2-page proposal file

I wasn’t trained for this! Collaborative teaching to implement student-centered pedagogy
Hannah H. Scherer, Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education, Virginia Tech
Megan O’Rourke, Horticulture, Virginia Tech
Rachel Seman-Varner, Horticulture, Virginia Tech
Peter Ziegler, CALS Office of Academic Programs, Virginia Tech
Abstract: Modern post-secondary faculty are increasingly challenged to implement studentcentered pedagogy in their classrooms. The lack of training to do this is a considerable hurdle that
must be addressed. We implemented a coteaching model that emphasizes learning to teach in the
praxis of teaching and, through the use of a “broker” of knowledge about reformed teaching
practices and education research, redesigned a significant portion of our course. Participants in this
session will learn about our experiences with this novel model for collaborative teaching through
the reporting of findings of an ethnographic action research study. The background portion of the
session will be followed by a reflection activity that will help instructors identify personal goals
for incorporating student-centered techniques in their classes and what type of collaborators can
help them reach these goals. Finally, the group will engage in a strategy session to develop ideas
for garnering institutional resources to support these types of collaborations.
Literature Review
Team teaching is increasingly common at the post-secondary level and the purpose of these collaborations is
typically related to student learning outcomes (e.g. Wenger & Hornyak, 1999). In contrast, the coteaching model,
where an experienced teacher and a novice teacher plan for instruction, teach, and debrief lessons together, is
focused primarily on the development of teaching ability (Roth, Tobin, Zimmermann, Bryant, & Davis, 2002). Roth
(2001) explains, “coteaching allows teachers to experience the classroom at the elbows of another practitioner” (p.
15), thus learning occurs in praxis. In higher education, opportunities for this type of coteaching are rare and
experienced practitioners may not have adequate training in implementing reformed (student-centered,
constructivist) teaching practices. Bouwma-Gearhart, Perry & Prestly (2014) examined successful collaborations in
postsecondary STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education improvement projects and found that
these teams had members that could serve as “brokers of education research and theory” (p. 43). We implemented a
coteaching model for our course where one member of the team played the role of a “broker” of knowledge about
reformed teaching practices for the rest of the team.
Goals and Objectives
The primary goal of this practice session is to share our experience with others and motivate them to seek
interdisciplinary collaborations for improving instruction on their own campuses. After engaging in this session,
participants will be able to:
1. Describe successes and challenges of collaboratively developing and implementing student-centered
teaching from multiple perspectives within the higher education context
2. Describe different roles in a collaborative teaching team and identify benefits of these collaborations
Description of Practice
We undertook the redesign of a significant portion of our course in summer of 2014 with the goal of incorporating
student-centered pedagogy in the lecture portion of the course. This change was precipitated by: 1) a new lead
instructor with an expressed interest in learning non-lecture based strategies, 2) an existing member of the teaching
team with experience in teacher education and implementing student-centered pedagogy, and 3) the position of the
course within an interdisciplinary minor that employs an innovative model for collaborative teaching within all
courses. Additionally, our team includes a faculty member with significant prior experience with teaching the course
and a graduate teaching assistant with prior teaching experience and subject matter expertise. These changes are
currently being implemented (fall semester 2014).
Concurrent with the design and implementation of the new classroom activities, we are examining our practice by
conducting an ethnographic action research study. Data sources include: fieldnotes and in-process memos, teaching
reflections, artifacts, and classroom observations of instructor and student engagement. Our team met seven times
throughout the summer to plan for the fall semester and then weekly during the semester. The lead instructor
initiated these meetings and took responsibility for setting the agendas. Prompted by the education faculty member,
the lead instructor set learning objectives for each class session and these were reviewed by the team periodically
throughout the planning process. Typically, the teaching team worked together to develop an idea for a classroom
activity, with the education faculty member suggesting specific student-centered strategies and helping the team to
adapt the chosen strategy to the particular topic.
Preliminary analysis of data from summer planning sessions indicates that: the team has good rapport, suggestions
for student-centered teaching made by the education faculty member are welcomed and often enacted, the lead
instructor values the structure of having team planning meetings to “keep her on track,” historical knowledge of the
course is useful in planning, and the education faculty member can provide input on planning student-centered
activities with a low-level of subject-matter expertise. These findings inform our understanding of how
interdisciplinary teams can function to improve post-secondary education.
In this session, we will describe our findings about the overall functioning of our team and its impact on student
engagement. Additionally, each team member (lead instructor, collaborative faculty member, education faculty
member, and graduate teaching assistant) will describe:
 Their role in the team, including how this role was determined/ negotiated and how they experienced it
 How they benefited from serving in this role
 Lessons learned from developing and implementing new student-centered learning activities
The background portion of the session will be followed by a reflection activity that will help instructors identify
personal goals for incorporating student-centered techniques in their classes and what type of collaborators can help
them reach these goals. Finally, the group will engage in a strategy session to develop ideas for garnering
institutional resources to support these types of collaborations.
Through no fault of their own, most faculty are underprepared to rise to the challenge of implementing studentcentered teaching techniques. While professional development programs can help, we suggest that one semester of
coteaching (Roth, 2001) with an education “broker” (Bouwma-Gearhart et al., 2014) is an impactful way to
empower faculty to implement these practices. Teacher education faculty typically have experience in training new
teachers to implement contemporary pedagogy in their respective disciplines, teach at the post-secondary level, and
have research programs in teaching and learning. This makes them ideally situated to act as “brokers.” The
coteaching model also benefits them by allowing access to new educational environments in which to conduct
research on teaching and learning.
Bouwma-Gearhart, J., Perry, K. H., & Presley, J. B. (2014). Improving postsecondary STEM education: strategies
for successful interdisciplinary collaborations and brokering engagement with education research and
theory. Journal of College Science Teaching, 44(1), 40.
Roth, W.-M. (2001). Becoming-in-the-classroom: Learning to teach in/as praxis. In D. R. Lavoie & W.-M. Roth
(Eds.), Models of science teacher preparation: theory into practice (Vol. 13; 13., pp. 11-30). Boston;
Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Roth, W.-M., Tobin, K., Zimmermann, A., Bryant, N., & Davis, C. (2002). Lessons on and from the dihybrid cross:
An activity–theoretical study of learning in coteaching. Journal of research in science teaching, 39(3), 253282. doi: 10.1002/tea.10018
Wenger, M. S., & Hornyak, M. J. (1999). Team Teaching for Higher Level Learning: A Framework of Professional
Collaboration. Journal of Management Education, 23(3), 311-327. doi: 10.1177/105256299902300308