Elementary school education is one of the basic aspects that lay the foundation of a person’s intellectual development. Therefore, the right approach towards children’s education in school is vital. The right teaching policies and regulations are the ones that support the students’ high performance in all kinds of subjects as well as the teachers’ professional growth. For the younger students, communication is very important because it helps them to develop the skills of socialization that increase the level of social adaptation throughout life. For this reason, the educational programs must take into consideration the multiple factors that make sure that the children spend their time at school efficiently and productively.
Departmentalization in Elementary School
Nowadays, most US elementary schools adopt “a self-contained model” of education (Chang, Munoz, & Koshewa, 2008, p. 131). This model implies that the students are taught by the same teacher every day. Although the traditional generalist model is proved to be less stressful for the children and allows the teacher’s communication with class at a more personal level, it also has many disadvantages. Therefore, the application of the departmentalized model in elementary schools could support a more profound knowledge of the subjects both by teachers and students, increase the efficiency of class management and would let teachers save time on the lessons preparation.
Teachers’ Level of Job Satisfaction and Professional Growth
The generalized model of education doesn’t provide sufficient time for knowledge development and the lessons preparation. As a result, the teachers’ knowledge deficiency negatively impacts the class performance. The excessive workload puts a lot of pressure on the educational specialists. Eventually, these challenges the generalist teachers face in schools decrease the level of job satisfaction. It is reported that burnout due to the heavy workloads is one of the principal causes for teachers’ leaving the profession (Strohl, Schmertzing, Schmertzing, & Hsiao, 2014, p. 113).
The previous research of departmentalization proves it to be highly effective in teaching mathematics and sciences in elementary school (Liu, 2011, p. 43). The reported benefits of this method implementation are the increase of the teachers’ proficiency level and obtaining a more profound knowledge of the subject. The specialization in one subject allows teachers to feel confident and increase the level of preparation for lessons (Strohl, Schmertzing, & Schmertzing, 2014, p. 13).
The collaboration between the teachers benefits the educational processes because it provokes open-mindedness, professional self-education, and growth. The benefits of teamwork include the free flow of information and sharing experience, the increased level of teachers’ enthusiasm, commitment and class coordination, creative approach towards teaching, and the workload decrease (Reid, 2012, p. 19). As the result, the teachers manage the challenges in the class organization more effectively, and the level of job satisfaction becomes higher. Communication with more than one teacher throughout the day helps students to improve their understanding of subject matters, evolve the skills of critical thinking and problem-solving.
Nowadays, the high level of the US students’ outperformance in mathematics and sciences is recognized on the national scale (Liu, 2011, p. 42). Thus, the issue of the specialization in one subject draws a lot of attention and is exposed to the investigation in multiple research papers.
As it was mentioned above, when the teachers need to teach many subjects throughout the day, the heavy workload puts a lot of pressure on them and the working productivity declines. On the contrary, the departmentalized model allows teachers to major in a subject and provide the students with sufficient and comprehensive instruction. Therefore, when speaking of the students’ performance, departmentalization is more valuable and beneficial for elementary education than the self-contained model.
Efficiency of Time and Class Management
Departmentalization has many advantages of the administrative and the organizational character. In the previous research, the emphasis is made on the time-saving qualities of departmentalization and its and the provoked efficiency of the class organization. Lesson planning becomes easier, and the teacher obtains the opportunity to elaborate the tools that support the better transition of knowledge to students (Strohl, Schmertzing, & Schmertzing, 2014, p. 5).
Potential Disadvantages of Departmentalization
The findings of the multiple studies show that departmentalization provokes better outcomes in academic achievements and class management. However, the reported disadvantages include the lower level of personal communication with the students and the increased level of students’ stress.
The purpose of the research was the evaluation of the findings in five articles. The articles that were analyzed are devoted to the same subject of departmentalization and the investigation of its impacts on the students’ and teachers’ performance in elementary school.
In their article, Strohl and colleagues focus on the teachers’ level of job satisfaction and performance in two different educational models (Strohl, Schmertzing, Schmertzing, & Hsiao, 2014, p. 119). As a part of their research, they evaluate the previous literature to define the concepts and principles of the teacher’s workloads and stress level. The authors implement the methods of qualitative research in their paper. The sample of the study consists of twenty-nine elementary school teachers in Georgia. The main data collection tools were surveys with open-ended questions and the Likert-scaled elements, and focus groups.
In the next article, Strohl, Schmertzing, and Schmertzing investigate the teachers’ efficacy and its relation to the students’ performance. The authors focus on the math and science class performance, and the importance of the “content specialists’” methods of teaching in these subjects (Strohl, Schmertzing, & Schmertzing, 2014, p. 4). Overall, there were twelve participants involved in this study, and the main data collection tools included interviews and focus groups. The authors used the teachers’ notes, thoughts, and reflections on the experience as well.
In her qualitative research paper, Reid (2012) uses the analysis of data and literature. The data collection tools include interviews and surveys. The distinct feature of the current paper is the evaluation of teamwork in teaching. The author pays greater attention to the issues of organization and communication within the team of teachers. In the findings of her research, Reid (2012) claims that the content specialist model in combination with teamwork helps to decrease the workload and increase job satisfaction (p. 19).
Liu (2011) investigates the strengths and weaknesses of the departmentalized model with a focus on mathematics performance. The teachers’ participated in the study gave profound answers to the open-ended questions. The discussion served as the material for the analysis and findings. Although the results of the research paper are extensive and cover a lot of issues from multiple perspectives, the used methods and tools induce a high level of subjectivity which can be regarded as the limitation of the study’s findings.
Chang and colleagues evaluate the impact of the departmentalization educational model on the younger students. The research methods and instrumentation are quantitative – the authors have primarily analyzed the statistical data collected through the questionnaires. The participants of the study are students from eight American schools. The main claim of the research is that communication between students and teachers is crucial in elementary school because it inspires mutual trust and respect, and it helps the students to feel integrated into the class environment (Chang, Munoz, & Koshewa, 2008). According to the findings of this study, departmentalization is potentially inappropriate for elementary school education due to the reduction of the personal level of the teacher-student relationships.
Due to the differences in approaches, methodologies, and instrumentations, the results of the measurements conducted by the different authors covered the issue from distinct perspectives and, at some points, appear contradictory. For example, Strohl and her colleagues claim in their article that departmentalized model positively affects the communication between the students and teachers while Chang, Munoz, and Koshewa come to an opposite conclusion in their work (Strohl, Schmertzing, & Schmertzing, 2014; Chang, Munoz, & Koshewa, 2008). The differences in the results demonstrate that the given research findings are exposed to subjectivity. The limitations of the research create barriers for the implementation of the theoretical knowledge in practice because they provoke doubt in the educational institutions’ administration.
However, there is a large number of similarities in the articles’ conclusions. The authors emphasize the positive impact of departmentalization on the students’ performance in the science classes, the teachers’ job satisfaction and professional growth, and the efficiency of time and class management.
The current analysis of the different research papers related to the subject of departmentalization in elementary school education helped to detect the controversial character of the findings and exposed some areas of the research that require further investigation. For attaining a higher credibility degree, further research must investigate the issue applying more of the quantitative research methods and tools. The numbers and statistics collected from a larger group of participants ensure the reliability of data and the following analysis.
Chang, F., Munoz, M., & Koshewa, S. (2008). Evaluating the impact of departmentalization on elementary school students. Planning and Changing, 39(3&4), 131-145.
Liu, F. (2011). Pre-service teachers’ perceptions of departmentalization of elementary schools. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 7(1), 40-53.
Reid, K. (2012). A study regarding content specialist team-teaching at the elementary level in a southwest Washington school. Wisdom of Practice: An Online Journal of Action Research, 1-20.
Strohl, A., Schmertzing, L., & Schmertzing, R. (2014). Elementary teachers’ experiences and perceptions of departmentalized instruction: A case study. Journal of Case Studies in Education, 6, 1-17.
Strohl, A., Schmertzing, L., Schmertzing, R., & Hsiao, E. (2014). Comparison of self-contained and departmentalized elementary teachers’ perceptions of classroom structure and job satisfaction. Journal of Studies in Education, 4(1), 109-127.