Like a huddle on a sports team, teaching huddles are an opportunity for members of a teaching team to regroup and evaluate their teaching strategies. Teaching huddles are rapid-fire problem-solving sessions that take place each week while a course is in session. They are agile, meaning that they respond quickly and flexibly to the evolving needs of a course as it is being taught. Teaching huddles may be appropriate for any course that has more than one person working to help students learn course material. Some examples of teaching huddles include professors co-teaching a course, a professor working with graduate teaching assistants or Learning Fellows, or a professor working with instructional designers.
- Group Size: Teaching team (2-10 people)
- Time on Task: 45 minutes - 1 hour
- Duration of Groups: Once a week or bi-weekly
- Online Transferability: Low
- Define general expectations for the huddles. Some expectations to discuss include:
- How often will huddles meet and for how long?
- Who is expected to attend the huddles and when?
- Who will lead the huddles or portions of the huddles?
- How will feedback be given and received?
- How should confidential information be treated?
- Consider outlining a general structure for huddles. One example is to spend 15 minutes discussing pros and cons from the week before, spend 15 minutes on troubleshooting and problem-solving emerging needs in the course, and spend the last 15 minutes preparing for the week ahead. The structure of your huddle should be flexible enough to accommodate changes that may occur from week-to-week during the term.
- Identify milestones for the students in your course and adjust the huddles accordingly. For instance, a midterm exam is usually a milestone for students. Huddles before and after the midterm exam could be used to prepare and evaluate this experience for students.
- Create a list of potential teaching strategies to discuss with your team during the term. You may not use all these strategies and unexpected concerns might arise in your course, but this practice will help you get into the mindset of rapid problem-solving. To create a list of appropriate strategies, consider the challenges your students might face during the term. Be specific about what challenges students might encounter. For instance, if you use small groups in class, your students might struggle with managing group dynamics. If you use in-class or online discussions, your students might struggle with entering conversations or knowing when to step back from conversations. Share your list of strategies with your huddle and ask them to add to it as the term progresses.
- Evaluate and iterate. At the end of the term, ask your teaching team to think critically about your huddles and how they might be improved for the next iteration of the course. Consider the structure of your huddle, why certain teaching strategies may have worked better than others, and what unexpected pros and cons may have occurred throughout the term.
COLT 1: Read the World
In Colt 1, students investigate different kinds of text around the world and apply their learned knowledge in weekly small group projects. These projects include translating a humorous advertisement into different languages and building a cognitive map of their campus environment. One goal of these projects is to encourage dynamic discussion among students of diverse backgrounds. Undergraduate Learning Fellows help facilitate these discussions. At a weekly teaching huddle, the Learning Fellows meet with instructional designers to brainstorm new strategies for engaging students who may not feel comfortable contributing to their groups.
HIST 90 / QSS 30: History of the Census
In this course, students work with real census data and develop small coding programs to analyze this data. They discuss the results of their analyses on an online WordPress platform. The course is technologically demanding and students often enter the course with different levels of technical skill. In the teaching huddles, an instructor, instructional designer, and undergraduate Learning Fellow discuss the pacing of the course and strategies to help students who may be struggling and challenge those students who are working ahead.
MATH 3: Calculus
Math 3 enrolls more than 200 students, and its teaching team includes several instructors, graduate teaching assistants, and undergraduate Learning Fellows. During the course, students work in small groups to solve complex problems. The small groups are set the first week of class and remain constant throughout the term. Midway through the term, the small groups are asked to evaluate their communication and teamwork skills. At a regularly scheduled teaching huddle, the teaching team takes time to process these evaluations and recommend places of improvement for each small group.
BIO 13: Gene Expression and Inheritance
Bio 13 is a large gateway course taught by multiple instructors in different terms. The course also employs undergraduate Learning Fellows and graduate Teaching Science Fellows to help facilitate classroom activities. Bio 13 has used teaching huddles for five terms, and in the most recent iteration of the course, the instructor invited the Fellows to contribute candid perspectives on the course content, classroom activities, and assessment strategies. The Fellows provided feedback to the instructor, suggested changes, and tested new activities before they were used in class.
Benjamin, J. (2000). The scholarship of teaching in teams: What does it look like in practice? Higher Education Research and Development, 19(2), 191-204.
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). Teaching Critical Thinking and the Role of Team Teaching. In S. Wisdom and L. Leavitt (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Advancing Critical Thinking in Higher Education (pp. 246-270). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.