Should Graduate Students Co-Teach?
Co-teaching has become popular in recent years, especially in university teaching training. It involves two teachers, one experienced and one in training, coming together to teach a class together. They share the instruction, the setting of tasks, the marking, and the physical classroom space. The idea is that for a profession like teaching, in which teachers are constantly learning even after they finish their teacher training, more direct instruction is helpful. Observing and interacting with a more experienced colleague allows new teaches to learn more and get guidance if they are having any classroom issues.
Many graduate students work as teaching assistants, supporting faculty members when they teach undergraduate classes. This gives them the chance to learn directly from an experienced lecturer, while also earning money for their work. Could co-teaching be the right role for you? Today we're considering the question of whether graduate students should co-teach.
Advantages of Co-Teaching
The biggest point in favour of co-teaching as a graduate student is that you will gain invaluable experience from working directly with both students and faculty members. Many academic jobs required some teaching experience in order for you to apply for them, so getting this experience in graduate school will make you more employable. In the United States in particular, there is a large emphasis placed on the importance of teaching experience for junior academics. The big plus of co-teaching here is that the quality of your teaching experience will be higher if you have been observing and working with a knowledgable faculty member.
A second advantage to taking a co-teaching job as a graduate student is that you will learn a whole lot from teaching. It's often said that one of the best ways to check whether you understand something is to try to teach it to someone else. You'll quickly see whether you can arrange your knowledge into a helpful and comprehensible form which you students can follow. Also, the questions that students ask and the points that they raise will help you to think about you subject in new ways. Having an experienced co-teacher with you means there's always someone to answer your questions if you're unsure.
A final advantage of the co-teaching system is that it gives you the chance to get to know a faculty member well. Not only can you learn from your co-teacher's teaching methods, but you can also go to them with questions about your department or about academic life in general. You can get a more realistic impression of what academic life in the department is like for faculty. They can get to know you better too, so if you need a reference or letter of recommendation in the future, they can provide a very personal and accurate assessment of you.
Disadvantages of Co-Teaching
Although there are a lot of advantages to co-teaching, you should consider whether you will have enough time to dedicate to teaching in addition to your studies. Teaching requires lots of time, not just in the classroom itself, but also in making lesson plans, setting and grading assignments, and answering students' questions. This is particularly true in co-teaching, where you need to plan together with your co-teacher. Yes, there is someone else to help you with the work, but the two of you will need to co-ordinate carefully to teach effectively. You should also make sure that the work is divided up fairly between the two of you so that you're not left doing all the work by yourself.
You should consider the rate of pay for teaching too. Some teaching jobs for graduate students are not very well paid, so if you have high living costs then you might need to consider another option. Alternatively, some grants or fellowships will cover your costs but expect you to teach in return. Find out what your obligations are and make sure that you're making enough money to live comfortably while you study.
We hope this has given you some insight into whether co-teaching is right for you!
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