Middle school interdisciplinary team organization: Perspectives of teamed teachers

Joseph Michael Corriero, Fordham University


In response to the challenge to better prepare young adolescents for the 21st century, reformers have focused their efforts on changing the organizational structure and altering the work relationships of those who work in middle schools. Increasingly, interdisciplinary team organization has become the preferred organizational structure of middle schools. Concerns and troublesome issues persist, however, as schools rush to organize teachers and students into teams. The purpose of this study was to examine what it means to be a member of an interdisciplinary teaching team from the perspective of participating teachers. The study explored the questions of what unites teachers into a team and how teachers resolve the tensions between individual and collective responsibilities. Further, the study examined the role of the principal in fostering collaborative relationships among teachers. The study used the principles of qualitative research. A successfully functioning team of four teachers provided the data for the study. Data were collected on-site through interviews and observations of the participants and the examination of relevant documents. The study's findings indicated that the teamed teachers were united by their shared educational philosophy and a common desire to create a caring, nurturing environment for their students. The four teachers succeeded in providing a strong academic program in an environment pervaded with an ethic of care. The findings also demonstrated that the teachers balanced their individual and collective responsibilities by adapting teaming to meet their needs. Further, the findings suggested that important professional learning occurred as a result of teamed interactions, and that the principal played a significant role in fostering collaborative relationships among teachers. Although the teachers cooperated to develop interdisciplinary activities and to share information about students, the findings indicated that much of their work together represented weak forms of collaboration. Traditional norms of non interference persisted, particularly in areas related to subject area teaching and pedagogy. The teachers did not use team organization to make mutual decisions about how to solve problems of instruction. While the structure of teaming provided the potential for joint work, there was little evidence of the truly interdependent work required of strong forms of collaboration. Interdisciplinary team organization has the potential to substantially alter traditional work relationships among teachers and offers opportunities to enrich the teaching and learning environment. Through further discussion and exploration of the issues involving teaming, interdisciplinary team organization may be able to fulfill its rich promise.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Corriero, Joseph Michael, "Middle school interdisciplinary team organization: Perspectives of teamed teachers" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9708258.