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Teaching teams and student achievement in Vermont's middle schools

Steven B John, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the 1990s many educators asserted that interdisciplinary teams of teachers working with students in middle grades 5–8 were more effective than traditional instruction in isolated disciplines. Research reported elements of team teaching positively affect student learning, behavior, and achievement (Arhar, 1990, 1994; Arhar & Irvin, 1995; Dickinson & Erb, 1997; Flowers, Mertens & Mulhall, 1999, 2000; Mertens, Flowers & Mulhall, 1999). This study identifies the characteristics and practices of teaching teams that correlate with higher student performance in mathematics, reading and writing in the eighth grade. Student performance as measured by the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program (NECAP) was compared across teams teaching 7th graders in Vermont. The NECAP scores were adjusted to control for household income within each school district. The independent variables of teaching team characteristics and practices were measured by a team self-assessment survey developed using dimensions of teaching teams identified by the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), an individual questionnaire completed confidentially about how team members work together, and a survey for principals to identify demographic characteristics of each teaching team. This study found: (1) teaching teams giving students greater roles in decision-making correlate positively with student performance in reading and mathematics; (2) teaching teams communicating with parents via email or website correlate positively with student performance in mathematics; and (3) three descriptors of internal teaching team dynamics are associated positively with student performance. The study also found elements of teaching teams that correlate negatively with student performance. These include: (1) team identity including, motto, logo or mascot, mission, song, apparel, and team awards for students; (2) the extent of control teaching teams have over instruction; and (3) the use of student advisory groups. Finally, the study explored the impact of how teaching teams are formed (careful consideration does not impact effectiveness), the integration of a special education teacher on teams (negative impact on student achievement), and overall school size (schools with larger enrollments performed better).

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

John, Steven B, "Teaching teams and student achievement in Vermont's middle schools" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3325121.