Middle School Teaming

Two researchers from Northern Kentucky University, Christopher Cook and Shawn Faulkner, conducted a study of two middle schools in Kentucky that had effective teaming at the middle grades level.  This study clearly listed the benefits of having common planning and meeting time at the middle school level, a crucial time for students in their educational career.  In order to support students at the middle school level, it is important for common planning time and meetings to occur.  Although this model can be costly, when properly implemented with tight-loose leadership from the administration, the benefit to student learning and support is nearly endless.

Cook and Faulkner make the argument for three types of meetings at the middle school level:
  1. Interdisciplinary Teams: these teams, made up of adults that teach different subjects but the same students, should meet regularly, to address:
    • Scheduling changes
    • Student concerns
    • Students receiving services
    • Behavior issues in classrooms
    • Team activity prep work
    • Team field trip
    • Student growth and progress
    • Scheduling/coordinating assessment schedules for students
    • Discuss transferable skills across content areas (e.g. reading comprehension, study skills).
    According to the researchers, "Daily or regular common planning time is essential so that teams can plan ways to integrate the curriculum, analyze test data, review student work, discuss current research, and reflect on the effectiveness of instructional approaches."
  2. Grade Level Teams: these teams are also interdisciplinary, but are larger than the Interdisciplinary Teams, and met less frequently, and often on "as-needed" basis. These teams should focus on:
    • Housekeeping tasks
    • Grade-level field trips
      • Awards programs
        • Assemblies
        • Special programs and schedules
        • School policy implementation at the grade level
        • Assessment demands of the grade
        • Grade-level or school homework policies
        • Grading policies, at a grade-appropriate level.
        1. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): these teams are made up of teachers who typically teach the same content in the same grade level. These PLCs have the potential to most directly impact student learning and progress. These PLC groups should be meeting regularly, to:
          • Discuss curriculum alignment
          • Develop ommon assessments
          • Analyze student data
          • Share best practices
          • Share ideas and resources
          • Share what works and does not work
          • Planning daily lessons, assessments and scope and sequence calendars
          • Share different teaching strategies
          • Outline units
          • Compare assessments
          • Have a outlet for teachers to discuss delivering the most appropriate instruction.
          PLCs should remain focused on curriculum and assessment functions, whereas Interdisciplinary Teams and Grade Level Teams are a more appropriate forum for student-specific behavioral/academic issues and housekeeping functions.
        Cook and Faulkner go on to describe a few other signs of successful middle-level teams:
        • Printed agendas
        • Recorded minutes, forwarded to building level administrators
        • Commitment from building-level administrators and central office administrators
        • Administrative trust that teachers will use their times wisely to focus on students
        • Culture of high expectations, trust, and professionalism
        • The view that planning/meeting time is "sacred"
        • PLCs should meet at least once a week, and more if possible; flexibility should be key with scheduling Interdisciplinary Team and Grade Level team meetings
        • All team meetings should have clearly defined purposes and expectations (by agenda use)
        • Reasonable goals, able to be accomplished during meeting time frame
        • An unwavering focus on students
        This study provided affirmation that many middle schools are doing good work already, and that there is always room for improvement, as we work to "tighten up" the purpose of meetings, to focus on student learning and supporting one another.

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