Collaborative Teaching an Undergraduate Education Methods Course

Michelle Costello, Education and Instructional Design Librarian, SUNY Geneseo          

Kathryn Rommel-Esham, PhD, Education Professor, SUNY Geneseo

CURR 316: Teaching Science and Math to Children

Katie’s thoughts…

Michelle and I have been working together doing (one shot) library instruction sessions for a number of years. A couple of years ago, I asked her if she would be willing to work more closely with me on a specific assignment that my undergraduate preservice teachers undertake in preparation for their work with elementary students in the classroom. This assignment has them find (fiction) trade books that they can use as a jumping off point for math and science lessons. Since my students had been consulting with Michelle for several years prior to our “official” collaboration, I thought it was only natural to include her in the process.

Our collaboration started with this one assignment, then grew rapidly! I knew that asking Michelle to take a more active, co-teaching role in my class would energize my own teaching and allow us to implement some activities that I was unable to complete on my own (for example, she debriefs model lessons that I do in class, allowing students to be honestly critical and thoughtful about my teaching). Furthermore, I wanted the students to view Michelle as a partner in the process, not merely as a “resource” into which they could tap. Integrating her into the course has many positive aspects, including allowing the students to experience team-teaching first hand; letting them see that while I am the “expert” in some areas, she is clearly the expert in others; making them aware that she is familiar with all of the assignments (and the methods of assessment of each), and thus increasing her credibility as a trusted advisor when students have questions.

This formal partnership has definitely improved my own classroom teaching! For example, when I know that Michelle will be debriefing a model lesson with our students, I am more careful to include all the elements I want the students to see. Our common planning is a collegial and pleasant experience, and I think that comes through to our students as well. Michelle and I developed a series of class meetings that focused on authentically integrating technology into science instruction, a facet that (I felt) was poorly addressed prior to our collaboration. We are now looking at ways to authentically incorporate technology into math instruction, in less “obvious” ways that by using graphing calculators for example.

I am grateful to Michelle for being willing to work so closely with me and our students and feel like it has been a successful collaboration for everyone involved. I am excited that we already have plans in the works for new things to add to the course, and are preparing conference presentations and manuscripts detailing the successes of our collaboration!

Michelle’s thoughts…

In the fall of 2013, I was given the opportunity to be fully embedded in an undergraduate education course. Although, I have been teaching information literacy (IL) for over six years, the vast majority of those classes have been “one-shots.” This venture would give me the chance to experiment with something I have wanted to try for a long time (as I have done a lot of research on the benefits of embedded librarianship). It would allow me to get to know the students (and their assignments) better, and hopefully in turn they would get to know me and feel more comfortable asking for help. It would also give me the chance to team teach with Katie (an education professor) and be fully enveloped in subject specific content.

The collaboration consisted of our co-teaching nine lessons; four focusing on teaching methods and debriefing, two on lesson planning, and three on teaching with technology. Information literacy standards such as; determining the nature and extent of the information needed, accessing needed information effectively and efficiently, and evaluating information and its sources critically, were authentically integrated into the class content. I also met with students outside of class, to help them find and evaluate material for their assignments.

Overall, I felt that this collaboration was a success, and one of the the most significant things I learned was that personal connections with students and instructors are beneficial to all involved. We instituted a student survey to gauge feedback on our co-teaching efforts, the specific lessons we taught, and meetings with us outside of class. Student responses solidified our expectations that co-teaching can be beneficial, not only for them but for the instructors as well. Katie and I also recorded our observations throughout the project which again showcased the benefits of collaborating.

An unexpected result of this project, however, was the profound impact it had on me. In addition to feedback received from students I was also given advice and guidance from Katie. I was able to watch her model her expertise in class and our follow-up discussions afterwards were invaluable. We were able to talk in detail about our experiences in the classroom and she offered many suggestions for improvement to the lessons. We plan on continuing this collaboration into the future.  For more about this project, see my action research report.



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