I. Definition of Training Piece
"Paired courses are two courses for which students must co-register." Generally, there are two formats for paired courses, the first being "linked classes" in which "faculty work to coordinate syllabi and assignments, but may teach their classes separately. Often a writing or speech course is linked to a lecture-centered course, or a mathematics course is linked to a science course."
A second type of paired course is a "team-taught course pair" in which "two or more courses are fully team-taught as an integrated program" with "faculty participating as learners as well as teachers."
Parker Palmer, named one of the thirty "most influential senior leaders" in higher education by The Leadership Project in 1998, spoke about the difficulties of establishing connectedness between faculty and students in the academy in his keynote address delivered at the Washington Center National Learning Communities Conference in May, 1999.
"We know that knowing, teaching, and learning are communal acts. We also have several generations of solid research on the fact that pedagogies and curricula of connectedness help people get smarter faster about complex fields of information than do competition and dumping data into people's heads." (from "Learning Communities: Reweaving the Culture of Disconnection," delivered at the Washington Center National Learning Communities Conference, May, 1999 and reported in the Washington Center News, Spring 2000. For a copy of the keynote address, write to the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA 98505).
Research about the transfer of knowledge and skills:
There is great deal of research about the assumptions and myths that we hold about the extent to which people transfer learning. Sue E. Berryman and Thomas R. Bailey, authors of The Double Helix of Education and the Economy (1992), outline Five Incorrect Assumptions About Learning. Their number one incorrect assumption is that "People predictably transfer learning to new situations." Instead, "extensive research, spanning decades, shows that individuals do not predictably transfer in any of three situations where transfer should occur. They do not predictably transfer school knowledge to everyday practice. They do not predictably transfer sound everyday practice to school endeavors... they do not predictably transfer their learning across school subjects." Berryman and Bailey's fifth Incorrect Assumption is that "to insure their transfer to new situations, skills and knowledge should be acquired independently of their contexts of use." The reality is that "context is critical for understanding and thus for learning... part of good teaching is to present information in a context that generates meaning for students." Pairing skill courses such as writing, reading, study skills, and speech courses with content courses provides students with an authentic context for learning the skills.
A. InstructorThe benefits of paired courses for the instructor and the student are manifold. Faculty have the opportunity to develop professionally in terms of an expanded repertoire of
B. StudentStudent benefits include
Vincent Tinto's research of the retention of students in learning communities reveals that learning communities for developmental education students are particularly effective in that students are 26% more successful if they are involved in integrated courses (two classes paired or linked).
A. Exploration Exercises for InstructorExploration 1: To explore that possibilities of pairing or linking a class begin by identifying one or two courses that you teach that you would like to connect with another course. Next, brainstorm other courses with which you could pair or link your course. If you teach a skills course (such as reading, writing, or study skills), you can probably match with any discipline. If you teach content specific courses (such as Sociology, Biology, or a professional/technical program), think about other content areas that have many connections to your own OR a course that focuses on skills that students need but typically have not developed before taking your course. Below are suggestions for deciding on a pairing from your brainstorm:
Finally, after brainstorming possible courses and instructors to work with, list support staff you may need to talk to about arranging to pair a course—your immediate supervisor and/or administrator, the registrar, personnel who schedule rooms, etc.
Initiate a discussion with your department or division about the benefits and possibilities of pairing classes within the division and across the college. Use the information in the reference section (as well as the material in Section B—Summary of Relevant Research) of this module to support a proposal to pursue paired courses.
B. Student ExercisesThe activities for students to do will depend upon the content and/or skills of the two courses being paired or linked. Below are examples of assignments used in a study skills course that is paired with a college level course in which textbook reading and vocabulary development are very important skills.
Textbook Reading: Introduce the students to the concept that textbook reading involves three phases: before, during and after reading. (The activity below is a "before reading" activity). Ask the students to preview a chapter by completing the following steps:
This type of "think map" helps students familiarize themselves with the topics in a chapter before they try to read it. As student Tobi Jefferson said, "The think map, in my opinion, is a very wonderful thing. When I start to read, it is not something that grabs my attention right away; I can't stay focused. The think map is a way for me to browse through the material and find the most important elements of that particular chapter. As I'm writing the information down something very simple might catch my eye and it prompts me to read further. If for some reason nothing catches my eye, and I don't get to the reading part right away, I still have a broad idea of what that chapter entails, which in my opinion, is much better than not having the slightest clue." In a paired class, students have the opportunity to practice this previewing skill on the textbook for their content class.
Content Vocabulary: In addition to general vocabulary development (see Skill Connection section below), most students find that each discipline has a new vocabulary for them to learn as well as specialized vocabulary (seemingly common words with special meanings in a particular content area). Many times learning this new vocabulary is the crux of mastering the course. One way that a study skills/reading instructor can help students learn the vocabulary of a content course paired with the study skills course is by having students make concept cards for 10-20 terms each week (vocabulary word on the front of a 3 x 5" notecard; glossary or dictionary definition of the term, and a sketch, diagram, or example of the word on the back side). Students can be allowed to select the terms that they don't know, and the assignment is evaluated according to the quality and quantity of cards completed per week. Quizzes on the words are optional but not necessary because the majority of the learning takes place as the students make the cards. To evaluate individualized sets of cards, assign students in pairs and have them quiz each other. This opportunity to develop their vocabulary in the context of a content course is especially beneficial for developmental students
C. Skill Connections
For more information about helping students identify and understand their own and their instructors' thinking styles, go to the Thinking Styles module.
V. Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How are paired courses different from "regular" courses?
A. Usually, teachers teach separate courses to separate sets of students and students experience their separate courses in unrelated fragments. By intentionally pairing courses into programs, both teachers and students experience a more coherent and enriched teaching and learning environment (Source: Learning Community Models, 1999).
Q. What is the enrollment in paired courses?
A. Team-taught models usually enroll students at a ratio of 20-25 students per faculty member. So, a team-taught program with two teachers enrolls 40-50 students. This program would be comparable to 4 conventional classes, 2 classes per teacher. (Source: Learning Community Models, 1999).
Q. What are some examples of paired courses?
A. Introduction to Public Speaking and American History; Beginning Calculus and College Physics; College Study Skills and Introductory Biology; Technical Writing and Introduction to Environmental Science; Developmental Reading and Developmental Writing; Women and Fiction and Philosophy: Ethics.
Q. Are Paired Courses Effective?
A: Yes; research has shown better student achievement and retention, (more) student involvement, motivation and intellectual development. Faculty outcomes include faculty development in terms of expanded repertoire of teaching approaches, revised course content, and new scholarly interests. (Source: Learning Community Models, 1999).
VI. Helpful Resources
Learn more about Paired Courses:
Learning Community Models, Jean MacGregor et. al, 1999.
Learn more about the natural learning process and incorrect assumptions about learning: "The Natural Process of Learning and Critical Thinking." Gamut, Seattle Community College District Faculty Development, Seattle, Washington, 1989.
The Double Helix of Education and the Economy by Sue E. Berryman and Thomas R. Bailey, Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1992.
Learn more about teaching textbook reading skills and content vocabulary developoment: Read and Respond, 3rd edition, by Janet R Swinton and W.J. Agopsowicz, Roxbury Publishing Co., 1995.
www.facultytraining.com to attend a workshop on this topic or bring one to your campus, visit this site or call Faculty Training at (800) 856-5727.