After last week’s post about the Thriving in Academe article ( I heard from my old friend and teaching partner, Paul McGarvey, who spun story after story about collaborative teaching and how it energized dozens of faculty members at Community College of Philadelphia over the years.

Professors from various disciplines came together and learned that when it comes to teaching with others the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The “rich experience” made him and his colleagues see things differently. For so many teachers, it became a turning point in how they worked. I, for one, came to prefer collaborative teaching to solo teaching.

Paul McGarvey (pictured below by his old truck) is convinced that those faculty teams were successful because “we surrendered the power of a single teacher in classrooms for a mission bigger than that. The original faculty and those who followed who engaged in this wonderful experiment were of a particular cut. I offer the example of the very first attempt at a Humanities four-person team; all of them competent and respected. They could not agree on anything, each running their own “course”. The team dissolved quickly.”

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In contrast, typical faculty teams did something different and bold. Faculty members entered the process by leaving their egos and their academic “stuff” at the door. Literature teachers might end up teaching psychology content. Political scientists might lead an academic writing seminar. Course goals and practices adapted to meet needs beyond those expressed in the catalog description of courses.

I like how Paul McGarvey puts it. “My point here is the issue of territoriality – the sacred space, the spotlight, to which we think we hold a right. I believe that the reason we succeeded as well as we did was that we surrendered the power of a single teacher in classrooms for a mission bigger than that.”

Again, a post here touches on the relationship between the solo and the social aspects of learning and growing. Turning points in learning and in teaching often involve the interplay between the two.



Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the “Turning Points” weekly blog on City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. Bachus’s article, “Learning From Turning Points in Our Teaching Lives,” was featured in the May issue of NEA Higher Education Advocate, which reaches over 150,000 college faculty in the U.S.