Instructor Insights

Teaching Leadership by Having Students Teach in Teams

In this section, Leigh Hafrey describes the team-based co-teaching experience students encounter in 15.269 Leadership Stories: Literature, Ethics, and Authority.

"Teamwork in the course aims to encourage the students simultaneously to appreciate that they’re different and to recognize that they then need to master that difference in order to achieve ends."
— Leigh Hafrey

In 15.269 Leadership Stories: Literature, Ethics, and Authority, I emphasize that leadership emerges from effective collaboration. Moderation belongs among the skills that a leader deploys, and consensus will emerge from the best of his or her efforts. The course mandates small-group engagement as a way of helping students practice those skills.

I think that teamwork in the classroom has huge pedagogic effect. And I incorporate it into the course in part because I want the course to help students recognize their differences and diversity.

And at the same time, once they have recognized that as a reality, I want them then to think about how they build consensus. And so teamwork in the course aims to encourage the students simultaneously to appreciate that they’re different and to recognize that they then need to master that difference in order to achieve ends. And so the team papers and the team teaching experience aim to accomplish that.

For the co-teaching assignment, we build 10 to 12 teams in any given semester. Each team teaches an entire period lasting an hour and 20 minutes. I meet with the teams for roughly that same length of time in the classroom beforehand, and we work through a lesson plan.

I say, “Look, you’re not going in there to be the experts on this particular assignment. You’re going to ask smart questions.” And so then the moderating of the session itself becomes an exercise in leadership. How do you bring a group of 40 to 60 people toward some form of consensus on the meaning of a situation in which they find themselves? How do you ask the questions that get them there? Working in a small group like this gives me something like a tutorial connection, which I think is useful.

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