Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Marcia A. B. Delcourt, PhD

Second Advisor

Patricia Cyganovich, EdD

Third Advisor

Melissa Natale-Abramo, EdD

Abstract

This study explored the beliefs and attitudes about education held by teachers on middle school interdisciplinary teams that shared common planning time (CPT) at a highly effective middle school. Data were analyzed to identify beliefs and attitudes towards students, fellow team members, and the larger school environment.

Effective middle schools have interdisciplinary teacher teams. Teams sharing CPT are more effective than teams without CPT, as well as schools without teams at all. Previous research involved quantitative measures such as student test scores and suspension rates; as well as measures of work environment, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and climate.

In the current educational climate of high-stakes testing and value-added measurements, pressures on educators increase daily. It is important to continue validating the team concept as a critical aspect of middle level education. This study qualitatively explored the attitudes and beliefs of effective middle level teachers on interdisciplinary teams sharing CPT and analyzed various influences upon them.

Using a multiple case study qualitative research design, one suburban middle school that had previously received outside recognition of success was studied. Teachers from all participating teams were given an open-ended survey. Focus groups were held with individual teams from three different grade levels. Individual interviews were held with select members of each team, the longest serving as well as the newest team members. Building administrators were interviewed as well. Artifacts and documents were also examined.

Analysis identified three main themes within the data: empathetic attitudes, team attitudes (flexibility, support, risk-taking), and a profound awareness of adolescence. These attitudes and beliefs influenced one another and overlapped in the teachers’ daily work.

This research can influence professional development of pre-service teachers, middle level teachers, and administrators. Findings provide specific topic foci for small group learning community topics, stand-alone workshops, and more. The study’s conclusions also lend positive researched support to schools contemplating a move towards, or maintenance of, middle school teacher team structures with CPT.