Paired Teaching for faculty Pro-D

As part of a joint project through the Harris extension of the CWSEI, my lovely former colleagues have been studying Paired Teaching.  The STLF team includes Tara Holland, Sarah Bean Sherman, Jared Stang, & Linda Strubbe.  You can find their upcoming paper here, but  in the meantime, I got to be part of their awesome presentation yesterday at the always-excellent UBC Science Education Supper Series.

(All figures and data are theirs, shared with permission; slides will soon be available here


The goal of their work: Use paired teaching to help instructors sustainably adopt evidence-based teaching practices that support student learning.

There are lots of models for sharing & improving teaching, and a bunch of papers on co/team-teaching out there.  However, this work specifically focusses on paired teaching as a way of bringing evidence-based, active instructional practices to new teachers via transformed courses, paired with an expert instructor.  I really like how defined their goal is, and how they’re collecting evidence to investigate/support the practice and context where it can be effective.

They’ve got lots of fantastic interview data which they’re sifting through now, as well as some preliminary numbers that I found pretty compelling.  Here’s one piece of the story: Instructor X taught 2 classes last year — one 3rd year ‘traditional’ class on their own, and one 1st year ‘transformed’ (active) class, paired with another instructor experienced in that course.  The classroom observation data is below, on the left – two pretty different classrooms, including one as a solo-taught and one as paired-taught.


Look what happens in year #2!  This is amazing!  The same instructor, when teaching on their own, has 1) maintained using evidence-based practices in the 1st year course (which doesn’t always happen), and 2) made significant & positive changes to their own teaching of their other course!  Woah!!  This makes me think that active learning practices, when adopted with support, are almost like threshold concepts – you just can’t go back.

Because the instructor has moved to teaching practices that are strongly based on lots of evidence, they can certainly expect to see improvements in student learning.

Think how awesome this could be for instructors new to departments — an effective form of mentorship, once you’ve got a course transformed and ready to bring someone in.  This approach comes at a reasonably cheap cost (assigning 2 instructors to the same course for one semester) for what is likely a long term sustainable benefit.  We could be improving classes way beyond the one that we started with.  And how about doing this with sessionals, upper-year graduate students, limited-term lecturers?

strategiesI’m also interested in the larger framework around how behaviours change, and how people learn how to teach, within the context of a teaching culture.  The presentation’s discussion around 3 types of paradigms/models (apprenticeship, behaviour, and developmental) piqued my interest.  In other words, in what ways can/do we help novices become experts?  And what kinds of strategic knowledge do expert/experienced teachers possess?  Jared and I ended up talking about how this compares with the mastery framework from How Learning Works (CWSEI’s favourite education book) – there’s some overlap, but also there’s some new (to me) extensions about steps beyond mastery, tacit knowledge, and acculturation.  (Which, apparently, is a real word.)

Additionally, it was great to hear instructor perspectives of paired teaching from Alison Lister (in Physics), and my own paired-teaching co-instructor Marcia Graves (in Biology).  These were quite positive, and I’m looking forward to seeing the themes that emerge from the analysis of the instructor interviews in this study.

From my own paired teaching experience last year, one major benefit was the structure and culture of always talking about teaching ideas.  Also, it made me really love (rather than be anxious about) other instructors visiting my classroom.  The ongoing 2-way feedback and conversations definitely helped me continually improve the course and my own style.

Thanks team for involving me in the project and presentation.  Also thanks to the multi-disciplinary crowd for an excellent discussion, and for reinforcing my feelings about the culture of teaching that we should all be striving for!




And, shameless side-hurrah for me – I noticed that the team planned the presentation using the template from my workshop on “how to run a workshop” — it’s awesome to find that something I made has been helpful!



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