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There was another question In universities, how to team up with your colleagues? which talked about building relationships but what I am really curious about is:

Are there any universities which actually have teams of teachers?

I am not referring to simply two teachers sharing the same module. I am also not referring to teachers being friendly with each other. I'm referring to teachers actually being developed into a formal team. In a team not everyone has the same skills and those differences make the team stronger, not weaker. In teams there is a genuine interdependence. In a team, there are common objectives which you know have been met or not.

There are many examples of increased effectiveness of teams (and certainly plenty of books and articles written about them) but since teaching is such a solitary activity (meaning you do not interact with your colleagues while teaching) perhaps it is natural to ignore the idea of actually building teams of teachers.

Edit: When studying team dynamics, we can see that "real" teams do include some risks but my point is not about the weaknesses (which are typically overcome by the strengths). Teams normally operate an a higher level of efficiency than non-team-groups-of-people working together. A key element of real teams is that objectives are team objectives and individual accomplishments are not highlighted. For example, if 3 teams are all competing to get to the top of the mountain and we give a reward to the first person to summit the mountain, then we are really focusing on individual efforts (so each member would naturally think of themselves before the group as a whole). However, if you simply reward the team which first plants its flag at the top, then individual accomplishments are minimized and one member of the team is more likely to sacrifice for the greater good of the team.

Indicators of real teams (as opposed to groups of people who work together but are not a team) include: Interdependence, shared accountability (each answers to the boss but also to every other member), common goals, and members having skills which compliment each other in order to affect the common goals.

Do we ever see these qualities in groups of teachers?

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    Isn't an academic department a formal team of teachers (and researchers)? – Pete L. Clark May 30 '14 at 6:44
  • @PeteL.Clark There are many different definitions of teams but in the definition I went by included the members being interdependent. I cannot say how typical my department is but I do not feel any interdependence with the other teachers in my department-they could be replaced tomorrow and I do not think it would impact me in any significant way. – earthling May 30 '14 at 10:14
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    If one of them gets hit by a bus, their teaching duty will have to be taken by someone else. The lecturer/TA can be considered an interdependent team too. I don't think I fully understand what you ask, though. – Davidmh May 30 '14 at 12:01
  • Then you have the team of professor/TA, or several lecturers dividing a subject by area of expertise. – Davidmh May 30 '14 at 14:32
  • @Davidmh I have edited my question in hopes of making it clearer. I've also deleted my previous comments to keep the question clean. – earthling May 31 '14 at 3:54
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In the more advanced levels, I have had subjects taught by several lecturers. Each one was teaching the part of the subject closer to their area of research and expertise.

On a more general level, there was a department of Astronomy and Atmospheric physics (climate and weather). Astrophysics subjects were taught by astrophysicists, and climate subjects by atmospheric scientists (do they have a cool specific name?). Inside Astrophysics, stellar evolution was taught by a different subset of professors than extragalatic astronomy.

It is also common for the senior professors to lecture, and the grad students to do problem solving. This is usually explained because a clear explanation of the theory requires experience and care; whereas solving exercises is a less critical task, ideal to build teaching experience. (Bad people that hate professors may say that teaching theory requires less work, and once it is done they can repeat the same for years, but solving exercises requires more work)

Edit:

Another example is the curriculum. Each subject is built upon the subjects taught before, with more or less coordination among the lecturers. Differential equations requires the knowledge obtained in Calculus, and it will in turn be used for Quantum Mechanics. If the Calculus lecturer fails miserably (for example, not covering the necessary material), the students will struggle through the following ones.

  • I had the same experience with my Anatomy course, which was in my second undergrad year of study; each division of the body (ie. Abdomen, Head and Neck, Neuroanatomy) was taught by a registrar who had specialised in that division. – Watercleave May 30 '14 at 11:41
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    whereas solving exercises is a less critical task — [citation needed]!!! – JeffE May 30 '14 at 15:36

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