. City University of Hong Kong.

Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Team Teaching: A Brief Summary. Brigham Young University.

Leavitt, M.C. (2006). Team Teaching: benefits and challenges. Speaking of Teaching. Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University. 16(1).


Upcoming Events

In-Class Experiential Learning  

Monday January 25, 2016, 4:00-6:00PM, CED-7th floor

Ryerson’s academic plan - Our Time To Lead - recognizes Experiential Learning (EL) as one strategy that must evolve and expand to provide exceptional learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students inside and outside the classroom. This workshop supports the academic plan by exploring the underlying literature and best practices in EL. We will showcase Ryerson faculty integrating Experiential Learning in their course(s) and discuss -

  1. Characteristics of an EL Experience
  2. Who benefits most from E
  3. Different types of EL
  4. First steps in integrating EL

The Flipped Classroom  

Wednesday February 10, 2016, 12:00-2:00PM, POD 372

The flipped or inverted classroom is a new form of blended learning where the modes of instruction traditionally reserved for inside the classroom now take place outside the classroom and vice versa. In this model, teaching and learning are divided into two parts:
(i) Interactive group learning activities inside the classroom
(ii) Direct computer-based individual instruction outside the classroom
This workshop allows faculty to share their experiences, and outline the benefits and challenges of this new academic model.


Next Issue

"The LTO Best Practices" is produced monthly by Michelle Schwartz, Instructional Design and Research Strategist at the Learning & Teaching Office, Ryerson University.

Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or best practices that you would like to see appear in this newsletter? Please send all submissions to We look forward to including your contributions in our next issue!

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