Link to Birdie Calendar Team Teaching Across Distance

Dear Habermas Logo and Link to Site Index A Jeanne Site

Team Teaching Appel's Kandinsky Figurine and Link to Home Across Distance

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: July 19, 2000
E-Mail Faculty on the Site.

A New Flexibility


Increasingly the specialization of most disciplines means that colleagues must seek networks of professional connections. Also, the heavier workloads that most of us are facing mean that we are ill prepared to engage in serious research and deal with the crises in higher education teaching.

This paper describes an experimental solution to these crises: the sharing of the teaching as well as the research, by means of a teaching-research Web site. This approach offers new flexibility in both generating research for publication and in connecting students and faculty in academic discourse. the focus here is on the process of coming to this arrangement, on our need to listen in good faith to all our validity claims: faculty, students, staff, in all our respective contexts.

In Spring of 2000, the faculty involved had to learn to use the site as a source for teachers and learners, without trying to dictate the traditional conformity of a team-taught classroom activity. We began to take advantage of the same freedoms we were giving students, to select from an array of readings and topics, rather than adhere to a rigid program.

The story of that coming to terms is told, and the Website available for your perusal.

Team Teaching Across Distance: A New Flexibility

Paper presented at ASA National Meetings in 2000.
by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata. December 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.


. . . .

Inviting a New Team Member Across Distance

On Wednesday, July 19, 2000, Dwight Ross, of Hesston College wrote:


This is Dwight E. Roth from Hesston College. We talked a few weeks ago about possibly sharing learning / teaching material this coming fall term. My students will be in Cultural Anthropology and Introduction to Sociology.

Could you give me some ideas about this learning/teaching material? Also, I am very interested in your"grading/assessment" system if you would be willing to share some ideas.

Blessings, Dwight E. Roth Hesston College Hesston, KS 67062

On Wednesday, July 19, 2000, jeanne answered:

Hi, Dwight

I am delighted to hear from you. I've been writing like mad. And cleaning up the site, slowly. Just put up new materials on plagiarism today, in an attempt to get the university to handle plagiarism without structural violence. Let me share with you how to find what I'm doing. There are three icons on every page now, at least as I get to them. The rotating Kandinsky figurine will take you to the DH home page. The icon itself will take you to the site index, which is enormous. And the little birdie in the top right hand corner will take you to the "birdie" calendar, from which you can click on the week of your choice. The "birdie" highlights new material. That's what my students follow. And the "birdie" works across classes.

I am just beginning to put up class pages, which will have links to syllabi, to specific theory and essay pieces to supplement text readings. But I'm trying to make the site materials complete enough that students across classes and disciplines can follow even without the texts. I am trying to give enough readings that students will have the flexibility to choose what most interests them.

That gets to flexibility in general. Susan and I are just doing a paper, for ASA, I think, that recognizes that we needed the flexibility that we were allowing the students. We had tried to keep our team-taught courses together. But that's pretty hard to do when you're almost a continent away. So in Spring of 2000, we just let go, and did what came naturally. Susan stuck very much to her planned schedule, and I experimented. We found that we could not only still use the site, but that our students could come together face-to-face in San Diego and jump right into academic discourse with us on all these topics. Each had different expertise, according to what they had chosen to study, but they had no problem sharing that expertise. So now let's take your course plans and do the same thing.

Wander around the site. Tell us what we need to do to offer you and your students the same flexibilities.

But don't let me be overly simplistic. Susan and I are committed to peacemaking, to the avoidance of structural violence. That means we want our students to have many choices, and we try not to be oppressive. Susan's students are on the average less stressed than mine, because they're not in the metropolitan setting. I'll bet that will be true of your students, too. We also are committed to intrinsic motivation for learning. That means that we want to de-emphasize testing, to give the students more sense of learning for learning's sake.

That led us to the Pass? or Prepared? pieces. Pass is a law school term. If you say "pass" the professor must back off. We ask our students to use the Pass? or Prepareds? to give them an idea of the kinds of questions we might ask on the reading preparations. But then we offer them at least one plausible answer. Most teachers never try to answer their own essay questions. And our students were bewildered. If the answers are there, what is left for them to do? E-mail us that they have Prepared that reading.

I try to keep the Pass? or Prepared?s relatively simple. They amount to a synopsis of the readings. And students are willing to read that much, even if they have not completed regularly "assigned" [I hate that word!] readings. This means that they come to class with at the very least minimal preparation. Then we can spend most of our face-to-face time in clarifying misunderstandings and taking the material to a deeper level. Also, because of my students' particular situation, I encourage them to Prepare after the class discussion, and still send me notice of that preparation. Often they are motivated by the discussions. Susan is more task-oriented and requires the Prepared by due date. [You can tell, I hate "due dates."] But our situations are very different. I did my J.D. at UCLA while teaching full time. I was fifty when I got the J.D. I know about not being "prepared."

To the extent that one wants to test, it is easy, using this material. This semester I am even trying to offer exams as an option. I am planning to put up the essential questions we think a student should be able to answer by the end of the semester course. Then I will link Pass? or Prepared?s to each question, and essays and materials on site, as well as provide text citations. A random selection of these questions will work for any test. Even if the kids choose to memorize all the answers, they will have done what we were asking. I will make that exam optional. Like James O'Donnell I consider testing violent. But then I spend fifteen hour days at my computer. Don't think I need the extra motivation.

Now the wonderful thing about Pass? or Prepared?s is that after a semester in which Susan read thousands of student answers to her questions, I insisted that she try just trusting them and having them send her the phrase "prepared." Some of her students complained that the "Others" couldn't be trusted. Ooh, what a wonderful lesson on ethics that was. My students, if they fussed, did so only to each other, but they had had longer with this method. The wonderful thing is that with this method the students really are on their honor, and see that we mean our trust in them.

We tried to grade on their "comments," essays of a few paragraphs. You can find a detailed example of the length and type of comments we mean on our discussion of the difficulty of writing your "own" answer when studying in groups. I say we tried because students were still somewhat lost. Their most common question was what am I supposed to write? Oy! What have we done to our children?

But we did not just ignore the problem. The essay I linked to above is designed to teach what we want them to write, a critical reaction to what they are learning. But I knew that it was possible to use the Web to engage them interactively. Also I knew that art and literature were an essential part of voicing that critical reaction.

Here are two of the intitial interactive projects I just finished designing. Take a look. I think that if I can put many of these up by Fall, our students will be able to share easily with each other, by our creating a forum for each project.

Would you care to join us in the authorship? The paper will be read at the August meetings of the American Sociological Association, after which we hope to send it our for publication.

Hope you join us. I think it'll be a lot of fun.