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									              Sierra Nevada College



      A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment
       of the Requirements for the degree of
             Master of Arts in Teaching


               Andrea M. Contreras

        Dr. Maria Chairez /Thesis Advisor

                     July 2009
             We recommend that the thesis by Andrea M. Contreras
             Prepared under the supervision be accepted in partial
                        Fulfillment for the degree of

                      MASTER of ARTS in TEACHING

                     Maria Chairez, Ed.D., Thesis Advisor

                   Angela Zobrak, M.A., Committee Member

                    Sara Bartlett, M.A., Committee Member

                                  July 2009
                                                 TABLE OF CONTENTS

  ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................... iv
  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................ v
Chapter I.............................................................................................................................. 1
  Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 1
     Purpose of the Study ................................................................................................... 2
     Research Questions ..................................................................................................... 2
     Significance of the Study ............................................................................................ 3
Chapter II ............................................................................................................................ 4
  Methodology ................................................................................................................... 4
     Limitations .................................................................................................................. 5
     Definition of Key Terms ............................................................................................. 5
Chapter III ........................................................................................................................... 7
  Initial Review of the Literature ....................................................................................... 7
     Benefits of Departmentalization ................................................................................. 7
     Variations of Departmentalization ............................................................................ 14
     Transitioning from Self-Contained to Departmental ................................................ 18
     Teacher Knowledge and Preparation for Instruction ................................................ 21
Chapter IV ......................................................................................................................... 28
  Critical Analysis of the Literature................................................................................. 28
Chapter V .......................................................................................................................... 33
  Conclusions and Implications for Teaching ................................................................. 33
     Question #1 ............................................................................................................... 33
     Question #2 ............................................................................................................... 33
     Question #3 ............................................................................................................... 34
     Question #4 ............................................................................................................... 35
  References ..................................................................................................................... 37


This review of the literature sought to explain the benefits of departmentalization in the

elementary school on both increasing students’ academic achievement and teachers’

success with students. The literature will demonstrate how the school organization of

departmentalization is implemented and how student achievement is effected. It will also

include how teachers’ change their instructional planning to meet the schools new

organizational model. Two aspects which were explained were how teachers’ knowledge

of their subject played a role in the new organizational model, and how their preparation

time for lessons changed.


       I would like to thank my parents, Arturo and Lucy, for always being encouraging

and supportive, and Jason, for being understanding during this process.

       Thank you to Dr. Maria Chariez, my advisor, for always finding the time to meet

with me and for providing me with invaluable information to complete this endeavor.


                                       CHAPTER I


       According to the United States Department of Education (2005), the nation is

following a trend of low academic achievement with little increase since the 1960s.

Beginning in 1969, students have been assessed throughout the nation using the National

Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Students of the ages nine, thirteen, and

seventeen are assessed. Since the NAEP exam has been administered, test results have

been stagnant, showing a minimal and inconsistent increase in academic achievement

(U.S. Department of Education). This research will focus on elementary students.

       It is startling to see that elementary students today, who have access to a surplus

of information and technology, are not scoring significantly higher than students from the

1970s. There are many issues that can affect student achievement; one possible issue may

be school organization. One alternative to school organization is departmentalization.

Departmentalization in elementary school is when students have more than one teacher

for their academic subjects (English, social studies, mathematics, and science). Each

teacher is responsible for a specific subject or group of subjects (American Association of

School Administrators, 1965). Historically, education in the United States has followed

the pattern of eight years of elementary education, followed by four years of high school.

At the end of the nineteenth century, secondary education began in seventh grade (Mizel,

2005). Offering departmentalization at a younger age during elementary school could

prove to be successful for both students and teachers.

                                   Purpose of the Study

       It appears that there is a need to research departmentalization. The purpose of this

critical review of the literature will be to explore how departmentalization can affect the

academic success of students and possibly turn around the trend of minimal academic

increase. Through departmentalization, the classroom is organized differently, thus

changing how teachers teach. Often time teachers say they do not feel like they have

enough time to implement what is required nor do they have enough training (McCall,

Janssen, & Riederer, 2008). Therefore, this review of the literature will include

information about departmentalization and how departmentalization changes the way

teachers teach, including, subject area knowledge and preparation for teachers who teach

in this new environment.

                                    Research Questions

       This critical review of the literature will be guided by these research questions:

       1. In what ways does departmentalization influence elementary student


       2. In what ways does teachers’ preparation change after they are teaching in a

           departmentalized grade?

       3. How does departmentalization affect students academically and socially as

           they transition from self-contained to departmental classes?

       4. What are the common characteristics of schools that implement

           departmentalization in elementary school?

                                 Significance of the Study

       This critical review of the literature will provide information about

departmentalization in elementary schools to understand if students can succeed with an

alternative school organization. The literature will include information to explain how

departmentalization operates in an elementary school and include data about academic

achievement. This literature review will also contain information about how

departmentalization changes the way teachers have to prepare for instructional planning,

including time and subject knowledge. Departmentalization has a limited amount of

published data; therefore this review of the literature will provide insightful information.

                                       CHAPTER II


       When searching for literature and data on departmentalization, academic

databases were used. Through EBSCO Host, ERIC, and the Professional Development

Collection databases many articles were obtained. Within these databases, some of the

journals that were utilized were Elementary School Journal, Journal of Instructional

Psychology, Educational Leadership, Teacher Educator, and Journal of Research and

Development in Education. Resources include journals, fieldwork, and books and papers

that were presented at meetings.

       The first key word used when searching for articles on departmentalization was

“departmentalization”. Using only one word in the search engine resulted in a wide

variety of articles. There were articles that pertained to education, business, and a variety

of other fields. The articles that pertained to education were reviewed and focused mainly

on middle school and high school, since departmentalization is most common at these

levels. A limited amount of these articles will be used because they discuss teacher

collaboration, knowledge, and/or preparation.

       The focus is on elementary school, therefore, “Elementary School” was included

in the search engine. Solely using these key words did not locate many more articles.

From the literature that was found, other key terms were used from within the text. After

reviewing the abstracts and the subject lines of the literature, the following terms were

used: (a) school organization, (b) self-contained, (c) team teaching, (d) alternative

education, (e) single subject, (f) teacher preparation, (g) school effectiveness, and (h)

faculty development. The addition of these terms along with elementary education, more

literature was found, which then included a variety of sub-topics pertaining to



       The articles included in this review of the literature are limited to scholarly

journals. Another limitation included the date of publication, but this limitation resulted

in very few articles. Since this limited the number of articles the time constraint was

removed. Therefore, articles from 1958 to 2008 will be included.

       When conducting the wide search, there were sub-topics that consistently

appeared. These included: (a) academic achievement, (b) instructional time, (c) student

behavior, (d) school organization, (e) teacher knowledge, and (f) teacher preparation. To

narrow the focus of this research a thinking map was used to compare and contrast the

advantages and disadvantages of departmentalization. From the thinking map, the focus

was narrowed down by the aspects which pertained directly to academic success. This

included school organization and teacher preparation.

                                  Definition of Key Terms

       Elementary School Departmentalization: Students have more than one teacher for

their academic subjects (English, social studies, mathematics, and science). Each teacher

is responsible for a specific subject or group of subjects (American Association of School

Administrators, 1965). Students rotate between two or more teachers for a set period of

time. Students have a homeroom teacher, and remain with the same group of students

throughout their daily rotations.

       Homeroom Teacher: Students are assigned to one teacher when enrolled in

school. This teacher is the only name to appear on school records even though students

rotate between other teachers.

       Looping: This is a common practice in European schools and involves teachers

moving with their students after one year to the next grade level, then looping back to

work with a new group of students at the lower grade level (Delviscio & Muffs, 2007).

       Regular classroom teacher: Students have one teacher for their academic

subjects, including, reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Regular classroom

teachers are also referred to as a self-contained classroom teacher.

                                       CHAPTER III

                              Initial Review of the Literature

        The review of the literature will be divided into four areas these include, benefits

of departmentalization, variations of departmentalization, transitioning from self-

contained to departmentalized, and teacher knowledge and preparation for instruction in a

departmentalized class. The literature will reference departmentalization, or a variation of

it, and discuss student achievement within a departmentalized setting. The change in

school organization effects students and teachers; therefore the effects of transitioning for

students and the effects of teacher knowledge and preparation for instruction will be

included. The literature will be in order based on the least significant to the most


                              Benefits of Departmentalization

        The literature discussed modifications of the schools’ organization from the

traditional self-contained class to modify the learning environment. Altering the school

organization has had both benefits and disadvantages for students, parents, and teachers.

        Countryside Elementary School in Edina, Minnesota, wanted to offer its parents

and students the best opportunity they could to enrich their learning. Davis (1977)

recorded their process. Beginning in 1962 the school tested three programs and by 1977

they offered three different types of school organization. The following programs were

tested, semi-departmentalization, team-teaching, and open-alternative teaching. During

the 1962-1963 school year, semi-departmentalization was tested and proved to be

successful but teachers wanted to individualize instruction more. During the 1971–1972

school year, the school tested team-teaching. It found that the students needed to be in a

non-graded system so that they could be at their own ability level and team-teaching

allowed for individualized instruction. During the 1972–1973 school year, the open-

alternative program was implemented, which was a program guided by teachers, parents

and students. Each program proved to be successful for different learners, so for the

1977-1978 school year, the parents chose which program they felt would most benefit

their child.

        Originally departmentalization was implemented at an earlier age to prepare

students for the secondary level. Teachers and principals began to question if students at

such a young age were actually ready for departmentalization. Gumaer (1958) described

this issue of departmentalization at junior high schools in New Jersey. Questionnaires

were given to principals and a sample of teachers. It was discovered that one third of

New Jersey’s Junior High Schools were offering multi-period course, which involved

integrating more than one subject per class. These courses were operating well and

teachers wanted to use a semi-departmentalized school organization. A problem stood in

their way, teacher preparation courses for elementary and junior high teachers differed in

that junior high teachers choose a specialization. The junior high school teachers no

longer favored departmentalization, but it was difficult to de-emphasize

departmentalization because of pre-service teacher requirements.

        Throughout history school organization has been implemented in a variety of

ways. DuPree (1976) reported on The Bureau of Indian Affairs who studied how the

Cherokee educational system had to try different methods of school organization to

achieve academic success with their students. Cherokee schooling began in a one room

building and by 1970 the school population had increased to 800 students, creating a need

for change in school organization. Over a six-year period, the Cherokee school hoped to

become a fully functioning educational system including, an elementary school, junior

high school, and a high school. After all programs were implemented the Cherokee

school was studied by Western Carolina University. From 1970 to 1975 the study showed

that the Cherokee students were making significant gains in academic achievement.

Beginning in 1970, 20.8% of fourth grade students were scoring above the national norm,

and by 1975, 43% of fourth grade students were performing above the national norm.

Over time the Cherokee schools became academically successful by changing their

school organization.

       Moffet (1975), an Associate Professor of Education at California State University,

Fullerton, had been out of the elementary school setting for seven years and wanted to

better understand why schools were beginning to change their school’s organizational

structure. He wanted to work directly with the students, so he spent time as a fifth grade

teacher at Riverdale Elementary School in Orange, California, during the 1973-1974

school year. While in the classroom, Moffet came to many conclusions about

departmentalized classrooms and noted the changes he saw in the students. Moffet

discovered that not all the teachers taught subjects that they preferred, but there was more

planning time available for lesson plans, the fifth grade students appeared to need more

security, the class time was controlled by the rotation schedule, it was difficult to know

the needs of each individual student, there was little collaboration between the fifth grade

teachers, and parents had a hard time communicating with three teachers. Moffet (1975)

also noticed that the students appeared to lack values and did not seem to be college

bound or looking forward to their futures. Based on his overall experience, Moffet felt

that changing the school organization was not beneficial for the students or the teachers.

       The classroom setting has a large impact on how successful a student can be,

Oppenlander (1970) conducted a study to discover what kind of classroom interaction

resulted in constructive attitudes. He focused his study on sixth grade students in a

departmentalized setting, since they saw more than one teacher a day. Oppenlander

hypothesized that the pupil group and not necessarily the teacher, changed the classroom

interaction. The students were grouped based on academic ability. He used the high and

low sections. For the observations the “Flanders and Soar interpretive techniques” were

used to measure pupil effect (Oppenlander), and a student questionnaire. Observations

and questionnaires revealed that there was a significant difference in the way students

attitudes changed in regards to teachers and peers. The study concluded that there is a

correlation with academic attitudes in relation to the teacher as well as the students in the

classroom; therefore in a departmentalized structure student attitudes could differ

depending on the relationship between the student and the teacher teaching the subject.

       Jarvis and Fleminng (1965) described the reaction of sixth grade students at

Devenshire Elementary School in Skokie, Illinois, when a team teaching program was

implemented. Students were placed into groups by academic achievement, instruction

was taught in both small and large groups. Students could be in a class with up to 75

students to as low as 4 students. Students were interviewed and asked about their

experiences after they had participated in the program for five months. Student responses

revealed that they preferred team teaching, but did not enjoy the larger class sizes. The

student responded that they were first overwhelmed with the team teaching, but learned

to adjust. This variation of departmentalization proved to be successful for the students at

Devonshire Elementary School.

       Another program that proved to be successful for the teachers and students was

studied by Butzin, Carroll, and Lutz (2006), at South Heights Elementary School in

Kentucky’s Henderson County School District. The school established a program called

Changing How Instruction for Learning is Delivered (CHILD), which was a variation of

departmentalization and looping. All students were taught core subjects by one teacher,

and they kept the same teachers for three years, assuming they began in third grade. The

program was tested in third, fourth, and fifth grade. At the start of the second year

teachers already knew their students and could begin the year knowing what to expect of

their students. Standardized tests were used to see if academic achievement was

improving. After one year, the students were outperforming students in self-contained

classrooms. By 2001, the school was close to meeting the goals set by the state. After five

years of CHILD, South Heights Elementary School received recognition as a National

School Change Award winner.

       The following theory about departmentalization was studied by McGrath and Rust

(2002), when a school is departmentalized there will be both a decrease in academic

achievement and a loss of instructional minutes, due to transitions between classes. The

subjects of the study were 197 fifth and sixth grade students from a rural school district in

Tennessee. All students attended self-contained classes until fourth grade. School A was

departmentalized in fifth and sixth grade and School B was departmentalized in sixth

grade. Academic achievement was measured using the norm referenced Tennessee

Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). The data for transition time was by direct

observation in the classrooms for two full days. The study revealed that self-contained

students performed better in language and science for both fifth and sixth grades. There

was very little difference found in reading, math, and social studies. Test results showed

that all groups had shown improvement from the previous assessment. The data for

transition time determined that transitions were more efficient in self-contained classes,

but instructional minutes per class were not significantly different. The author felt that

self-contained classes performed higher academically.

       Again comparing departmental and non-departmental, Woods (1959) used eighth

grade students from School A and School B as subjects. School A was departmental and

School B was non-departmental. The two schools were located in the same area, both

economically dependent upon the same industry. The socio-economics of the two schools

was very similar. The Otis Quick-Scoring Mental Ability Test was given to both sets of

students to determine if their mental ability was also similar. The test revealed that

School A had a higher intelligence score than School B. The two schools were given the

Stanford Achievement Test in October and again in May. The assessments were

compared, School A made a gain of 5.1 and School B made a gain of 13.1. Woods (1959)

concluded the non-departmental, School B was more successful.

       Caliste (1975) explored the academic achievement between students who

followed the traditional elementary organization to students who did not. He conducted a

study to determine whether or not a school’s organizational pattern made a difference in

academic achievement over time. Caliste compared 12th grade, grade point average

(GPA) of K-8 students with 12th grade GPA of 7-8 students in order to determine

differences over a four-year period. He also analyzed the perceptions of their school

experiences. The K-8 school structure consisted of self-contained classrooms through all

grades, the 7-8 school structure consisted of departmentalized classrooms for grades 7-8.

The results revealed that there was no significant difference between students’ GPA, nor

were their significant differences in their school experiences.

       Similarly to Caliste, Harris (1996) conducted a study to determine if academic

achievement differed for departmentalized or non-departmentalized sixth grade students.

A sample of thirty students from a departmentalized program and a sample of thirty

students from a self-contained program were used to conduct the study. To compare

academic achievement, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) was used as a pretest and a

posttest. The fifth grade 1994 test results were used as the pretest, and the sixth grade

1995 results were used as the posttest. The pretest indicated that there was not a

significant difference in test results for both groups of students. The results of the posttest

showed that there was a significant difference, when comparing the mean score. The self-

contained students had a mean of 6.1 and the departmentalized students had a mean of

5.51. Harris (1996) concluded that her research did not support nor did it discredit

departmentalization, rather Harris compared her findings to those of Asplaugh and

Harting (1995), who state that during a transition year, it can be expected to see a

decrease in test scores.

                            Variations of Departmentalization

       Departmentalization can be implemented in a variety of ways. The literature

provided insight on the diverse approaches that have been attempted and the possible

advantages that come from implementing departmentalization.

       Anderson (1962) followed a study that took place in the East Brunswick public

schools; they used a program called Achievement Grouping and Teacher Specialization

Plan. This plan was an alternative to the school organization of self-contained and

included teacher specialization. The theory behind the study was that “specialization

offered several advantages to its students” (Anderson, 1962, p. 245). Advantages

included, the teacher could master one subject and saw two classes a day. The teachers at

East Brunswick public schools went through an in-service program that allowed them to

improve their mastery in one content area. The Brunswick public schools hoped to

achieve, higher academic achievement, insightful learning, and improved social and

emotional growth. Anderson concluded that specialization could improve achievement

for students.

       Gerretson, Bosnick, and Schofield (2008) reported on the Duval County School

District, which implemented a team teaching program to improve student learning and

test scores in mathematics. A survey was used to identify factors with using teacher

specialists in the elementary schools. The survey was used to gather the following

information, areas of specialization, which subject area was being taught, why the

decision was made to use an alternative model, and open ended comments about the

benefits and drawbacks of specialists. Team teaching involved two teachers sharing two

classes of students, many schools referred to it as departmentalization. In third grade 53%

reported using team teaching while in fourth and fifth grade approximately 76% used

team teaching. Eighty-four percent of schools chose specialization to allow for more

preparation time, to allow teachers to focus on one subject. Eighty two percent believed

that mathematics scores would improve with specialization. A benefit that was noticed by

administration was teachers could use their strengths, and some drawbacks were, figuring

out how to pair suitable teacher together and how to schedule the classes. In conclusion,

allowing teachers to specialize offered a great learning environment for both students and


       Departmentalization appeared to be a common option for school organization, the

Des Moines School District (1989) conducted a survey to discover how many of its

elementary school used departmentalization, to what degree, and what variation. The

study demonstrated how departmentalization was used in elementary schools in the

Midwest. The responses were classified into two groups self-contained and

departmentalization. It was discovered that most schools used a degree of

departmentalization. The use of departmentalization ranged from 5% in Kindergarten to

63% in sixth grade. In grades four, five, and six most school districts were not using the

self-contained organization. In conclusion the Des Moines School District discovered that

most schools in the Midwest used a form of departmentalization and the traditional self-

contained classroom was beginning to appear less and less.

       Once the Des Moines School District (1989) established that they had many

school using some extent of departmentalization they wanted to discover what each

school classified as departmentalized. Forty one elementary school principals responded

to the survey. The principals were asked to name the subjects taught by each teacher,

include the number of sections each grade level offered, the current enrollment of the

school, and the perceptions of parents regarding the school organization. Results showed

in first and second grade there were self-contained classes. Departmentalization was used

more in grades three, four, and five. For schools using departmentalization students saw

anywhere from three to five teachers. Third graders usually saw three teachers, and it was

common for fourth and fifth graders to see four teachers. One school reported that fifth

grade students saw five teachers. Principals reported that 85% of parents supported the

school organization of departmentalization. The Des Moines School District concluded

that primary levels preferred self-contained classes while the intermediate preferred

departmentalized classes.

       Across the United States departmentalization has been implemented in a variety

of ways. The American Association of School Administrators (1965) reported on a

nationwide survey that was conducted by the Educational Research Service. The purpose

of the survey was to discover how many schools were implementing departmentalization,

what variation of departmentalization they used, and allowed the responding schools to

explain any advantages and disadvantages about departmentalization pertaining to

students, teachers, and parents. The results confirmed that there were many elementary

schools that used a variation of departmentalization. This survey concluded that many

schools throughout the United States have tried departmentalization, and some schools

continued to use it due to its success. The results of the survey concluded that

departmentalization can be successful for students and teachers when implemented to fit

the needs of the school.

       A school district that hoped to increase the academic success of its students

through school organization changed the structure of one entire elementary school. Reed

(2002) described a four-teacher instructional model used at Colin L. Powell Elementary

School in Conroe Independent School District. The purpose of the study was to describe

the four-teacher model and the school experience of fourth grade students. The four-

teacher model which was created by parents, teachers, and students, it was a high income

area with a student body of 758 students, K-8. Questionnaires were used with a five-point

scale, and distributed to parents, teachers, and students of the fourth grade. The basic

structure of the four-teacher model was eight teachers per grade level, four teachers in

each “community,” and one teacher for each core subject. Students moved with their

homerooms from teacher to teacher. The qualitative data revealed that parents had a

positive opinion about the program. The qualitative data consisted of student, teacher,

and parent written responses. The responses had both positive and negative opinions

about the program including time management, teacher availability, and student maturity.

This four-teacher model appeared to be a successful alternative to school organization.

       Delviscio and Muffs (2007) conducted a study in which the third, fourth, and fifth

grade organizational structure was changed with the hope of increasing academic success.

The administration at Bishop Dunn Memorial School in Newburgh, New York decided to

develop a program of teaching at their school which involved looping and

departmentalization. This study was conducted at a small school with only one teacher

per grade level. The purpose of the new program was to provide more stability in

instruction, increase instructional time, create a bond between teachers working together,

develop a better understanding of the curriculum, and decrease the “transition shock” of

sixth grade. Three teachers were teamed together and each maintained a homeroom class,

each teacher became a specialist in one subject, which is the departmentalization aspect

of the program. The students stayed with their reading, writing, and math teacher for

third, fourth, and fifth grade, which is the looping aspect of the program. To validate the

success of the program, the school used the results of the Iowa Basic Skills Test for the

fourth grade students. Fourth grade was chosen as the sample group because these

students had already participated in the program for two years. Test results indicated a

significant increased in results and they continued to increase for years after the initial


                    Transitioning from Self-Contained to Departmental

       Elementary school organization has often consisted of self-contained classes with

one teacher, students’ later transition to departmental classes at the secondary level. The

students become familiar with the self-contained method and when they transition into

departmentalization they have to learn how to adjust to the new organization.

       Spivak (1956) conducted a study on students who were junior high to determine if

students from self-contained classes or students from departmental classes transitioned

better academically and socially. The junior high was in an under privileged area of

Newark, New Jersey. Spivak hypothesized that students who had been in a

departmentalized setting for two years would have an advantage over the self-contained

as they entered junior high. To compare academic achievement, the student’s grades from

the end of the six-week marking period were used. For data on social adjustment,

personality traits were recorded by the homeroom teacher and it was also noted the

number of times the student was referred to the office or counselor for behavior

problems. It was revealed that after the first term of school the students from the self-

contained classes were performing better both academically and socially. Spivak

concluded that his hypothesis was not correct, students from self-contained classes

actually adjusted better to junior high than students from departmentalized classes.

       Many studies on departmentalization mention the transitional effects from self-

contained classrooms to departmentalized, focusing on academic achievement and social

behaviors, but Lamme (1976) felt that reading habits were just as important. Lamme

conducted a study to see if there was a difference in reading habits as the students

transitioned from self-contained classes to departmentalized classes. The entire fourth

grade of an elementary school in central New York was the subject of the study. At the

start of the study, there were 95 students in fourth grade, for their fifth grade year there

were 91 students, and for their sixth grade year there were 96 students. Sixth grade was

their first year transitioning to departmentalization. The departmentalized classes were

grouped by reading ability. The results of the surveys for all three years showed drastic

changes in the students reading habits. Overall, the reading habits appeared to decrease

when students transitioned to departmentalization but, Lamme (1976) concluded that her

study did not necessarily prove that one method of school organization is better than the


         Mitchell (1994) conducted a study to determine the effects of self-esteem and

academic achievement of students during their transition from self-contained to

departmental. Mitchell hypothesized that elementary students transitioning into middle

school needed to maintain the “one-peer-group” classroom structure, to provided

security, familiarity, and to decrease the negative effects of transitioning. The students

were grouped based on two variations of departmentalization, one group was in a

constant membership, and the other was a fluctuating membership. The constant

membership group consisted of four class rotations with their homeroom class. The

fluctuating membership group was a group of students who had one class together during

their four rotations. The first year of the study 85 seventh grade students were placed in a

constant membership group, while the remaining seventh grade students were placed in a

fluctuating membership group. During the second year, all 170 seventh grade students

were placed in a constant membership group. The first year indicated that the students in

the constant membership group had an increase in self-esteem and increase in

standardized test scores. The second year also indicated that the constant membership

group continued to be successful. Mitchell concluded that departmentalization in

elementary schools proved to be more successful when students maintained a homeroom

when transitioning from one class to another.

       Alspaugh and Harting (1995) conducted a study for the purpose of discovering the

effects of transitioning. Alspaugh and Harting looked for one school with each of the

following grade-level organizations K-4, K-5, K-6, K-7, and K-8 in the Missouri school

districts. The Missouri Mastery and Achievement Test (MMAT) was used to determine

the academic success of the students. Results showed that each grade level which had a

transition from self-contained to departmental had a decrease in test results. This decrease

occurred in both reading and math. Science and social studies did not have significant

changes. Test results from previous years were also reviewed and it was noted that

achievement levels appeared to increase after the first year of transitioning. Alspaugh and

Harting concluded that when there is a transition from self-contained class to

departmentalized class, it is expected to see a loss in academic achievement and scores

will improve after the first year of transitioning.

                   Teacher Knowledge and Preparation for Instruction

       Teacher knowledge is directly related to the academic success of students.

Teacher knowledge begins with potential teachers in college and continues while in the

classroom. Teacher surveys revealed that there was a consensus that teachers felt a need

to focus on the core subjects of reading, writing, and math due to standardized testing

(McCall et al., 2008).

       Yancey (2006) followed a newly established internship program between

Humboldt State University (HSU) School of Education and East Bay Conservation Corps

(EBCC) Elementary Charter School. It was believed that the internship would provide an

enhanced learning experience in a real classroom setting. EBCC was located in an urban

area, while HSU was located in a rural area of California. This program sought to bridge

together the environments of both institutes. The pilot year of the program was the 2005-

2006 school year. Seven candidates worked as full-time interns for the K-5 school while

earning their credential through HSU. During their internship they had to complete one

semester in an upper elementary class and one semester in a primary class, they were

assigned two mentor teachers, and were required to fulfill all school wide duties. By the

spring of 2006, six of the seven interns were still enrolled in the program. The interns

gave interviews about their perceptions of the program, they liked being given the

opportunities to take on the teaching role in the class, allowing them to apply their skills,

but they did not know they would be working such long hours, and they also felt that

there was not enough planning time. Although difficult, the program had proven to be

successful in creating a bridge to improve teacher preparation and expanding the

opportunities available to the pre-service teachers at HSU.

       Similarly, McCall et al. (2008) discussed a project that consisted of current

classroom teachers and potential teachers collaborating to improve the gap in pre-service

teacher preparation. An internship was created with social studies methods students from

the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and classroom teachers from the Oshkosh Area

School District. The internship lasted for two semesters. In the methods class the college

students learned how to integrate social studies into all content areas. The classroom

teachers spoke about the realities of instructional minutes in the classroom. The interns

quickly realized in the classroom there was a limited amount of time for social studies.

Interns, classroom teachers, and student of the methods course kept journals to document

their experiences and classroom discussions. The students in the methods course were

very attentive and appreciated the experience of the classroom teachers. This internship

enhanced the learning for both potential teachers and current teachers.

       Oftentimes reading and math is emphasized over subjects such as science and

social studies. Gess-Newsome (1999) stated that there was a need to increase elementary

teacher knowledge in the subject of science and increase the amount of science that is

being taught in the elementary classroom. Gess-Newsome explored different models for

elementary science instruction, classroom generalists, science support teams,

departmentalization within grade levels, and science specialists. Gess-Newsome gathered

information and put it into a table categorizing the five models under the following

elements, pedagogical knowledge and skill, knowledge of students, knowledge of

curriculum, and time in science instruction. Gess-Newsome discovered that science

specialists were the most qualified but not the most common. Gess-Newsome concluded

that more research is needed to find a way to make sure that all elementary students are

receiving the adequate amount of science instruction.

       Just as teachers in departmentalization focus on one subject, students do the same

when they enter the classroom. Mirra (n.d.) questioned how students could make

interdisciplinary connections in single subject classes, and discovered how teachers

worked together to achieve this. The study was conducted at ACORN Community High

School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Mirra and coworker Honoroff, combined their

classes of Advanced Placement English and United States History to create connections

between the two subjects. Mirra and Honoroff wanted to motivate their students, improve

student achievement, and make the students think critically. Student surveys revealed that

the students worked harder, students enjoyed the classes, and students learned more.

Mirra (n.d.) also discovered that through teacher planning, burnout was lower and

creativity was higher. The study was beneficial because it showed that teacher

collaboration and interdisciplinary teaching can increase teacher instructional preparation

and increase student achievement.

       The self-contained classroom is the most common elementary school organization

used today; Ackerlund (1959) felt that although self-contained maintains a better student-

teacher relationship, it is difficult for the teacher to be knowledgeable and prepared to

teach all subjects. To investigate his theory Ackerlund (1959) surveyed a large school

district in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Teachers were asked about preparation in the areas

of knowledge of subject and methods of teaching. Responses showed that 109 teachers

felt self-contained was the best classroom organization and 122 felt that was it not. Of

those who responded to being qualified to teach all subjects, most felt they were. In

grades K-2, many teachers favored self-contained classroom, but in 3-5 grades teachers

opposed self-contained classes because of the higher demand of content knowledge.

Ackerlund felt that even though a teacher may be prepared to teach all subjects it does not

mean that they enjoy teaching all subjects.

       The Des Moines School District (1989) sent out a survey to Midwest universities

to learn if pre-service teachers were being influence to prefer one school organization

over the other. The school district hoped to discover which philosophy was emphasized

more in teacher preparation programs. The questionnaires were mailed to chairs of

elementary education and educational administration departments at 25 universities in the

Midwest. The participants were asked to express the philosophies of the university and

their personal point of view. Responses to the questionnaire for the primary level

revealed that, 16% of universities stated that they had clear philosophies about classroom

organization. A majority revealed that their personal philosophy was self-contained. For

the intermediate level, 18% of universities stated that they had clear philosophies about

classroom organization. The personal philosophy of the participants was, 29% preferred

self-contained classes, 21% preferred semi-departmentalization, and 19% preferred

departmentalization. The results of the questionnaire revealed a preference in school

organization depending on grade level.

       Marlow and Inman (1997) conducted a survey to determine how teachers were

teaching the subjects, math, science, and social studies. They hoped to determine how

much time was spent teaching these subjects and what materials were being used.

Marlow and Inman hypothesized that teachers relied too much on textbooks and not

enough on hands-on teaching. A random selection of 200 elementary schools throughout

the South and Southeast were given surveys. The survey asked the teachers the following

question “To what extent are the following elements a part of (math, science, social

studies) instruction in your class?” (Marlow & Inman). The majority of the teachers

responded to using textbooks. Teachers cited the following as obstacles for instructions,

lack of appropriate materials, low parental expectations, management and discipline

problems, planning and preparation requirements, and a lack of clear curriculum

expectations. Marlow and Inman’s hypothesis was correct, it appeared that teachers relied

too much on textbooks and were not actively engaging the students in the subjects of

math, science, and social studies.

       The National Center for Educational Statistics (2004) reported on the amount of

preparation that elementary school reading teachers have. The National Center for

Educational Statistics (NCES) 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), asked the

teachers to report the subject matter of their main teaching throughout their day. They

were also asked about their educational attainment, and the subject matter of their

postsecondary majors and minors (National Center for Educational Statistics). Teachers

were classified into three groups, general elementary teacher, who taught reading to one

class, reading specialists, who taught reading to many students such as a pull out setting,

and other reading teacher, who were not assigned to one class but taught reading at least

once per day. It was discovered that reading specialist were likely to have their masters

degree in reading, while general education teacher were likely to have their masters in

elementary education. The surveyed showed that reading specialists had the most

preparation to teach reading, but specialists were not the largest amount of teachers who

taught reading. It was discovered that in 1999-2000, there was 29,000 elementary reading

specialist, 32,000 other elementary teachers, and 1 million general education elementary

teachers. From the results it is visible that general education teachers do not have as much

preparation as a specialist.

       Through this review of the literature, it is evident that by altering the school

organization to departmentalization there is not a clear conclusion of its benefits. Many

studies mentioned the lack of data to support departmentalization. When one alters the

school organization there are other elements that are affected, such as students

transitioning and teachers learning to alter their instruction. This does not mean that

offering change is a terrible choice, but one must look at every aspect of school

organization before make such a decision. The literature presented some changes that had

occurred, even the manner in which college courses were offered to better prepare its

students for the classroom expectations. The literature also presented the concerns of the

students transitioning, including academic achievement, social behavior, and learning

habits. Altering the school organization may be one option to improve academic

achievement, but it is going to take a lot of work before changes may be seen.

                                      CHAPTER IV

                            Critical Analysis of the Literature

       The studies presented in the literature included some of the following

methodological characteristics, (a) the use of surveys, both on a point scale and open

ended responses, (b) comparing standardized test scores, and (c) direct classroom

observation. Many of the studies conducted were older than a decade, which questioned

if the studies were still applicable to today. The most common method used was surveys,

which were both quantitative and qualitative. This information appeared to give a broad

number of figures and responses.

       The literature attempted to deal with school organization in the United States and

whether a change in organization would prove or disprove as being beneficial to increase

academic achievement. Although departmentalization is one option of school

organization there is limited credible research to clearly say that by changing the school

organization, students will perform academically superior (Harris, 1996). The initiative to

change school organization is not a new proposal; discussions of self-contained

organization as opposed to departmentalized organization have been going on for half a

century (Lamme, 1976).

       Many of the studies emphasized how departmentalization or a variation of it, was

implemented one school, for example Reed (2002) described a four-teacher model,

Delviscio and Muffs (2007) described a departmental and looping program, Anderson

(1962) discussed a program which focused on specialization and how to increase teacher

knowledge, while Des Moines Public Schools (1989) discovered how many of their

schools used departmentalization and what variation of it.

       Academic achievement was observed in some studies, many using standardized

test scores to reach a conclusion. Butzin et al. (2006) examined a program called CHILD

which showed significant academic growth and was even recognized as a National

School Change winner. McGrath and Rust (2002) felt that self-contained students would

perform higher academically because of more instructional time with one teacher,

although they did find that the instructional minutes did not differ greatly, and the self-

contained students did perform higher in two academic areas.

       Many studies were conducted within one school year and concluded that there

was improvement in academic achievement but not enough sufficient data to show long

term success (Caliste, 1975); therefore it appeared that there was a need to conduct more

research on departmentalization and for longer periods of time (McGrath & Rust, 2002,

Reed, 2002). Harris (1996) felt the study of Alspaugh and Harting (1995) was the most

sensible. Alspaugh and Harting (1995) stated that when students transitioned from self-

contained to departmental there would be a loss in academic achievement, but after the

first year scores did appear to improve. With that in mind Harris (1996) conducted her

own study and results did show a decrease for a transition year, although she did not

continue to see if scores would recover. Most studies were not longitudinal, therefore it

was impossible to discredit or praise one method of school organization over the other.

       When the classroom structure shifted from one teacher who sees one class, to two

or more teachers that see many classes there is an impact on the students and teachers.

When the school organization is changed students must learn how to adjust to the new

method. While the transition from middle school to high school has been given attention,

the transition from elementary to middle school needs more attention. Many elementary

students leave the self-contained class for a quasi-departmentalized middle level school

where the continuous change of class membership is accepted (Mitchell, 1994); the

students must learn on their own how to adjust to this alteration. Student adjustment to

departmentalization has shown to alter their academic achievement, social behavior, and

learning habits. It seemed as though there needs to be more of a concentration on

assisting elementary students adjust to changes in school organization.

       Teachers directly influence their students in a variety of ways. A good student-

relationship can affect student achievement; elementary students need to feel security

(Moffet, 1975), teachers can influence the reading habits of their students (Lamme,

1976), and the teachers aptitude and interest of a subject can influence how the students

will perform (Ackerlund, 1959). Combining all these factors puts a lot of pressure on

what is expected of an elementary school teacher.

       Elementary teachers are expected to be a “jack-of-all-trades” who is equally

strong in all areas of the curriculum (Chan & Jarman, 2004). The elementary organization

of self-contained classes did not take into account that it is rare a teacher has considerable

competence in more than one or two subjects (Anderson, 1962). In Ackerlund’s (1959)

study is was revealed in a survey that out of 260 teachers surveyed only four teacher

considered themselves well prepared to teach all subjects.

       To relieve some of the stress from elementary school teachers, specialization has

been offered as an alternative, specialization in one or two areas can offer quality

instruction as a more practical option (Gerretson et al., 2008). Specialization allows

teachers to stay on top of new developments in teaching methods, materials, equipment,

and professional literature. It is easier for a specialized teacher to stay informed about one

or two subjects rather than all subjects (Anderson, 1962). Mirra (n.d.) discovered that

when team teaching the students saw the collaboration between teachers and it created a

positive classroom environment, the student were excited to work toward higher goals.

When students saw more than one teacher a day, they seemed to adjust quickly, they

made more friends, and most of all they found school more interesting than before

(Lambert, as cited in Jarvis & Fleming, 1965). Although many studies appeared to be

successful for teachers, much of the literature did not prove to be successful for the

ultimate goal of increasing student achievement.

       The dates of the studies ranged from 1956 to 2008. When searching for articles

there was a limited amount of research conducted on departmentalization therefore

studies spanned over 50 years. In this time the elementary grade span has been altered.

Currently elementary grade span is most common K-5, which over time has shifted from

K-8. Throughout the literature there are references of studies ranging from fourth grade to

eighth grade, even mentioning transitioning into ninth grade, this is due to the shift in

elementary grade span. Comparing fourth grade to eighth grade is not entirely accurate

because there is a significant difference in student maturity, curriculum requirements, and

content knowledge; therefore, this large span of time is not a good representation of how

beneficial or non-beneficial departmentalization could be.

       In conclusion, departmentalization does not appear to increase academic

achievement. This review of the literature provided cases which showed some benefits

and disadvantages of departmentalization for both students and teachers. There were also

many flaws to the studies, including the length of time in which the study was conducted,

the year in which the studies have been conducted, and the inconsistency of the authors

stating they did not feel that one method of school organization was preferential over the

other. Even though self-contained and departmentalized school organization had been

debated for many years, research has still not proven that departmentalization is going to

significantly improve academic achievement in elementary schools.

                                       CHAPTER V

                        Conclusions and Implications for Teaching

       Going back to the original four research questions, the literature revealed the

following conclusions and suggestions about departmentalization.

                                        Question #1

       In what ways does departmentalization influence elementary student


       The literature did not prove that departmentalization in elementary schools would

increase student achievement. Much of the literature showed an increase in academic

achievement with students from self-contained classes. Therefore departmentalization is

not going to solve the problem of minimal increase in elementary student achievement. A

suggestion would be that additional studies on departmentalization should be followed

for longer periods of time.

                                        Question #2

       In what ways does teachers’ preparation change after they are teaching in a

departmentalized grade?

       It was revealed in the literature that teachers have to alter their manner of teaching

and increase their content knowledge when departmentalization is implemented. In

departmentalization teachers become subject specialists, creating a need for more in-

services to increase their knowledge in one subject rather than all subjects.

Departmentalization appears to offer great benefits for teachers, but does not account for

increasing student achievement. A future suggestion would be to test two classes on the

same subject, one which is taught by a classroom generalist and one which is taught by a

classroom specialist, to observe if the teachers’ instructional knowledge and preparation

affects the students performance. Use of a true experimental design on this topic would

be suggested, to determine if there are valid impacts of either method.

                                       Question #3

       How does departmentalization affect students academically and socially as they

transition from self-contained to departmental classes?

       All studies which were conducted on students’ transition from elementary

education to middle education concluded that students were not well prepared for the

change. Many studies found that the change in school organization had a negative impact

on academic achievement and students’ social behavior. These negative impacts tended

to occur at the beginning of the transition from self-contained to departmentalized. The

literature demonstrated that students need assistance in adjusting to such a big change.

For students to adjust to this change, a future suggestion is to conduct a study in which

students’ transition gradually to departmentalization by possibly beginning with semi-

departmentalization, then to three class rotations, and slowly increase the number of

rotations while also separating students from the traditional homeroom setting.

                                       Question #4

       What are the common characteristics of schools that implement

departmentalization in elementary school?

       The single most important characteristic of all the schools presented in the

literature was that theses schools were all looking for a way to increase academic

achievement. These schools were searching for a new method to revitalize the school

atmosphere; some schools had minimal parental support, were located in low socio-

economic urban parts of the country, had high teacher turnover rates, and had

diminishing test scores. When school chose to implement departmentalization, many

schools followed an organization similar to the four teacher model. This included four

teachers per grade one teacher for the core academic subjects. Future research should

include studies in schools which may not necessarily need to increase academic

achievement. By conducting further research in high performing schools the impact of

organizational changes could be evaluated. If the high performing schools find that

student performance decreases as a result of departmentalization, this finding would be

significant. By changing the school structure in a high performing school, the results of

departmentalization could be evaluated and then compared to current studies to see if

new implications for further research are found.

       Further suggestions for research on departmentalization would be to conduct

longitudinal studies. Studies could include, whether or not students from

departmentalized classes have higher high school graduation rates. Do students from

departmentalized classes have a hard time when initially transitioning from a self-

contained class and is there an increase in academic achievement after their first or

second year of transitioning. Many of the studies presented in the review of the literature

were conducted for short periods of time and often during the initial year of transition

from a self-contained class to a departmentalized class. Another suggestion would be to

conduct studies which include minorities. It is know that there is a need to close the

academic gap with minorities, while many schools choose to use departmentalization to

improve their academic scores it would be beneficial to see if departmentalization could

help to close the academic gap with minorities. More importantly, gathering feedback

from the students would be beneficial. The opinion of the students who were in the

departmentalized classes was often not included. It would be beneficial to understand

how the students feel about the transition and classroom organization.

       The results of this review of the literature will be disseminated in the following

manners, posting the availability to examine the review of literature on the Clark County

School District Insider and a presentation at a staff meeting. This review of the literature

will provide schools who may be interested in departmentalization valuable information.


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