In this section, Dr. Jeremy Orloff and Dr. Jonathan Bloom discuss their experiences co-teaching 18.05.
Co-teaching is so much more fun than teaching individually. And it’s more powerful for students. For instance, because we weren’t always in agreement when it came to the best way to think about particular problems, we were able to model for students how to debate mathematics. Students were able to see that it’s possible to view what the instructor is doing and say, “I don’t think that’s right.”
Co-teaching also helped us pace our class sessions. Often one of us would get really engaged in conversation with a group during board problems, for example, and we would lose track of the fact that all of the other groups had finished working the problem! The other one would come over and indicate that it was time to move on to the next activity.
Although working as a team halved the administrative duties we incurred while teaching and allowed both of us to spend more time working with students, it was expensive for the department. But we can imagine a model going forward where there is a single lead instructor, a graduate student, and a few undergraduates facilitating the course. The key is to keep a reasonable ratio of facilitators to students. So far, we’ve been able to have one facilitator for every 10 students. This has been a great ratio because it has allowed each of the facilitators to spend time with each of the groups. Because this is an introductory mathematics course, we feel it’s less important that we have several facilitators with advanced degrees in mathematics in the classroom, than it is to have one or two lead instructors supported by people with strong math backgrounds who are excited about teaching and interacting with students.