A study of fifth -grade teachers' grade -level meetings: The complexities of teachers' group work

Rosanne L Kurstedt, Fordham University


As the collaborative work of teachers continues to increase through job-embedded professional development, such as grade-level meetings, the need to understand the complexities of educational settings that promote teachers' joint work is critical. Therefore, this study investigated the institutionally mandated grade-level meetings of a group of fifth-grade teachers. Analysis of multiple data sources including audiotaped grade-level meetings and teacher interviews, field notes, transcriptions of the grade-level meetings and interviews, and written documents revealed four findings: In the institutionally mandated grade-level meetings, unwritten rules were evident and left unexplored; the institutionally mandated grade-level meetings' professional discussions were superficial; the informal and casual tone of the institutionally mandated grade-level meetings provided an opportunity for teachers to get to know their grade-level colleagues; and as represented in the institutionally mandated grade-level meeting, teachers avoided conflict. This conflict-avoidance stance was realized in the grade-level teachers' curriculum choices and interactions with the principal. Based on the four findings, four hypotheses were developed with regard to grade-level meetings specifically, and teachers' group work in general. The first hypothesis was, if grade-level meetings are to achieve their desired results of improving and informing professional practice, context and belief factors must be addressed and reflected upon before, during, and after implementation. The second hypothesis was that, while educational settings such as grade-level meetings are established to elicit and support change, they may in fact perpetuate the status quo when unwritten rules go unchallenged. The third hypothesis was that, if grade-level meetings are to support the development of professional learning communities, teachers need to know, internalize, and use critical professional discourse and reflection skills, both in the grade-level meetings and as part of their daily interactions and decision making. The fourth hypothesis was that educational settings, such as grade-level meetings, help build trust among colleagues. A Three-Dimensional Approach to successful group work was developed addressing the complexities that became evident throughout the analysis. This study's import is that enhanced understanding of the activities established to promote the collaborative work of teachers will increase the likelihood that school reform efforts that embrace teachers' collaborative work will succeed.

Subject Area

Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Kurstedt, Rosanne L, "A study of fifth -grade teachers' grade -level meetings: The complexities of teachers' group work" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3302115.