How academics manage individual differences to team teach in higher education: a sociocultural activity theory perspective

Thi Kim Anh Dang, Angela Carbone, Jing Ye, Thao Thi Phuong Vu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In the higher education (HE) landscape worldwide, team teaching has become increasingly common. The growing prevalence of team teaching in HE has mainly been driven by the necessity to cope with larger classes, workload requirements, and the complexity of delivering multi-disciplinary courses or to provide a more stable quality of course portfolio over time. Whilst there are advantages of this teaching model, team teaching is not without challenges to team teachers. Managing individual differences within teams has been identified in the extant literature as one of the most significant challenges in team teaching. This study maps the contours of practice that surround individual differences in team teaching, focusing on the contradictions arising from individual differences and their resolutions. Adopting a sociocultural activity theory perspective, this research explores contradictions arising from team members’ individual differences and how team teachers resolve these contradictions. Data include in-depth interviews with 16 academics who have team taught successfully in multiple disciplines at two Australian universities. Three main types of contradictions arising from individual differences were found. Contradictions may relate to academics’ content knowledge expertise, academic autonomy, role ambiguity, and power hierarchy within a teaching team. Findings reveal these team teachers adopted multiple strategies to resolve contradictions and work together on their shared object of student learning. Findings challenge the common view in the existing literature that values homogeneity in teaching teams and sees contradictions as detrimental to team teaching. The study has multiple implications for research on team teaching and for academics and institutions embarking on this teaching model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-434
Number of pages20
JournalHigher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Academic professional development
  • Activity theory
  • Contradictions
  • Individual differences
  • Teacher collaboration
  • Team teaching

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