Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Common Planning Time

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Common Planning Time

Article excerpt

All the key documents explicating the essential features of effective middle level schools highlight the importance of organizational structures that foster teaching, learning, and meaningful relationships. This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents (National Middle School Association, 2010) identifies interdisciplinary teams as one of these organizational features and reminds us that these teams need "daily or regular common planning time" so they "can plan ways to integrate the curriculum, analyze assessment data, examine student work, discuss current research, and reflect on the effectiveness of instructional approaches being used" (p. 32). Teachers also use common planning time to address management issues related to individual student and parent concerns, the day-to-day management of the team, and scheduling of activities.

Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1989) also addressed the need for teachers to have greater authority to make decisions that affect the educational experiences of their students. The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development noted,

Teachers on teams should exercise creative control over how curricular goals are to be reached for their teams. Teachers should collectively allocate budget and space for their team, choose instructional methods and materials for classroom use, identify and develop interdisciplinary curricular themes, schedule classes, select field experiences including youth service opportunities, and evaluate students' performance in light of school-wide objectives. (p. 55)

The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development further stated,

Teachers need time to form themselves into smoothly functioning teams. ... They need time to express ideas, talk about students for whom they share responsibility, describe their successes to other teachers, and seek counsel from colleagues on solving problems. (p. 55)

Following the recommendations in these key reports, many middle level schools are organized into interdisciplinary teams that use a common planning time or a combination of both common planning time and individual planning for team members. While the intent of individual planning time may be obvious, it is important to have a clear definition of common planning time for the purpose of this column. Kellough and Kellough (2008) defined common planning time as "A regularly scheduled time during the school day when teachers who teach the same students meet for joint planning, parent conferences, materials preparation, and student evaluation" (p. 394). Also important is a common meaning for an interdisciplinary team. Again, from Kellough and Kellough, an interdisciplinary team is an organizational pattern of two or more teachers representing different core curriculum areas such as science, mathematics, language arts, and social studies. Frequently, teachers from the related arts and specialty areas like physical education and special education are included on such teams.

Based on her review of four large-scale surveys (i.e., Alexander & McEwin, 1989; Epstein & Mac Iver, 1990; McEwin, Dickinson, & Jenkins, 1996; Valentine, Clark, Irvin, Keefe, & Melton, 1993), Arhar (1997) reported that the use of common planning time in middle level schools was increasing. However, more recent anecdotal evidence suggests that more and more middle grades teachers may be in danger of losing their common planning time or have already lost it.

To that end, this column focuses on presenting the research that supports the use of common planning time. We first discuss what we know from existing research, and then address the current gaps in the literature. Finally, we make recommendations regarding future directions for research and steps for creating a shared vision that values common planning time. It is our hope that those who need this evidence can use it to advocate for this integral component of the middle school concept. …

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