Perks of a Team-Taught Course


You’ve already read about some of the cool events that Transy has during our unique May term (for a quick explanation, check out Rachel’s post here). And as I’ve already mentioned, my class this May traveled to London! More on this later, with lots of pictures, I promise.

Another benefit of May term classes is that many of them are team-taught, which means you have more than one professor. Now, at first that could sound like a nightmare. Pleasing one teacher is challenging enough, right — why would you want to work with two? In reality, though, team-taught classes are awesome, and it’s really not more work or higher expectations than a class with just one professor.

In a team-taught course, the professors work together to design a unique class. Often, it’s an elective that isn’t offered regularly, or is time-specific like the “Rhetoric of the 2012 Presidential Election” class that was taught by two WRC professors last May.

Or, as in our case, professors from different disciplines come together to create a sort of hybrid course. Our class was Intro to the Fine Arts (which fills a general education requirement and is a good survey course if you’re as non-artistic as I am). Our professors were Dr. Partain, who teaches music and Dr. Soulis, who teaches theater (Seriously, check out their linked bios; they are both have all sorts of impressive accomplishments!).

This combination that although our course covered all different kinds of fine arts, we focused on music and theater, the fields our professors are experts in — and they are experts.

But they didn’t just split the class time in half, each talk about what they know, and never acknowledge that the other field exists.

Of course not! This is the liberal arts where everything connects and even the teachers learn something!

Dr. Partain and Dr. Soulis often interrupted each other during class — not to be rude, but to ask questions. They really were engaged in each other’s material and were learning right along with us. Dr. Partain participated in our class discussion about The Tempest and King Lear, the Shakespearean plays we read. And Dr. Soulis was just as active in our lessons about classical music.

But the most wonderful instance of this professor-cooperation happened as we were studying a piece from Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4” that we would later hear performed live by the London Symphony Orchestra.

We had been discussing how music without words can create a mood, even tell a story. But instead of just telling us to take his word for it, Dr. Partain asked Dr. Soulis to come up to the front of the room and improvise a silent scene based on the music.

You could tell from the look on Dr. Soulis’s face that they had not planned this performance before class. But he willingly agreed and we listened to the piece through once more as he planned a scene.

As the music began once more, Dr. Soulis immediately popped into character and started stepping across the room, looking sneaky and defiant. Then, as the music changed, he became a second character, who seemed to be begging the other to do something. He switched back and forth between the characters in a scene that was clearly understandable, even without any mouthing of words.

Dr. Partain cut the music after a few minutes, having proven his point quickly. Our entire class broke out into applause.

Dr. Soulis jumped and said, “But the scene wasn’t over! They were going to get in an argument! It was going to be great!”

It already was great. Our professors used each other’s strengths — to not just tell us a point, but to show us, and really teach us. It’s those type of “lessons” that really stick with you. It was amazing to not just see two professors work together to plan a class, but two passionate experts combine their talents to really create something entertaining and educational.

And that was just in our first week of class. Just wail ’til you read about London.