Ninth-grade interdisciplinary teams: A tool for professional development

Date of Completion

January 2002


Education, Administration|Education, Secondary




Educational research indicates that teacher collaboration can support school reform (P. Schlechty, 1993; Hargreaves, 1992; Fullan, 1995; Little, 1987). Teaming, one form of collaboration provides opportunities to increase teacher satisfaction in their work and lead to instructional improvement. Researchers believe that with collaborative teams, based on a teacher-driven or embedded approach to professional development, teachers are more likely to attempt and perfect pedagogical techniques central to current instructional improvement movements. (Hall, 1990; Fullan, 1992; Darling-Hammond, 1994) Time spent in professional development and collaborative activities are associated with the perception of significant improvements in teaching. (Fullan, 1992; Husband & Short, 1994) ^ Many Connecticut high schools use interdisciplinary teams to assists students with the transition from middle school to high school. However, research has not addressed how these teams operate and promote instructional improvement. The purpose of this study is to investigate how ninth grade interdisciplinary teams serve as a professional development strategy in promoting teacher involvement in instructional improvement, how topics and content discussed during team meetings and the design and structure of teams support professional development. ^ The high schools, for this study, are publicly identified as having successfully implemented ninth-grade interdisciplinary teams and wish to improve their instructional program. This scenario allowed the observation of teams whose primary objective is instructional improvement and demonstrated the dynamics of teams accomplishing this task. This case study relied on ethnographic techniques of observation, interviewing and document analysis. Development of effective teams is resource intensive (planning, scheduling time for team meetings and curriculum design). The result of this study, which is a thick description of team operations explaining how team collaboration can provide professional development and improve instruction practices, should be important to educational leaders so that effective teams can be developed in a timely fashion with judicious use of resources. ^ Understanding how effective teams function, should inform future efforts and policy supporting teaming. Studying the essential components of successful collaborations and the positive influence on professional development and teacher instruction should provide a guide for educational leaders to implement successful collaborative teams as a form of school improvement. ^