Dr Jo Vergunst, Department of Anthropology, School of Social Science

This case is presented by the current Head of Department in Anthropology on behalf of the whole Department. Team-taught courses pose unique challenges for university teaching and learning. Teaching materials need to be coherent if more than one lecturer is involved and tutors need a clear sense of the purpose of tutorials. At Level 1 and 2, where courses may have large numbers of students and staff involved, the challenges are magnified and yet these courses are key to giving students a positive start to University life. We have transformed our sub-honours teaching through a series of new initiatives. 

Context

This case is presented by the current Head of Department in Anthropology on behalf of the whole Department. Team-taught courses pose unique challenges for university teaching and learning. Teaching materials need to be coherent if more than one lecturer is involved and tutors need a clear sense of the purpose of tutorials. At Level 1 and 2, where courses may have large numbers of students and staff involved, the challenges are magnified and yet these courses are key to giving students a positive start to University life. We have transformed our sub-honours teaching through a series of new initiatives.

Activity

In 2015-16 we began a review of Level 1 teaching materials to ensure they were suitable for introducing students to Anthropology. Tutorials were given a clear structure through written guides, circulated to tutors at the start of term, which include activities and timings for each session. The Department committed to using core staff to teach tutorials rather than PG students, and tutorials are capped at 12 students. Lecture and tutorial reviews take place each semester and this has become a continual peer review system involving the whole Department. These reforms have now been rolled out to all sub-honours courses.

Evaluation

Many students have commented on our effective subhonours teaching in SCEF and class rep meetings - sample comment from 2018 Level 1 SCEF: 'Really insightful, lectures were really structured and the tutorials were relevant and the tutor was great.' Students now frequently comment positively on our tutorial teaching, in contrast with before our reforms. Tutors (i.e. all Department staff) have provided feedback that significant time and effort is saved by using the tutorial guides, which create a consistent and high quality experience for students. Smaller tutorial groups also mean better teaching in this format.

Impact

Student response has been excellent as noted. Lecturers and tutors also find teaching in this system easier and more satisfying. Frictions during the teaching term are reduced and staff are better supported in their lecturing and tutorial work. Anthropology's approach to sub-honours teaching has been noted for its benefits in terms of student retention at Teaching and Learning Committee in the School of Social Science. Beyond the Department, we are keen to engage with others in the University to compare approaches to team teaching and explore how best practice in this key area can be developed further.

Dissemination

Our initiative is now firmly established within the Department of Anthropology as all sub-honours courses are team taught in this way. We are now drawing attention to our support for sub-honours teaching in our marketing materials as a form of dissemination to prospective students. Within the University we are also keen to find ways of further developing best practice in team teaching, with the help of the Centre for Academic Development.