TEAIER PiR5PE"T' ANI P"AIICT[liCZ "hO RAI!ZAT. Ll
DI FERIT HIODLUE SICHElS
^'sEY NtlrtiV!?E [fi0
A DI ERTh TI PPE ;TER I I' ;R.D tL E
THIE Ak 'L7RlTY ',. D,
IN PARTILL FULFL-_ENT GE 'H NELL RE IENTiS P 'HE
c i'EE Dr rirThiA% *-.l lO PIrY
The author is sincerely grateful for the assistance and support of
a number of people in the production of this work. She wishes to thank
Dr. P.S. George for the knowledge he shared and for the guidance he
provided during all phases of this research. The research expertise
and assistance of Dr. D.D. Ross were invaluable throughout the research.
Moreover, her careful readings of the chapters produced many significant
changes which enhanced the quality of the work.
The author acknowledges with appreciation the helpful assistance,
support, and encouragement of Dr. A.F. Burns, Dr. S.B. Damico, and
Dr. G. Lawrence, who each made important suggestions and provided
helpful resources during the work. Likewise the author is grateful
to Dr. P. Ashton and Dr. R.B. Webb, who willingly shared resources,
skills, and support, and who involved the author in a funded research
project, NIE Contract Number 400-79-0075, which made possible the
acquisition of research skills, facilitated school entries, and insured
the extensive and accurate documentation of voluminous data from field
observations and interviews. In addition, the author wishes to
acknowledge the project typist, Zulal Balpinar, whose expertise and
objective proofreaoings were critical to the success of this study.
The author is deeply grateful to her parents who have given
their unending love and encouragement throughout her entire education,
and who have modelled enterprising dedication to hard work and the
pursuit of knowledge. Special acknowledgements are also given to her
sisters Lea and Laura for their encouragement and love, and to Martha
Aveni for her marvelous sense of humor and for her inspiring, intel-
lectual curiosity, and to Peggy Runchey for her ideas on right thinking
and for her nurturing friendship. The special joy, wonder, and
inspiration the author has experienced through her son, Jonathan, are
acknowledged with love and a deep respect for the wisdom of children.
Finally, the author wishes to share her most profound gratitude with
her husband, David, for his constant faith, personal clarity and
strength, energy, perspective, and abiding love.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . .
ABSTRACT . . .
I INTRODUCTION . . . . . . .
Background and Context of the Study . . .
Research Questions..... . . . .
Procedures . . . . . . . .
Definition of Terms . . . .
Limitations . . . . . . . . .
Overview of Chapters . . . . . . .
II REVIEW OF LITERATURE... . . . . .
Introduction . . . . . . . . .
The School Context and Teacher Outcomes . .
The Middle School Context: Theory and Research.
Chapter Summary . . . . . .
III METHODOLOGY . . . . . . . . .
Research Apprcach . . . .
Research Sites and Subjects . . . . .
Research Methods . . . . . .
Data Collection . . . . . .
Data Analysis. . . . . .
Validity Measures . . . . .
Limitations........ . . . . .
Summary. . .... . . . . . ....
IV FINDINGS... . . . . . . .
Overview . . . . . .
Teaching at Hidden rc k . . . . . .
Teaching at Long Meadow . . . .
. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .
V SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS. . . . . . . . .. 156
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . 156
Summary of Teachers' Perspectives and Practices at
Hidden Brook Middle School . . . . . . . 157
Summary of Teachers' Perspectives and Practices at
Long Meadow Middle School. . . . . . . . 159
Salient Dimensions of Contrast . . . . . . . 161
Conclusions and Implications . . ... ........ 172
A SUPPLEMENTARY SCHOOL DATA. . . . . . . . . 189
B DATA COLLECTION ITEMS. . . . . . . . . ... 218
C TOOLS USED IN DATA ANALYSIS . . . . . .. . 237
REFERENCES . . . . . . . . ... . . . 241
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . .... ... . 251
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
TEACHER PERSPECTIVES AND PRACTICES IN TWO ORGANIZATIONALLY
DIFFERENT MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Nancy McIntyre Doda
Chairperson: Dr. P.S. George
Co-Chairperson: Dr. D.D. Ross
Major Department: Curriculum and Instruction
The purpose of this study was to understand teacher perspectives
and practices, in relation to school context, in two organizationally
different middle schools. Two middle schools that were notably dif-
ferent in organization, curriculum, and administration, but similar in
community context, student body size and composition, and district-level
requirements, were selected as sites for the investigation of four
teachers' perspectives and practices. Using ethnographic fieldwork
methods, two teachers from each school were observed and interviewed
during the 1980-1981 school year as they conducted their daily lives as
teachers. Additional interviews were conducted with each school's
assistant principal and principal, as well as an additional teacher
informant. Artifacts were also collected.
These data were systematically analyzed in order to discover what
characterized the teachers' perspectives and practices at each school.
The findings revealed that the teachers at the two schools were markedly
different and that a number of these differences were associated with
differences in the organization, curriculum, and administration of tne
two schools. School A's teachers defined themselves primarily as
curriculum-disseminators. Classroom instruction was information-centered
and teacher-directed. The teachers subscribed to a vision of determined
student improvability, acknowledging innate intelligence or social status
as variables beyond a teacher's responsibility. They approached student
behavior with skepticism, believing that students required a highly
structured program and an authority role relationship with their teachers.
Teaching was seen as an individual enterprise with limited autonomy.
At School B, the teachers defined themselves with a dual-sided
role, responsible for both student socialization and academic learning.
Classroom instruction reflected the student's role in learning with
curriculum adaptation as common practice. The teachers subscribed to
a vision of universal student improvability and were confident about
their own effectiveness. They also viewed themselves as part of a
collective effort. Classroom autonomy was assumed.
These contrasting findings were associated with school differences
in teacher roles and responsibilities in relation to students, history,
administration, principal values, student grouping pattern, and organi-
zation of teachers in relation to other teachers. These context
variables warrant further study if an understanding of teacher per-
spectives and practices is to be achieved.
Background and Context of the Study
The purpose of this study has been to investigate teachers' per-
spectives and practices in two middle schools that differ in their
organization and curriculum. The rationale for this investigation was
generated from two major areas of research. From the broadest perspec-
tive, this study accompanies an increasingly active line of research
which has addressed the relationship between teachers' attitudes and
behaviors and the character of the work setting. This line of research
has emerged out of a recognition that classrooms and their inhabitants
are not isolated from and unaffected by the larger world of the school
(Barr & Dreeben, 1981).
In the last two decades, research on teacher effectiveness has shown
that certain teacher attitudes and behaviors elicit more student learn-
ing than others (Brophy & Evertson, 1974; Sood & Grouws, 1977; McDonald
& Elias, 1976; Soar & Soar, 1979; Stallings & Kaskowitz, 1974; Tikunoff,
Berliner, & Rist, 1975). While this research has yielded a dependable
body of knowledge on the characteristics associated with effective
teaching, insights from reform efforts designed to disseminate the
research and from more recent research on effective schools have sug-
gested that these characteristics are only monastly portable from one
school setting to another (Rutter, Maughn, Mortimore, Ouston, & Smith,
1979). Teacher attitudes and behaviors appear to be influenced not
only by teacher psychological traits such as personality (Kyriacou &
Sutcliffe, 1977), personality type (Lawrence & DeNovellis, 1974), self-
concept (Combs & Soper, 1969), belief systems (Harvey, Prather, White,
& Hoffmeister, 1968; Koenigs, Fieldler,& deCharms, 1975; Murphy & Brown,
1970), and age, sex, and marital status (Lortie, 1975), but by a com-
plex array of variables within the school. Variations in such variables
as the composition of the student population, the history of the school
(Metz, 1978), the principal (Ellett& Walberg, 1979), the nature of
student peer relations (Cohen, 1979), teacher colleague relations
(Lortie, 1975), and the school climate or ethos (Rutter et al., 1979)
have been associated with variations in teacher attitudes and behaviors.
The research studies which have implied a relationship between the
character of a school and the character of the attitudes and behaviors
of the teachers who work there are in no way conclusive. In fact, it
has only been in the last two decades that researchers have endeavored
to identify the classroom contextual variables which affect teachers
and their teaching (Doyle & Ponder, 1975). After conducting a large-
scale study of secondary schools in inner-city London, Rutter and his
colleagues (1979) did conclude that it was far easier to be a good
teacher in some schools than it was in others. They hypothesized that
teaching was as much a function of the school as a work place as it
was a function of teacher personality. In an analysis of the research
on effective schools, Purkey and Smith (1983) likewise hypothesized
that teachers and students in effective schools might actually be
channeled in the direction of successful teaching and learning by the
structures, processes, and climates of values and norms at work in
those schools. Their implication was that somehow teachers were
socialized while on the job by variables at work in the larger world
of the school.
To what extent teachers are socialized while on the job remains
unclear (Lortie, 1975; Metz, 1978). While some studies have illuminated
global differences among groups of teachers working in schools varying
in organization and curriculum (e.g., Ashton, Doda, McAuliffe, Olejnik,
& Webb, 1981; Abramowitz, 1977; Cohen, Bredo, & Duckworth, 1976;
Charters, 1978; Hilsum & Cane, 1971; Metz, 1978), research has yet to
delineate how variations in schools differentially affect teachers'
attitudes and behaviors. This is a needed area of research. Conse-
quently, this study was designed to investigate teachers' perspectives
and practices in two middle level schools that differed in organization
and curriculum. A major goal of the research was to generate beginning
understandings and valid hypotheses about the relationships between a
middle school's organization, operation and curriculum, and the forma-
tion and maintenance of the perspectives and practices of the teachers
who work there.
The middle school, the target level of schooling for the study,
has provided the second dimension of context and rationale. Before the
turn of the century, the predominant school organization in the United
States consisted of the elementary school, with grades 1-8, and the
high school, with grades 9-12. In the early 1900s, the National Educa-
tion Association instituted a restructuring which resulted in the
creation of the junior high school which had grades 7-9 (Toepfer, 1982).
During the next two decades, as the number of junior high schools began
to climb, educators began to question the assumptions behind the junior
high school plan. Increasing knowledge on the nature of early
adolescent development and a growing dissatisfaction with the existing
junior high schools, compounded by declining enrollments and desegre-
gation, moved concerned educators to generate a new and appropriate
school model. By the middle of the 1960s, an alternative school
model, called the middle school, had emerged (Eichorn, 1966). Accord-
ing to the original conceptualization, the middle school was to be a
grade level reorganization, a school with grades 6-8 rather than 7-9.
This conceptualization was based on data which suggested that the onset
of puberty occurred at an age more closely associated with grade six,
rather than seven, thus supporting a 6-8, rather than a 7-9, school
plan (Eichorn, 1973). The concept was quickly expanded, however, as
knowledge of a broader range of the developmental characteristics of
early adolescence became available.
In addition to advocating a school plan with grades 6-8, theorists
thus elaborated the middle school concept to include less emphasis on
competitive sports, a focus on self-directed learning, and diversity
in teacher certification (Alexander & George, 1981). Perhaps
most significant were the recommendations for a major departure from
the traditional organization and curriculum of the junior high school.
An interdisciplinary teacher organization was proposed to replace
the department structure of the junior high school. This was considered
to be a more appropriate plan for students in grades 6-8 because it was
believed to facilitate articulation from the self-contained elementary
school classroom to the diversified, subject area teaching character-
istic of the high school (Alexander, Williams, Compton, Hines, Prescott,
& Kealy, 1965). More recently, theorists have also suggested that the
interdisciplinary teacher organization encourages teachers to focus on
the whole child and provides a community of interpersonal structure
that is helpful to the young adolescent student (Alexander & George,
Theorists have also argued that the junior high school plan as
practiced does not adequately address the personal development needs
of early adolescents. As a result, they have recommended that the
middle school have a curriculum component which addresses affective
development (Alexander et al., 1965). Theorists have supported their
recommendations with research documenting early adolescence as a time
during which an individual negotiates a number of critical and difficult
emotional, social, and identity-directing developmental issues (Hill,
1973; Kohen-Raz, 1971; Tanner, 1962) suggesting that some assistance
and guidance ought to be provided for students in the middle school.
In addition to the interdisciplinary teacher organization and the
affective education fccus, theorists have recommended that students in
the middle school should be flexibly grouped to accommodate the variety
and diversity characteristic of the age group. This recommendation was
based on research which revealed an increased diversity in the develop-
ment of youngsters approaching puberty (Eichorn, 1973; Tanner, 1962).
Alternatives to the traditional chronological age grouping such as
multiage or developmental age grouping have been suggested, along with
teacher-controlled, flexible, block schedules which make possible the
continuous grouping and regrouping of students as needed (Alexander &
George, 1981). The middle school has also been theoretically distinguished
from the junior high school program by an increased emphasis on student-
based exploratory learning experiences. This curriculum facet has been
recommended based on an understanding of the cognitive changes which
can occur during this time of life (Inhelder & Piaget, 1958; Kohen-Raz,
Since the early 1960s, junior high schools nationwide have been
adopting the programs and practices advocated by middle school pro-
ponents. In 1965, there were approximately 500 middle schools in the
United States. In a 1970 survey, over 2,000 middle schools were identi-
fied nationally. Today, the number approaches 5,000 (George & Lawrence,
1982). As junior high schools continue to reorganize their programs
and practices according to the middle school concept, it becomes in-
creasingly important to understand what life is like in those schools
for students and teachers.
Research on the middle school model is still in its infancy. Many
of the studies which have compared the middle school to the junior high
have based their comparisons on the grade levels served by the schools
and not by differences in curriculum and instruction (Toepfer & Marani,
1980). In addition, most studies have focused primarily on the quanti-
tative effects of individual curriculur components (e.g., the inter-
disciplinary teacher organization), with student achievement as the
most frequently measured outcome. Only a few researchers have attempted
to study the effects of some cluster of advocated middle school
features, and only a very small number of those studies investigated
relationships between the middle school as an organizational and cur-
ricular alternative, and teacher outcomes (e.g., Ashton, Doda, McAuliffe,
Olejnik, & Webb, 1981; Bryan & Erikson, 1970; Draud, 1977;
Gordon, 1977; Metz, 1978; Pook, 1981). The existing research is
scattered in focus and inconclusive. In particular, it has not provided
a descriptive data base from which valid hypotheses can be generated.
This study then fills an important need by providing descriptive, ethno-
graphic data on teachers' perspectives and practices in two organiza-
tionally different middle schools in an effort to understand relation-
ships between middle school organization, operation and curriculum, and
the perspectives and practices of the teachers who work there.
In summary, this research qualifies as an important and needed
study for several reasons. In design, it is empowered with the capacity
to provide descriptive data on teachers' lives and to yield data on
teaching from the perspectives of the participants. This is a par-
ticularly important contribution since traditional quantitative research
on teaching has often failed to yield the rich description needed to
explain discovered results or to provide insights into the reasons why
teachers engage in the behaviors they do.
Research on teaching has also demonstrated that teachers are
affected by the characteristics of the school as a workplace. Thus,
the improvement of teaching depends upon the identification of those
variables and relationships between variables that affect the formation,
maintenance, alteration, and implementation of teacher perspectives
and practices. This study marks an important contribution in this
regard as well.
Finally, this research provides a needed descriptive data base for
the study of middle school teaching. Hundreds of school districts
nationwide are adopting the middle school model with little research
knowledge of the implications for teacher attitudes and behaviors. More-
over, as middle school training and certification programs are generated,
it becomes increasingly important to have research-based knowledge
regarding the special nature of the demands and difficulties charac-
teristic of teaching within a middle school structure.
The purpose of the research was to investigate and analyze teachers'
educational perspectives and practices in two middle schools that dif-
fered in organization, curriculum, and operation in order to address
the following research questions:
1. What characterized teachers' educational perspectives and
practices at each middle school?
2. Did teachers in the two school settings differ? What were the
salient dimensions of contrast?
3. What factors seemed to be influential in the development or
maintenance of the teachers' perspectives and practices?
Through an analysis of the data collected to address these ques-
tions, hypotheses were generated regarding the relationships between
middle school organization, operation and curriculum, and teachers'
educational perspectives and practices.
This study has sought to understand what characterized teachers'
perspectives and practices in two organizationally different middle
schools. It was originally motivated by an interest in understanding
how teachers' perspectives and related practices were affected by school
organization and curriculum. Phrased differently, the study was based
on a need to know if teachers' perspectives and practices differed in
two different middle schools, and if so, how and why they differed.
Ethnographic field work was the primary research method used in
this study. It was selected because the goals for this research re-
quired a method which probed the research questions in an exploratory
and heuristic fashion, emphasizing the participants' perspectives.
Moreover, an ethnographic approach was selected because it was a method
capable of yielding explanations and hypotheses about teachers' per-
spectives and practices in the two settings through an identification
of cultural themes characterizing teachers' lives at the two schools.
The specific research procedures used were observation and inter-
viewing, supplemented by photography and artifact collection. The data
were collected in two schools that differed in organization and curricu-
lum. The first school, Hidden Brook, was a middle school with many of
the features associated with a traditional junior high school model.1 At
Hidden Brook, the teachers were organized in subject area departments.
The students were arranged in chronological age groups so that students
were separated by age and number of years in school and changed
teachers, curriculum, and location in the building with each passing
The two schools were assigned pseudonames to preserve anonymity. Hidden
Brook and Long Meadow are the names to be used throughout the study.
year. A student's curriculum was predominantly academic, with only one
class period for either physical education or an elective, out of a
total of six daily class periods.
The second school, Long Meadow, was a middle school with many of
the features associated with the middle school model (Alexander &
George, 1981). The students and teachers were organized in inter-
disciplinary learning communities. The students in these learning
communities or teams were multiage grouped so that students in the
three grades received instruction together, with instruction based on
ability as opposed to grade level. Beginning sixth graders spent three
years as members of an interdisciplinary team. Students had a multi-
faceted curriculum the majority of which was provided for by the team,
including one daily class for personal development and affective educa-
tion, four academic class periods, and two elective classes alternating
every other day, with a single, extended block of time for physical
Beginning in August 1980, and ending in June 1981, data were
collected on two teachers' perspectives and practices in each school
setting. Additional interviews were conducted with the assistant
principal and principal at each school. Observations included classroom
teaching, special school events, teacher meetings, and teacher gather-
ings in the lounge and hall areas.
The data collection was guided by the initial research questions
and focused by questions which emerged through data analysis conducted
while in the fieldwork stages. Additional analysis followed to illumi-
nate salient features of teachers' perspectives and practices at the
two middle schools.
Definition of Terms
1. Middle School
The term middle school is used to denote a school that is "pro-
viding a program planned for a range of older children, pre-
adolescents and early adolescents that builds upon the elementary
school program for earlier childhood and in turn is built upon by
the high school's program for adolescence" (Alexander et al.,
1965, p. 5).
2. Interdisciplinary Teacher Organization
This term refers to a plan for the organization of teachers in
which teachers from different subject areas are organized in groups
of approximately four with a range from two to seven with an
assigned common area of the school plant, a common schedule, and
the responsibility for a common group of students.
3. Department Teacher Organization
This term refers to a plan for the organization of teachers in
which teachers from the same subject area are organized as a unit.
This unit works as a committee in curriculum planning for a sub-
ject area or discipline.
The Advisor-Advisee is a middle school program designed to address
the personal development needs of early adolescents, in practice,
it is an arrangement in which small groups of students meet with
an assigned advisor, on a regular basis, for affective education
and academic advisement.
This term refers to a school structure used for the management of
school attendance and information dissemination. Any given home-
room is generally a class of about 30 students who meet for about
five minutes at the start of every school day. This class is con-
ducted by an assigned homeroom teacher who checks attendance and
disseminates school news.
6. Multiage Grouping
This refers to a student grouping pattern in which students of
various ages are grouped together for instruction. In a school
with multiage student grouping, students in the sixth, seventh, and
eighth grades would participate in instruction together in any
given class. Teachers would then have two thirds of their former
students each consecutive year.
7. Chronological Age Grouping
This refers to a grouping plan in which students are grouped by
age or number of years in school. In a school with chronological
age grouping, students in the sixth year of school, for example,
would follow the same basic schedule for an entire school year, at
which point by virtue of completing the sixth grade, they would
move to the seventh grade. Classes would consist of same age
youngsters. Teachers would teach a different group of students
with each passing year.
8. Teacher Perspectives
For the purposes of this study, teacher perspective will refer to
a teacher's ideas, values, and beliefs related to the work of
teaching, the process of learning, and student and teacher roles
9. Teacher Practices
The term practices refers to the educational methods, instructional
means, and instructional technology a teacher uses when working with
students during the school day. This would include the teacher's
classroom arrangement and decor, teaching methods and materials,
means of managing student behavior, and special activities such as
field trips or celebrations planned for students.
This study is bound by several limitations. While an understanding
of teachers' perspectives and practices required the collection of class-
room observational data, it was also dependent upon an investigation of
the school as the context in which teachers worked. As a result, this
investigation had a divided focus even though the unit of analysis was
the teacher and not the school. Working as a single researcher, neither
focus received as much attention as might be desirable.
Research has indicated that age, marital status, and years of
experience play important roles in teacher perspectives and practices
(Lipka & Goulet, 1979; Lortie, 1975). As such, it would have been de-
sirable to include these variables in the criteria for teacher selection,
thus controlling for those differences and their effects. With the
original criteria, compounded by the requirement of participation for
a full school year, the pool for the sample selection was too limited
to apply the additional constraints of age, marital status, and years
of experience. Generalizations and conclusions must be interpreted
with respect to these additional variables.
A final limitation was imposed by the researcher who had a previous
relationship with the teachers at one of the schools, Long Meadow, but
no previous relationship with the teachers at Hidden Brook. While
validity measures were instituted to insure equal data collection, the
rapport at Long Meadow seemed to yield more detailed interview accounts.
Interpretive comparisons acknowledge this difference and restriction.
Overview of Chapters
The details of this research are discussed in Chapters II through V.
In Chapter II, related literature is reviewed setting the context for
the study. Chapter III includes details on the methodology and research
procedures used in conducting the research, including information on
data collection and analysis, site and teacher selection, entry pro-
cedures, research questions, validity measures, and details on limita-
tions. The fourth chapter is divided into two major sections by school
and contains the findings of the investigation. The final chapter,
Chapter V, concludes the study with a summary of the two sections in
Chapter IV, a discussion of the findings with comparison and contrast,
and hypotheses and suggestions for further research in the field.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
This study has investigated teachers' professional perspectives
and practices in two organizationally different middle schools. Since
a major goal of the research has been to illuminate and explain rela-
tionships between two varying middle school structures and teachers'
pedagogical perspectives and practices, the focus and need for the study
are supported by an examination of two major areas of research. In the
first section of the chapter, studies which have examined teacher out-
comes in relation to varying school contextual features will be reviewed
and discussed. These studies focus on school structure, school size,
size of the work group, and contrasting plans for teacher organization
in relation to various teacher attitudes and behaviors. In the re-
maining portion of the chapter, studies will be reviewed which focus
specifically on the middle school context with its particular plan for
teacher organization and curriculum, in relation to various teacher
attitudes and behaviors.
The School Context and Teacher Outcomes
Schools differ on grounds other than their authority pat-
terns. They come in different sizes and with different
divisions of labor; their clienteles vary by socio-
economic level and by ethnic and religious background,
and by rural or urban settings. Some schools are rela-
tively well established with traditions of academic
excellence or athletic prowess. How do such contexts
influence teachers and vice versa? (Lortie, 1973,
The question Lortie raised has received considerable attention in
the past two decades. From an earlier and continuing line of research
investigating the school and classroom structure on student outcomes
(e.g., Barker & Gump, 1964; Bossert, 1979; Cusik, 1973; Damico, Bell-
Nathaniel, & Green, 1981; Doyle, 1977; Smith & Geoffrey, 1968), re-
searchers have moved to undertake the arduous task of generating know-
ledge about the relationships between school structure, organization,
climate, and teacher outcomes. Most of this research is grounded in
varying sociological and ecological theories which attempt to explain
environment-behavior relations. Early thinkers such as Dewey (1916;
1966), Waller (1932), and Parsons (1959), who observed schools and
classrooms as social systems, paved the way fcr research on teaching as
a function of the school context. Similarly, sociologists like Becker
(1964), Wheeler (1966), and Bidwell (1972), who viewed schools as
social organizations, offered theoretical contentions supporting rela-
tionships between school structure and teacher outcomes. Becker (1964)
argued that members of organizations acquire their perspectives as they
adjust to the situational demands within the organization. Wheeler
(1956) contended that members acquire perspectives, the psychological
outcomes of socialization, from the recurrent conditions in which they
interact. Moreover, he believed that social relationships and social
norms evolve from tne structural characteristics of institutions. As
a third example, Bidweli (1972) suggested that the social organization
of an institution structures opportunities, activities, and relation-
ships which shape the norms learned by members of the institution.
Some of the more recent research is supported by ecological theory.
Ecologists have approached the school-teacher relationship, treating
teaching and learning as continually interactive processes rather than
as cause and effect processes. They view the school as a system with
the classroom as an embedded subsystem, subject to influences from the
larger system of the school (Bronfenbrenner, 1976; Goodlad, 1975; Ogbu,
1981). The resulting studies reflect a concern for illuminating the
reciprocal relations among variables, the indirect environmental effects,
and the participants' perspectives from inside the setting.
Flizak (1967) conducted a study of teachers' role orientations in
relation to school setting. He selected 33 elementary schools which he
typed according to characteristics of organizations. The model types
were Authoritarian, Rationalistic, Humanistic, and mixed models. These
model types were differentiated according to institutional structure
(i.e., who does what), process (i.e., how it gets done), and end-product
(i.e., who gets what, when, and how). Of the 33 schools, 15 were desig-
nated Authoritarian-Rationalistic which Flizak described as a school
concerned with efficiency in their means-end production, a highly
developed power structure, and a faith in leader superiority. The
remaining 18 schools Flizak classified as Rationalistic-Humanistic.
These schools were less concerned about efficient goal attainment and
power relations among members and more concerned about the realization
of members' individual goals.
To determine the teachers' role orientations in these schools,
Flizak administered the Evaluation Modality test which assesses teacher
political, economic, social, religious, and aesthetic values, and the
Teacher Practices Questionnaire which assesses teacher priorities in
classroom practices. The Minnesota Teacher Attitude Inventory which
assesses a scope of teacher attitudes was administered as well. A
sample of 726 elementary school teachers was selected for the study,
with 213 males and 513 females in the sample.
Ten dependent variables from the three tests were examined in terms
of the two types of schools under study. The analysis of the data
indicated that on all ten measures two school types discriminated be-
tween teachers. Teachers at the Authoritarian-Rationalistic schools
had significantly higher scores on the roles of advice and information
giver, disciplinarian, referrer,and motivator. On the other hand, the
teachers at the Rationalistic-Humanistic schools attained higher scores
on the counselor-teacher role and held more positive attitudes towards
Flizak concluded that school structure partially accounted for the
differences observed. When the goals of the school focused on the ef-
ficiency of means-end production and were achieved through a highly
developed power structure, teachers would be more inclined to view them-
selves as information-givers and disciplinarians. On the other hand,
when the school's goals emphasized addressing the needs of its members,
teachers likewise assumed that role, the counselor-teacher role, in rela-
tion to their students. He suggested, however, that observed dif-
ferences could have been related to the fact that school administrators
selected teachers with similar philosophies and styles of teaching. In
addition, he added that teachers who were similar may have been drawn
to certain types of schools, thus accounting for the observed differ-
ences in another way.
An interest in the structural characteristic of school size and
its affects on student behavior emerged in response to James Conant's
(1959) report recommending school consolidation and larger student popu-
lations. Barker and Gump (1964) published Big School, Small School in
which a series of studies challenged Conant's assumption of large school
superiority. Extending Barker and Gump's conclusions into hypotheses
regarding school size and teacher outcomes, Hilsum and Cane (1971) in-
vestigated the relationships between school population size, administra-
tive area of control, school neighborhood, and teacher outcomes.
Hilsum and Cane found that the teachers who worked in smaller schools
spent less time during breaks and lunch on activities related to
organizing facets of their teaching day. In addition, they found
teachers in small schools spent more time on supervision, perhaps be-
cause there were fewer teachers to share supervising duties. Small
school teachers were also found to spend less time on personal and
social matters and more time on work matters in conversation. They
found small school teachers spent more time on work over weekends and
holidays than their larger school counterparts.
They also found that teacher characteristics such as years of
teaching experience, sex, number of dependents, or assigned extra school
duties appeared to have little influence on actual classroom instruc-
tion. Moreover, neither class size nor the ability range of the class
appeared to affect the patterns of teaching adopted. They concluded
that school size may influence certain elements of variation in the
teacher's day, which in turn may influence a teacher's attitudes
Like Hilsum and Cane, Abramowitz (1977) hypothesized that school
size would affect teacher interdependence and classroom practices by
setting the limits on teacher communication, control, role specializa-
tion, and coordination. She contended that these size-related factors
could directly structure the quality of interpersonal relationships
within a school. Abramowitz wanted to also know, however, whether school
size or the task structure of teacher teams was the more important vari-
able in predicting teacher task interdependence.
Abramowitz collected survey data from 105 teachers in the second,
fourth, and fifth grades. The surveys included questions about the
teachers' grouping practices, their use of aides, the amount of time
they spent teaching different subjects, and the curriculum materials they
used. The survey data were collected in 19 elementary schools repre-
senting two different school patterns for the grouping of teachers and
students. Ten of the schools were labeled voucher schools or schools
where teachers were organized in teacher teams with common students,
tasks, and responsibilities. The remaining 9 schools were non-voucher
schools without the teacher team plan for teacher collaboration. The
voucher schools had almost twice the number of teachers as the non-
Abramowitz found that the teachers who worked in the larger voucher
schools with the smaller work units of the teams were more likely to
plan lessons and conduct instruction together and also were more likely
to engage in more complex teaching strategies. She concluded that
teacher task interdependence was more a function of task structure
(i.e., the team organization) than of school size. She noted, however,
that school size was an important factor where it was coupled with an
environment of required and frequent teacher interdependence.
Other studies investigating school organization and teacher out-
comes were prompted by various developments in education. The open
space school and the related instructional patterns of the school within
the school and team teaching have received a considerable amount of re-
search attention. The Stanford Center for Research and Development in
Teaching has studied the effects of open space schools upon teachers'
activities, teachers' relationships to each other and to principals, and
teachers' professional orientations. Affiliated with Stanford, Meyer,
Cohen, Brunetti, Molnar and Lueders-Salmon (1972) designed a study to
address a number of research questions on open space and teaching.
Questions researched included: Does open space with a team teacher
organization increase the amount of work-related interaction teachers
have with colleagues, does open space increase the overall amount of
influence of the teachers in school affairs, does open space increase
the amount of explicit evaluations of teachers which goes on in the
school, does open space increase the level of teacher job satisfaction,
are open space schools likely to support the professional ambitions of
teachers, and do open space schools usually support teacher interests
in curriculum and in formal academic learning and discourage broad
identification with or interest in the child as a person (Meyer et al.,
1972)? The data were collected with teachers working in either open
space schools where the teachers were organized into teams to plan and
implement programs in open space or in traditional, self-contained
settings where teachers worked individually within the confines of the
self-contained classroom space. A sample of 110 teachers from nine open
space elementary schools and 120 teachers from eight traditional ele-
mentary schools, all with predominantly middle class, suburban popula-
tions, were compared on the variables of teacher sense of influence,
job satisfaction, and attitudes towards colleague evaluation.
Meyer and his colleagues discovered that the open space teachers
engaged in more teacher-teacher informal and work-related interaction
than the teachers working in the self-contained setting. In addition,
they found that open space teachers reported more informal evaluation of
other teachers than the self-contained teachers. The open space teachers
also had an increased sense of autonomy and perceived themselves to be
more efficacious in relation to specific task performance and within the
total school. Finally, the open space teachers were more satisfied with
their work than their self-contained counterparts.
Meyer et al. (1972) concluded that the organizational structure of
the self-contained classroom emphasizes isolation and independent work
which in turn have adverse effects upon meaningful task related inter-
action among teachers. In addition, they suggested that the self-contained
structure limited the teacher's sphere of influence and rewards to the
small universe of the single classroom, thus reducing teacher autonomy
and efficacy in larger school affairs.
The Stanford researchers expanded their research efforts to include
a study of the relationships between teacher visibility in open space
and the amount and types of evaluation of teachers that occurs. It was
hypothesized that greater visibility would lead teachers in open space
to view evaluation by their colleagues as more soundly based and of more
significance than would teachers in self-contained schools (Marram, 1972).
A questionnaire was administered to a total sample of 244 teachers in
15 schools. Four of the schools were open spaced with teams of teachers.
Six of the schools had self-contained classrooms without teams. The
remaining five schools had self-contained classrooms with teacher teams.
Of the total sample, 56 teachers worked in the teamed, open space schools,
106 worked in the nonteamed self-contained classrooms, and the remaining
82 teachers worked in the schools with the mixed design.
The results of the study revealed major differences between teachers
in the conventional schools and those in the open space, teamed schools
in the teachers' reactions to colleague evaluations. The finding sup-
ported their contention that teacher visibility and the perceived sound-
ness and importance of evaluations are positively associated (Marram,
1972). Informal evaluation by colleagues happened almost twice as fre-
quently in open space, teamed schools as it did in the conventional
schools. Teachers in self-contained classrooms rejected the importance
of their colleagues' evaluations, preferring those of students and
principals, whereas the significance of principal evaluation for teachers
in open space, teamed schools followed that of colleagues and students,
in third place. Marram speculated that a norm for colleague evaluation
of work was therefore being established in the open space, teamed
Separating the effects of teaming from open space, Cohen, Bredo, and
Duckworth (1976) conducted an investigation of teacher job satisfaction
in both open space and self-contained buildings where teachers were
organized into instructional teams. Their efforts focused on an iden-
tification of the conditions under which intensified relationships among
teachers, and between the teachers and principal, were associated with
teacher job satisfaction.
The data were collected from a sample of teachers in 46 teams in
16 elementary schools. They found generally high levels of job satis-
faction in both settings. Specifically, they found that frequency of
teacher discussion and frequency of sharing materials correlated posi-
tively with teacher satisfaction. Second, they found that teachers'
perceptions of the helpfulness of fellow teacher evaluations related to
satisfaction with the school. Third, teachers who reported more frequent
principal observations and evaluation, as well as principal support on
a wide variety of tasks, were more satisfied. Finally, they found that
the school's policy on discipline related to teacher satisfaction.
Cohen et al. (1976) also examined variations in the nature of the
job satisfaction predictors of teamed and nonteamed teachers. They
found that more discussion with other teachers predicted satisfaction
for nonteamed teachers, but that sharing materials, frequency of teacher
evaluations, and perceived helpfulness of teacher evaluations were more
important predictors for teamed teachers. In addition, they discovered
that the relationships between teaming and job satisfaction were more
positive in schools with a high socioeconomic status. Thus, they con-
cluded that the composition of the student population was an intervening
variable affecting job satisfaction.
Cohen et al. (1976) also researched variations in the complexity
of the classroom technology of teachers in teams. Using the teams that
varied in levels of task interdependence (i.e., frequency of joint
teaching), they found where teachers exhibited the highest degree of
task interdependence the teachers also demonstrated the use of more
complex classroom grouping patterns and a wider variety of teaching
patterns. Moreover, these teachers gave students more autonomy and
placed less importance on the sequencing of classroom events. In addi-
tion, they were more likely than their counterparts to consult with other
specialists in the school.
Pellegrin (1969a) also found higher job satisfaction for teachers
in schools with teams. Pellegrin collected questionnaire and interview
data on teachers in six schools. Three of the schools were schools with
interdisciplinary teams with team leaders. The other three schools did
not have teams. After comparing the results for teachers in schools
with and without teams, Pellegrin maintained that the concentration of
decision-making authority in teamed schools was in the team units,
whereas the concentration of decision-making authority in nonteamed
schools was with the principal. He concluded that teacher participation
in decision-making was thus the critical variable in the job satisfaction
of teamed teachers.
In a second report (Pellegrin, 1969b), he found that teachers in
teamed schools did not see themselves as depending heavily on the prin-
cipal in their work. In those same schools, the principal reported
that his job success depended upon a number of people, indicating a
decentralized authority, whereas the control school principals limited
their dependence to a few. Pellegrin also found contrasts in the
teachers' perceived expectations. In the teamed school, teachers be-
lieved experimenting with new teaching techniques and giving individual
attention to students would be the principal's primary expectations for
teachers. On the other hand, teachers in the nonteamed schools saw
insuring that students learn the basic skills as the principal's
expectation. Regarding differences in job satisfaction, Pellegrin found
that the teachers in the teamed schools were more satisfied than teachers
in the schools without teams, with the following: progress towards
goals, personal relationships with administrators, opportunity to accept
responsibility for one's work or the work of others, seeing positive re-
sults from one's efforts, relationships with fellow teachers, satisfac-
tion in light of career aspirations, and availability of materials.
Verdral (1971) investigated the educational viewpoints and teaching
patterns of junior high school teachers in departments and teams. A
total sample of 39 language arts and social studies teachers and 1,969
students from nine junior high schools in the Chicago area participated
in the study. Twenty teachers and 862 students worked in junior high
schools organized with teaching teams and a block time schedule. In
that setting, teachers shared common groups of students and the responsi-
bility for scheduling their instructional time. The remaining group of
19 teachers and 1,107 students were in junior high schools with a
separate subject or department organization. The teachers responded
to Ryans Educational Viewpoints measure which indicated the degree to
which teachers were subject-centered. The students responded to the
Minnesota Attitude Inventory which assessed their perceptions of their
teachers' instructional styles.
Verdral found that separate subject teachers (i.e., those working
as members of a subject area department) espoused a more subject-centered
view of teaching than the blocked cr teamed teachers, whose view was
more child-centered. In addition, Verdral found that students in the
different settings perceived their teachers differently. The students
of separate subject area teachers perceived their teachers as using more
direct and less indirect teaching methods. On the other hand, students
of teamed teachers perceived their teachers as using more indirect and
less direct teaching patterns. Verdral's results might suggest that
teachers develop orientations in relation to what they have in common
with other teachers.
Olszewski and Doyle (1976) researched the relationships between
team organization, colleague interdependency, and actual teaching per-
formance. They hypothesized that teachers in teamed, open space settings
would exhibit a greater number of shared teaching practices and a wider
range of practices than their nonteamed counterparts. Their sample was
comprised of 16 teachers. Eight of the teachers worked in a nonteamed
setting where four teachers had responsibility for about 120 students in
open space. The data were collected with Amidon-Hunter's Interaction
The results favored the teamed teachers on the shared teaching be-
haviors but no significant difference was found in the range of teaching
behaviors used by the teachers in the two settings. The authors con-
cluded that while their study supported a relationship between work
arrangements and professional behavior, caution was in order since the
teamed teachers' teaching styles may have existed prior to their employ-
ment in the teamed schools.
Interested in the influence of school social structure and school
leadership on teachers, Mendenhall (1977) studied the relationships of
four structural features cf school organization and leadership behavior
to job satisfaction in teamed schools. Drawing from social systems
theory, Mendenhail delineated the following four structural features:
formalization, centralization, complexity, and stratification.
Formalization referred to the range of variations allowed on job per-
formance within the school. Centralization denoted the degree to which
decision-making is concentrated in the school. Each school was analyzed
for structural complexity which was determined by the school's number of
occupational specialists, the level of educational training among the
staff, and the degree of staff involvement in professional activities.
Finally, the degree to which teachers felt other staff members had
greater status was assessed to indicate stratification. She designed
the study in order to compare the degrees of influence of these struc-
tural features and leader behavior. The data were collected from 41
principals, 41 team leaders in 41 teamed or multiunit schools in 13
states. These schools had teams with team leaders who served as teacher
representatives in a teacher-administrator decision-making group.
Mendenhall found that the principal's leadership behavior and the
team leader's behavior accounted for 36% of the teacher job satisfaction
variance. Regarding the measured structural variables, Mendenhall found
that the greater range of variations allowed within job performance
(i.e., formalization) and the extent to which teachers felt other
teachers had greater status (i.e., stratification) were the structural
variables which accounted for 52% of the variance in the teacher job
satisfaction. She concluded that there was a significant relationship
between school social structure and teacher job satisfaction. The prin-
cipal's role in determining the nature of those structural variables and
the extent to which the team structure promotes formalization or strati-
fication warrants further study.
Charters (1978) combined the interests of the Stanford researchers
with those of Mendenhall in his study of teachers in teamed or nonteamed
schools. Unlike the earlier Stanford work, Charters examined the in-
fluence of the principal and the team teacher collegial group on teacher
autonomy. In addition, Charters ignored school architectural differ-
ences and focused on the presence or absence of teacher instructional
teams. He administered questionnaires to 430 teachers in 27 schools
varying in size and socioeconomic status. Fourteen of the schools were
organized in teams and 13 were without teams.
His comparison showed that teamed teachers had a greater volume of
classroom-related communication and attributed a greater amount of in-
fluence to collegial groups than the nonteamed teachers. While the
levels of job satisfaction were the same for both sets of teachers,
Charters found lower values on the autonomy index for his teamed teachers.
Charters' results on autonomy were puzzling since teaming would be
expected to increase teacher autonomy (Pellegrin, 1969b). Charters con-
cluded, however, that while higher levels of teacher group influence
over school affairs increased teacher autonomy, the principal's influence
over classroom affairs reduced teacher autonomy. Moreover, Charters
concluded that the principal's influence was greater than teacher group
influence in determining the teacher autonomy in the school. Finally,
he concluded that teacher sentiments in all schools would depend upon
the school's particular mix of collegial group operations and adminis-
trator behavior, with the behavior of the principal being the more impor-
tant factor in the mixture. For instance, where open space schools with
teams had strong collegial group influences reported by teachers and
little principal interference in the classroom, high levels of autonomy
and satisfaction could be expected to follow.
An earlier study conducted by Molnar (1971) helped to explain
Charters' puzzling findings on the teamed teachers' sense of autonomy.
Molnar studied 17 teacher teams in six schools. She observed each of
the teams in six planning meetings and recorded the frequency of teacher-
initiated, task-related communication. The teachers also completed a
questionnaire about their perceptions of their own influence and
autonomy. Molnar found that the interaction in team meetings was re-
lated to the teachers' perceptions of their influence and autonomy.
Specifically, Molnar found that teams varied in their internal status
structures and that these variations were related to differences in
teacher sense of autonomy and influence. Where membership participation
was balanced or members participated equally in team decision-making,
Molnar found that teachers felt more influential and more autonomous
within their teams. Moreover, she found where teachers felt their teams
had decision-making authority within the school, they also felt more
autonomous. Molnar's major contribution is her finding that the team
organization does not always indicate heightened levels of perceived
teacher influence and autonomy, because of internal differences in team
Murnane and Phillips (1977) were also interested in relationships
between school organization and teacher job satisfaction. They studied
seven dimensions of teacher job satisfaction for teachers in self-
contained classrooms or departmentalized subject areas. Using a ques-
tionnaire, data were collected on teachers' attitudes towards the prin-
cipal, the curriculum, materials and procedures, colleagues, community
attitudes towards education, daily teaching, and compensation. The
sample was comprised of 650 teachers in seven schools in a midwest
Murnane and Phillips found that the self-contained teachers were
more satisfied than teachers in departments, with their principals, the
school curriculum, their materials and procedures, and the community
attitudes; teachers in schools where there were six hundred and fifty
students or more, however, were least satisfied with colleague relations
regardless of whether the teachers were organized in departments or self-
contained classrooms. Moreover, the teachers in the departmentalized
schools with the larger percentage of low achieving students were more
satisfied with colleague relations than their elementary, self-contained
counterparts. Murnane and Phillips concluded that there are complex
combinations of variables in the school which influence teacher job satis-
faction. For example, in schools where there was higher than average
student achievement, teachers reported higher satisfaction for compen-
sation but less satisfaction with the curriculum than those in schools
with lower than average achievement. The study's major weakness, how-
ever, was that it did not illuminate what produced the departmentalized
teachers' satisfaction with the curriculum, their materials, or their
principals. Why, for example, the departmentalized teachers with a
larger percentage of low-achieving students were more satisfied with
their colleague relations than their elementary, self-contained counter-
parts remains unclear. Perhaps answers lie within the internal workings
of the schools.
The majority of studies discussed thus far have focused on the
quantitative measurement of selected variables. These studies were not
equipped, however, to illuminate the actual processes which occur in
schools that may shape teacher attitudes and behavior. One general
conclusion from the quantitative work is that the complexity of
interacting school variables that affect teacher attitudes and behaviors
requires a model of research capable of delineating direct as well as
indirect relationships and qualitative explanations for relationships
between school context and teacher attitudes and behaviors. There are
only a very few qualitative studies which have sought to understand the
relationships between school context and teaching.
Cusik (1973) conducted one well-known qualitative study of a sub-
urban high school. While the study primarily addressed student rather
than teacher outcomes, it did yield some insights on indirect relation-
ships between school organization and teacher outcomes. Specifically,
Cusik conducted an ethnographic study of a large suburban high school
and discovered a number of unintended consequences for students and
teachers. In a school characterized by a staff chosen for their profes-
sional qualifications, a large student body, and no discernible sense of
community, Cusik found that the students' most active and alive moments
occurred in their own small-group interactions and not in instructional
interactions with their teachers. Cusik discovered that this phenomenon
was, at least in part, a product of the structural features of the high
school studied. According to Cusik, the school's hierarchy of decision-
making authority, with students at the bottom, the downward communication
flow from administrators to teachers to students, the subdivision of
teachers by subject matter, and the multitude of rules and regulations
governing student behavior all contributed to a series of unintended con-
sequences. Cusik observed that this combination of structural features
limited student-teacher interaction, reduced student involvement in
school-sponsored activities, created a daily experience marked by the
shifting of groups and relations, and a resistance on the part of students
to comply with school demands.
As a result, teachers conducted their classes with a primary focus
on maintaining order rather than on teaching students. Teachers often
ignored student affective concerns and perceptive comments because they
were consumed with managing student behavior. Cusik's major contribution
was his conclusion that both student and teacher behavior were affected
by the organizational features of the school in ways not necessarily con-
sistent with the school's goals and intentions.
Lortie (1975) conducted a major sociological study of teaching.
From intensive interviews with 2,316 teachers in five towns in the Boston
metropolitan area, national and local surveys, historical reviews, and
data from other observational studies, Lortie generated important findings
on the nature of the teaching occupation. Some of those findings are
applicable for this review.
As a general conclusion, Lortie noted that the teaching occupation
was characterized by the lack of a common technical culture, the mutual
isolation of its members, and individualistic orientations. Lortie dis-
covered extreme diversity in teachers' reasons for entering the teaching
field, with the perpetuation of this diversity in the nature of teachers'
perspectives and attitudes once in the field.
In addition, Lortie found that teachers' sentiments about teaching
varied according to life stages and experiences. Age, sex, and marital
status seemed to affect teachers' attitudes towards work. Women over
forty were, for example, more involved (e.g., stayed to work after hours,
took on extra duties) than those under forty, and single women were slightly
more involved and satisfied than married women. Men were slightly more
involved than women teachers but reported the lowest levels of satisfac-
tion. Unlike women, men under forty put in longer hours but older men
gave teaching a higher ranking in a listing of their life priorities.
These findings are significant since they suggest that teachers' per-
spectives and practices may be influenced by variables outside the con-
text of the school.
Regarding teachers' aspirations, Lortie found that about half of
the Five Towns teachers emphasized moral outcomes they hoped would result
from their work. Most teachers focused on teaching citizenship and saw
the achievement of student compliance to classroom norms as an important
means to that end. There was some indication that this orientation was
more frequent when the teachers taught students from lower-status homes,
suggesting that their experiences in working with those students elicited
the desire to focus on socialization.
Lortie also examined what he called craft pride and discovered that
over half of the elementary teachers in the five towns organized their dis-
cussion of craft pride around a success with one student. Though success
with one student was the major source of pride, teachers' described their
ideals in terms of reaching all of their students. Lortie concluded
that this discrepancy between stated ideals and pride in considerably
less is the product of the prevailing psychological uncertainty charac-
teristic of teaching. Teachers are not sure they can make all of their
students learn, and while they hope for widespread or universal effec-
tiveness, they receive too little reinforcement to yield assurance.
Lortie also observed that the typical work arrangements in most
schools exacerbated the problem by isolating teachers, thus limiting the
potential for collegial assistance and support. Almost half of the five
towns teachers reported having no contact with other teachers in the
course of their work. Isolation from peers deprives teachers of the
opportunity to see others at work and to develop a shared technical
culture. In addition, Lortie concluded that the absence of profession-
ally sanctioned goals and scientifically verified techniques leaves every
teacher free to make his or her own classroom decisions and ultimately
to calculate his or her own professional competence. As a result,
teachers are vulnerable to self-doubt which in turn has implications
for teachers' sense of efficacy and classroom effectiveness.
Lortie's findings suggest that the school context may be a very
viable tool for altering the status and character of teaching. With
teachers' attitudes and sentiments largely shaped by the individual ex-
periences and psychic rewards of the classroom, it is plausible that
alterations in the organization of teachers and students in the school
could alter these experiences and the related sentiments of teachers.
In particular, Lortie suggested that a plan for teacher collaboration
might reduce teacher uncertainty and promote the growth of a common
Metz (1978) conducted one of the few comprehensive case studies which
investigated qualitative as well as quantitative dimensions of teaching.
Her study examined the social structures and processes that shaped be-
havior in two different desegregated junior high schools. Metz explored
the conditions affecting order in the corridors and the schools at large.
She described the collective perspectives and strategies for both educa-
tion and order developed by the adults at the two schools, the processes
which gave rise to differences in the two staffs' approaches, and the
consequences of these choices for the life of the student body and
school as a whole.
Metz collected her data through observation in the field, extensive
interviewing, and artifact collection. She followed each of four children
and fifteen teachers through whole school days. Teacher observations were
followed by interviews. She also interviewed 20 children in the eighth
grade distributed by sex, ability level in school, and disciplinary
record. In addition, she interviewed counselors, deans, vice princi-
pals, and principals. From the opening of the school year through January
15 of the year, she made a systematic census of one child's disciplinary
referrals at each school. She conducted participant observation in
assemblies, faculty meetings, and some committee meetings as well as in
the corridors, the teachers' lounges, the cafeterias, and other public
places in the schools.
Metz discovered that while teachers' educational views differed
within a single school, each school developed a faculty culture with
distinguishing and coherent patterns. She found that the teachers' ideas
about their goals and the grounds justifying their relationship of author-
ity with students were associated with their diverse ideas about the ap-
propriate roles for teachers and students. These role perceptions were
associated with several school social structures and processes. She con-
cluded that teachers adjust to varying school conditions such as the
characteristics of the student body, the history of the school, the
school leaders, and the particular conflicts of order and control unique
to the school. For example, where the school had a history of serving a
predominantly black and working, lower class clientele, the teachers
were mostly what Metz called proto-authority. These were teachers who
did not expect children to share their educational values. Rather, they
hoped to teach them that industriousness and obedience are the line of
least resistance. In effect, they saw themselves as sergeants, not care-
takers of developing children. Perhaps this posture of distance was re-
lated to their difficulty in working with culturally different students
who were often less successful in fulfilling traditional academic require-
Some studies have attempted to investigate unique combinations of
school contextual features under the label of school climate or ethos.
While there are a significant number of climate studies, very few have
looked specifically at the relationships between school climate and
teacher attitudes and behavior. The majority of the climate studies
have focused on student outcomes, particularly academic performance.
Though not a major climate study, Anglin (1979) did attempt to study
the relationship between school climate and teacher roles. Anglin re-
ferred to school climate in terms of school organization and social sys-
tems variables including the student grouping plan, the achievement
standards, the stated role for teachers, the ways and means of school
policy formulation, and the curriculum materials used. Based on dif-
ferences in these variables, Anglin categorized his sampled schools as
four types: traditional,open, academy, and systems. In addition, Anglin
believed differences in these variables ultimately reflected differences
in the school's assumptions about and level of understanding of the
nature of student variability and the nature of the instructional pro-
Anglin labeled his sample schools according to these differences,
generating four school types which he named traditional, academy, open,
and systems. A traditional school acknowledged efficiency in the in-
structional program as more important than responding to student vari-
ability. In contrast, an open school understood and recognized student
variability more effectively than it understood and recognized the
instructional process. At the extreme ends of what could be considered
a continuum, Anglin typed the academy and systems schools. An academy
school was identified as a school that viewed students as uniform and
instruction as a product. The systems school, on the other hand, was
responsive to student variability and the instructional process.
Anglin observed that teacher instructional roles varied with the
type of school organization. Specifically, the way teachers grouped
students for instruction, their perceptions and beliefs about academic
achievement, and the types of teaching materials they used all varied
with the variations in their school organization and social system
Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston, and Smith (1979) conducted a
large-scale study in 12 secondary schools in south London. Using staff
and student questionnaires and extensive observation with a sample of
3,485 students, ages 10-14, and their teachers, Rutter et al. (1979)
looked at the relationships between student background, school organiza-
tion, school processes and school composition, and student behavior,
student attendance, student achievement, and student delinquency. Dif-
ferences in the student outcomes seemed more related to school processes
than to the specific organizational variables. They found for example
that teacher involvement in school decision-making, teacher cooperation,
staff socializing, the decoration and care of the school, high levels of
rewards for students, and staff consensus were related to higher student
achievement. They also found where the school had shared activities
for students and staff, pupils seemed encouraged to accept school norms.
If students did comply with teacher demands, teachers might experience
less difficulty in managing classroom behavior. Their resulting attitudes
and behaviors might be expected to differ from those working in a school
where students resisted school norms (see Cusik, 1973). Though they did
not identify specific climate variables that affect teachers, extrapola-
ting from such indirect effects, they concluded that
It was very much easier to be a good teacher in some
schools than it was in others. The overall ethos of the
school seemed to provide support and a context which
facilitated good teaching. Teaching performance is a
function of the school environment as well as of per-
sonal qualities. (Rutter et al., 1979, p. 171)
One specific teacher outcome, teacher morale, has been associated
with school climate. Ellett, Payne, Masters, and Pool (1977) reported
that teacher attitude toward work correlated with school climate as per-
ceived by elementary school students. They also reported a significant
relationship between teacher morale and both attendance and achievement
for elementary and secondary students. These conclusions were drawn from
a sample of 1,300 teachers and 3,350 elementary students from 35 schools
and 3,613 secondary students from 10 schools, who each responded to one
of three climate measures. Likewise, using several climate measures and
a principal performance questionnaire with a sample of 1,200 teachers and
45 principals from 35 elementary and 10 secondary schools in Georgia,
Ellett and Walberg (1979) found that direct principal involvement and
interest in instruction not only improved student achievement but ele-
vated teacher morale.
While the reported studies are in some ways diffuse in focus, they
yield a fairly consistent picture of at least some of the critical vari-
ables in schools which seem to affect teacher attitudes and behaviors.
Certainly among the most repeatedly sited are the size and structure of
the work group, the division of labor and authority within the school,
and the character of the school leader.
The team organization which provides teachers with a small collegial
group, common responsibilities, and the potential for autonomy and in-
fluence in larger school affairs was one organizational feature associated
with increased teacher task-related communication (Charters, 1978; Meyer
et al., 1971), increased teacher interdependence or joint teaching and
planning (Abramowitz, 1977; Cohen et al., 1976; Olszewski & Doyle, 1976),
teachers' positive perceptions of other teachers' opinions (Cohen et al.,
1976; Charters, 1978; Marram, 1972), increased job satisfaction (Cohen
et al., 1976; Pellegrin,.1969a, 1969b), and more child-centered and com-
plex instructional orientations and practices (Verdral, 1971; Cohen et
al., 1976). The team structure may have yielded these findings because
it reduces the size of the work group facilitating collaboration, alters
the division of labor within the school elevating teacher authority, and
refocuses teachers' roles and responsibilities in relation to self and
others, such that teachers have common responsibilities in relation to
a group of students rather than a subject area. Moreover, when teachers
have the opportunity to increase their knowledge of students through
team members' sharing of perceptions, it is possible student variability
and student needs become more apparent. This awareness may account
for the increase in instructional complexity or in attempts to meet varied
Findings from the other studies suggest, however, that the production
of teachers who joint teach, value colleague perceptions, are satisfied
with their work, are more child-centered than subject-centered, and who
utilize complex classroom technology requires more than the implementation
of school teams. Levels of teacher autonomy and satisfaction, for in-
stance, varied in different teams. It appears that student body composi-
tion (Cohen et al., 1976), school size (Hilsum & Cane, 1971) and principal
behavior (Cohen et al., 1976; Flizak, 1967; Mendenhall, 1977; Metz, 1978)
all serve as intervening variables in teacher satisfaction,with smaller
size, a higher percentage of high ability students, and a supportive and
involved principal who serves as an instructional leader, as the positive
Internal school processes and norms may be just as potent in shaping
teacher attitudes and behavior as an organizational feature such as the
team. The existing qualitative work illustrates the complexity of the
relationships involved. Schools may influence teachers by the norms they
sanction, their climates, the values they espouse, their histories, and
their administrator's beliefs and practices (Cusik, 1973; Ellett et al.,
1977; Metz, 1978; Rutter et al., 1979).
In light of the research reviewed here, it is clear that the search
for an encompassing, explanatory model of relationships between school
context and teaching should continue. This research study represents an
attempt to further illuminate significant variables and relationships
and to provide explanations for the quantitative findings which remain
The Middle School Context: Theory and Research
This study has investigated teachers' perspectives and practices in
two contrasting school plans. While both schools are named middle
school, differences in the two schools' organization of teachers, the
grouping of students, the components of the daily schedule, and the nature
of the curriculum sharply separate the two school plans. According to
theory in the field of early adolescent education, only one of the
schools, Long Meadow Middle School, has incorporated school features
associated with the middle school label. The second school, Hidden
Brook, appears, according to theory and tradition, to have those features
commonly affiliated with the title of junior high school (Alexander &
George, 1981). In a sense then, this study compares teachers' perspec-
tives and practices in a junior high school and a middle school. As a
result, it is essential to review the background, theory, and research
in the area of junior high/middle school education to reveal what is
currently known about the relationship of either school plan to teacher
attitudes and behaviors.
Before the turn of the century, tne predominant school organization
in the United States consisted of the elementary school, grades 1-8, and
the high school, grades 9-12. In 1888, Charles Eliot, then president of
Harvard University, initiated a national movement seeking to lower the
age for college entrance. The National Education Association endorsed
the movement and helped initiate a new organization of grades 1-6 in the
elementary school with grades 7-12 in the high school.
By 1917, experiments were underway with various divisions of the
7-12 plan, resulting in the establishment of over 270 separate schools
housing students in grades 7-9. These schools were appropriately called
junior high schools. Though it was not until the 1920s that this new
organization called the junior high school assumed pedagogical as well
as logistical purposes, it was this early transformation of the secondary
grades that created the impetus for further change.
The junior high school lacked clear definition. Although early
writers (Bunker, 1909; Fullerton, 1910) alluded to the special needs of
learners in grades 7-9, virtually nothing in the curriculum or organiza-
tion of the early junior high school differed substantially from the
senior high program. Later theoretical developments included the core
curriculum concept which involved the correlation of subject areas under
the supervision of a single teacher. In addition, flexible scheduling
emerged as an idea to accommodate the core curriculum. Exploratory
learning and the concept of a teacher-advisory plan were advocated in
the literature. All of these features were much less apparent in prac-
tice, however, as the majority of junior high schools still continued to
model themselves after the senior high school plan. The junior high
school remained primarily a grade level reorganization (Toepfer, 1982).
As numbers of junior high schools increased, attitudes and assump-
tions about the purposes and effectiveness of this school plan began to
change. Housed in separate schools, early adolescent youngsters began
to stir the interests of concerned educators who wondered if these junior
high schools were suitable for the students they served. New knowledge
on early adolescent development became available to educators who began
to identify the junior high school plan as a developmentally inappropriate
school (Cooper & Peterson, 1949; Segal, 1951; Shipp, 1951). Though
questions were raised about the effectiveness of the junior high school,
few research studies addressed those questions. In effect, the junior
high school was an unresearched school plan (Toepfer, 1982).
Questions continued though, as new knowledge of early adolescent
development and a growing dissatisfaction with the junior high school
compounded by declining enrollments and desegregation provided the con-
cerned educators with sufficient impetus to search for a more appropriate
school alternative. By the middle of the 1960s, an alternative called
the middle school had emerged (Eichorn, 1966). Initially, the knowledge
that the onset of puberty occurred at an age more closely associated with
grades five or six, rather than seven, led to a limited conceptualization
of the middle school as a grade reorganization, a school with grades 6-8
rather than 7-9 (Eichorn, 1973). The concept was quickly expanded, how-
ever, as efforts were made to align middle school curriculum and instruc-
tion to a broader knowledge of early adolescent physical, intellectual,
social, and emotional developmental features (Toepfer, 1982).
In the last two decades, a significant body of theory has been
generated in which the middle school concept is defined and clarified.
While controversy still exists regarding the nature of appropriate cur-
ricular and instructional programs, the National Middle School Associa-
tion's recent statement (1982) on the characteristics of the middle
school suggests a growing consensus. It states, "The middle school
stands for clear educational concepts which evolve from a melting of the
nature of the age group, the nature of learning, and the expectations
of society. There should be then, certain conditions, factors, and
programmatic characteristics that are identifiable and that would be
present in a true middle school" (p. 10).
Initiating a list of essential middle school elements, the National
Middle School Association's committee suggested the following features:
"a staff knowledgeable about early adolescent development, a focus on
cognitive and affective objectives, varied organizational alternatives
to departmentalized instruction, varied instructional technology, an
exploratory curriculum, a plan for teacher-student guidance, and coopera-
tive teacher planning" (pp. 10-11). In a similar effort to delineate
distinct middle school features, Alexander and George (1981) offered
twelve features of the exemolary middle school. In summary, they
recommended a "developmental, teacher-student guidance program, an
interdisciplinary teacher organization, flexible patterns for student
grouping and scheduling to acknowledge developmental diversity and
facilitate continuous progress, and varied instructional technology"
While the theory has achieved an emerging clarity, middle school
research is still in its infant years. Studies which have examined the
impact of the major features advocated by the theorists are limited
(Toepfer & Marani, 1980). In addition, most studies have focused primarily
on the quantitative effects of the individual components, with student
achievement as the most frequently measured outcome. Only a few re-
searchers have attempted to study the effects of some cluster of the
advocated middle school features, and only a very small number of those
studies investigated relationships between the middle school as an
organizational alternative and teacher outcomes. Moreover, the existing
studies of middle school teacher attitudes and perceptions are diverse
and scattered in focus and thus do not yield a conclusive picture.
Bryan and Erikson (1970) studied the middle school as an organiza-
tional innovation. They contended that, "the middle school concept
represents a real effort to provide a new kind of school organization.
The implementation of such a program . should modify the interpersonal
and structural relationships within and between teachers, students and
parents" (p. 24). As a result, in their comparison study of middle
school and junior high school teacher perceptions and opinions, they
differentiated the two school types by instructional organization. The
junior high school had a departmentalized teacher organization, whereas
the middle school had an interdisciplinary teacher organization.
Bryan and Erikson examined teachers' attitudes about and perceptions
of their relationships with other teachers, administrators, and students,
perceptions of their role in school decision-making, attitudes towards
work, perceptions of students, and perceptions of fellow teacher com-
petency. From their questionnaire data they found few significant dif-
ferences in the two groups of teachers. Teachers in the middle school
plan were, however, more favorable towards teaching students in the
middle years, and did describe their students in ways different from the
junior high school teachers. They noted that the middle school teachers,
more often than the junior high school teachers, applied these descrip-
tive statements to students: will be prepared for next year, will
probably go to college, were prepared for my classwork, like to go to
school, and have parents that are critical of school. On the other hand,
the junior high school teachers were more inclined to apply the follow-
ing statements to students: discipline is a problem, lacking in IQ
capacity, probably will drop out of high school, and dislike school.
In essence they found that the middle school teachers were more con-
vinced of their students' success in present and future schooling. On _I
dimensions of teacher satisfaction, they discovered a slight but not
significant difference in favor of the middle school teachers.
Gordon (1977) used the Minnesota Teacher Attitude Inventory to
measure teacher attitudes towards students in the elementary, middle,
and high school. Unlike Bryan and Erikson (1970), Gordon did not define
middle school in terms of curricular or structural features. The three
school plans were distinguished by the grade levels served. Gordon's
sample was a randomly selected population of 75 graduates of the Uni-
versity of Cincinnati teacher education program who were employed as
teachers in the metropolitan Cincinnati area. The subjects responded
to the Minnesota Teacher Attitude Inventory.
Unlike Bryan and Erikson, Gordon found that middle grade teachers
had more negative feelings regarding their students' ability to assume
responsibility in classroom learning. In addition, he found that the
middle grade teachers believed that student interests were often at cdds
with their goals or interests. Gordon concluded that since the majority
of middle school teachers were trained for high school teaching, these
attitudes may be a product of a discrepancy between secondary teacher
training experiences and the actual experience of teaching younger, not
older, adolescents. Since Gordon limited his definition of middle school
to a school with grades 6-8 and not to a school with organizational
features recommended in the literature (e.g., the interdisciplinary
team organization, the teacher-student guidance plan, or an exploratory
curriculum), and supported in research, it is possible all of the
sampled schools were departmentalized schools with few middle school
curricular programs. As a result, the teachers' attitudes towards stu-
dents may have evolved because they were working in a high school-like
setting which was not appropriate for, nor appealing to, middle school
students, who thus resisted school norms and teacher goals.
Draud (1977) compared teacher attitudes toward school or teacher
morale in junior high and middle schools. Using the Purdue Teacher
Opinionaire, Draud collected data on teacher rapport with the principal,
teacher satisfaction with teaching, teacher rapport with other teachers,
teacher salary, teacher workload, curriculum, facilities and services,
teacher status, community support for education, and community pressures.
The junior high and middle schools were located in metropolitan Hamilton
County, Ohio. For this study middle schools were those schools with a
grade level organization that excluded grade nine but included grade
six, with an instructional staff with 30% elementary certified and with
an instructional time schedule designed for flexible scheduling.
Draud found that the middle school teachers yielded higher scores
than the junior high teachers on attitudes towards teacher salaries,
teacher status, and community support. The junior high school teachers
had higher scores on attitudes towards curriculum issues and rapport with
other teachers. While Draud did glean some significant differences, the
results do not illuminate relationships between the differences in spe-
cific teacher attitudes and the differences in the two school plans
since Draud differentiated the two school plans by the grade levels
served and not by major organizational and curricular features.
Since middle schools vary in the degree of implementation of recom-
mended practices, Pock (1981) prepared a study of the relationship
between teacher job satisfaction and the level of middle school imple-
mentation. Using a sample of 252 teachers in 60 Colorado schools labeled
middle schools, Pook collected teacher attitude data with the Purdue
Teacher Opinionaire and evaluated the level of middle school practices
with the Middle School Practices Index (MSPI).
Pook found a significant positive relationship between teacher
satisfaction with curriculum and a higher degree of middle school prac-
tices implementation. Likewise, a positive correlation was found between
the school score on the MSPI and satisfaction with community support. A
higher score on the MSPI, however, also yielded a negative correlation
on teacher satisfaction with teacher load. Moreover, Pook found that
teachers who preferred teaching at the middle school level were more
satisfied than middle school teachers who preferred teaching at other
levels. Finally, middle school teachers working in moderately sized
schools with 315-508 students were more satisfied than those working in
larger schools with 550-1,039 students, regardless of the degree of
Ashton, Doda, McAuliffe, Olejnik, and Webb (1981) designed a study
to compare the attitudes of middle school and junior high school teachers
toward their job and school climate in four areas: overall job satisfac-
tion, expectations of students and perceptions of student academic im-
provement, perceptions of intergroup conflict, and colleague relation-
ships. Twenty-nine teachers from a school with an interdisciplinary team
organization, an exploratory curriculum, and multiage student grouping
were compared to twenty teachers from a junior high school with a depart-
mentalized structure, traditional curriculum, and chronological age
grouping. The two schools with populations of approximately 1,000
in grades six through eight were located in a small, southeastern
The teachers were asked to report on the stress and satisfaction
they felt toward teaching. They completed the Brookover, Gigliotti,
Henderson, and Schneider (1973) measures of teacher present evaluations
and expectations for high school completion and teacher-student commit-
ment to improve, as well as a measure of student intergroup conflict
(Cohen, 1979), and a measure of colleague relationships (Ellett, Payne,
Masters, & Pool, 1977). In addition, the teachers responded to a pro-
jective measure designed to explore their role perceptions.
The authors found that the middle school teachers considered teach-
ing to be more important to them than did the junior high school teachers.
The middle school teachers also reported that they were more satisfied
with teaching and were more likely to choose teaching as a career, if
they had a chance to do it again. A selection bias of factors aside
from school structure may account for these positive results, but
Ashton et al. (1981) suggest they warrant further study.
Ashton et al. (1981) also found clear differences in teachers'
role perceptions in the two schools. The middle school teachers
were more concerned with their students' affective development than
were the junior high teachers. The authors suggested that these dif-
ferences in role perception may account for the differences in job
satisfaction levels. They also conjectured that the middle school
structure may facilitate teaching rewards and satisfactions which
focus on the total development of the child which in turn yield
greater teacher satisfaction. In addition, they speculated that
the multiage grouping pattern in the middle school may have elevated
teachers' sense of efficacy since teachers were involved in student
growth over a three-year period and were thus able to see more marked
The middle school teachers reported more difficulties with colleague
relations than did the teachers at the junior high. Ashton et al. (1981)
believed these results were not surprising since conflict among staff
may be indicative of a creative and committed group of professionals.
Moreover, team interaction can vary from team to team (Molnar, 1971),
producing varying degrees of satisfaction or conflict. In spite of the
controversial results on colleague relations, the authors concluded that
the middle school with the team organization and affective orientation
may have potential for improving teacher job satisfaction and sense of
Though not a study of teacher outcomes, the work of Damico, Bell-
Nathaniel, and Green (1981) may shed some light on the job satisfaction
findings from the Ashton et al. (1981) study. Damico et al. (1981)
examined the effect of school organizational structure on interracial
friendships among middle school students. Data on perceptions of same
and opposite race friends were collected as part of a larger study of
interracial climates in five desegregated middle schools in a southeastern
community. A sample of 1,526 middle school students, in grades 6, 7, and
8 with 889 white and 437 black students, participated in the study. The
students evaluated a white friend and a black friend on a modified
semantic differential scale, and reported the number of their other-race
Two of the sampled scchols were middle schools with many of the
organizational and curricular features experts outline as appropriate
for early adolescents (Alexander & George, 1981). Among those features
were an interdisciplinary team organization, multigraded student group-
ing, and a teacher-student affective education program. In practice,
the authors noted that these program features seemed to increase the
heterogeneity of classroom populations, reduce the focus on homogeneous
grade-level expectations, and increase the time students spent with the
same teachers. The other three schools were more traditionally organized:
Students were segregated by grade levels, classes in reading, math and
language arts were grouped by ability, and a strong emphasis was placed
on academic achievement.
Damico et al. (1981) found that white students reported having sig-
nificantly more black friends in the team organized than in the tradi-
tionally organized schools. The difference in the number of white friends
reported by black students was not significantly affected by school
organization, but the trend favored the team organized schools. In
addition, white student attitudes towards blacks were affected by the
number of black friends they reported having. The authors concluded
that conditions under which friendships were likely to arise were more
frequently present in the team organized schools than in the traditionally
organized schools. Since positive peer relations in desegregated schools
could enhance school climate (Cohen, 1979), and since teachers are in
turn affected by climate variables, it is possible to conjecture that
working in a middle school with a team organization might be more satis-
fying than working in a traditionally organized school structure.
In 1981, Joan Lipsitz conducted a qualitative research project of
four effective middle schools. She produced four case studies of middle
schools that satisfied criteria for effectiveness derived from two areas
of theory and research. Lipsitz first utilized the school effective-
ness literature (Edmonds & Fredericksen, 1979; Goodlad 1975;
Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston, & Smith, 1979), for a list of school
criteria including a high mean level of student achievement on standard-
ized tests, pleasant and comfortable school conditions for students, an
academic emphasis set by the staff, and consensus among staff members
about curricular expectations, school norms, and discipline. From a
collection of theoretical literature on middle grades education, the
Center for Early Adolescence's Middle Grade Assessment Program identi-
fied seven categories of needs that should be addressed in successful
competence and achievement, self-exploration and defini-
tion, social interaction with peers and adults, physical
activity, meaningful participation in school and community,
routine, limits and structure, and diversity. (1981, p. 17)
Using these categories coupled with the effectiveness research list,
Lipsitz selected four schools that met the following criteria:
1. met the threshold criteria for safety, comportment and
2. responded appropriately to the developmental diversity
3. pursued competence in learning;
4. won community acceptance;
5. function well in response to or despite public
policy issues. (p. 18)
Impressionistic case studies were conducted during seven days of
observation in each of four schools in an attempt to capture the per-
sonalities, histories, goals, work processes, organizational structures,
and environmental contexts of the schools. Lipsitz's findings reflect
some insights into the organization-teacher relationship and as such
are important for this review. She discovered that all four schools
had achieved an unusual clarity about the purposes of middle level
schooling. More specifically, the staffs resisted departmentalization
and other programs associated with the high school, and insisted that
their schools were more elementary in tone than secondary. Lipsitz's
findings suggest that part of this staff clarity was the result of school
principals who had driving visions about the nature of middle level
schooling. In addition, they were schools with principals who acknow-
ledged themselves as instructional leaders and who worked to secure the
autonomy of their schools with regard to programs and practices. More-
over, while the principals marked the direction of their schools, Lip-
sitz noted that they managed to create their own sustenance within their
staffs by sharing leadership as well as vision, and by either selecting
staff or bringing staff from their former schools, with common goals.
Lipsitz also observed what she referred to as a "striking level of
caring" (1981, p. 289). Students acknowledged being known and liked in
these schools and teachers and other staff spent hours and hours in and
outside of school on behalf of the personal as well as academic welfare
of their students. More important, Lipsitz discovered that this level
of caring was facilitated by the structure of the schools. The schools
were organized in ways that established continuity in adult-child rela-
tionships and provided opportunities for students and adults to interact
in mutually meaningful ways. Specifically, these schools managed to
insure that the size of the group to which students belonged was small
enough to insure familiarity and personalization. In schools as large
as 1,050, students belonged to teams of approximately 150, and often
remained with that group, with the same teachers, over a period of years.
Though Lipsitz only implied the relationship to teachers, it is quite
possible that teaching in a school structured in small, knowable com-
munities helps teachers focus on the total development of the child with
the level of caring Lipsitz observed.
Lipsitz also observed that these schools had high levels of teacher
companionship. Common planning and lunch periods, team meetings, and
team teaching seemed to encourage continuous task-related teacher inter-
action. In addition, Lipsitz found teacher expectations of student
success to be positive and optimistic. Teachers were not discouraged
by student family background characteristics or innate capabilities.
Perhaps the comradery provided by the team structure enabled the teachers
to not only feel more effective but to be more effective with colleague
In the four middle schools, teachers' perspectives and practices
were consistent with a school ethos of interpersonal involvement, a
focus on the special needs of young teens, a focus on the total develop-
ment of the child,and school principals who had plans which consistently
reflected those priorities. While Lipsitz's work was heuristic and not
predictive, her findings suggest that the principal and the school's
organization may contribute to staff attitudes, expectations, and
priorities. In this respect, her work marks an important contribution
to an understanding of middle school organization and teacher world
Though none of the research conducted thus far demonstrates conclu-
sively that teachers' attitudes and behaviors are actually shaped by the
school context, a relationship clearly exists. Now under the middle
school framework, the teacher team structure was again associated with
changes in teacher perspectives and attitudes including more optimistic
expectations of students (Bryan & Erickson, 1970), satisfaction with
curriculum and an improved sense of efficacy (Ashton et al., 1981;
Pook, 1981), and increased teacher task-related interaction (Lipsitz,
Aside from the team structure, no other theoretically recommended
middle school practices were deemed significant in relation to middle
school teachers' perspectives and practices. It appears, however, from
Lipsitz's work and the work of Damico et al. (1981), that there is a
range of variables which interact to yield teacher outcomes. The multi-
age grouping of students in the Damico et al. (1981) study, for example,
may have contributed to the positive cross-race friendships that de-
veloped, thus reducing intragroup conflict and elevating teacher
satisfaction (Ashton et al., 1981).
It appears from both areas of research that teachers' perspectives
and practices are related to a variety of school contextual features
such as the organization of teachers and students, teacher roles and
responsibilities, school goals and norms, the size, composition, atti-
tudes, and behavior of the student body, and the character of the school
principal. There are some beginning emerging findings which suggest
that teacher collaboration in relation to a common group of students,
smaller instructional groups, positive peer social interaction, and the
active instructional leadership of the principal work synergistically
to yield or support teacher sense of efficacy, teacher confidence in
student improvability, teacher job satisfaction, teacher instructional
flexibility, and thus teacher effectiveness in terms of student achieve-
ment. The middle school model, representing a number of these school
features, is currently being adopted in school districts nationwide.
This study was generated in an effort to build on what we know about
these relationships between school features and teaching, and
to provide needed knowledge about the middle school context and teachers'
perspectives and practices.
In the search for a research based science of teaching, many re-
searchers have acknowledged the need for qualitative data to complement
and illuminate the voluminous quantitative data now available. For
example, Doyle and Ponder (1975) called for qualitative information on
the ecological or contextual factors in schools that influence teacher
behaviors in classrooms. Likewise, Tikunoff and Ward (1980) suggested
the need for qualitative descriptions which could reveal the complex and
multidimensional character of teacher behavior in classrooms and schools.
Moreover, Wilson (1977) followed by Medley (1978) pointed out that a
major weakness of the traditional quantitative research on teaching was
its failure to discover the perspectives of the subjects. Elaborating,
Fenstermacher (1978) pointed out that if a significant goal of research
is to improve teacher behaviors then an understanding of why teachers
engage in the behaviors they do must be addressed in research. Al-
together, there has clearly been a call from researchers for qualitative
descriptions of teaching and qualitative investigations of school con-
textual factors as they affect teaching.
This study sought to understand what characterized teachers' idea-
ticnal systems or perspectives and practices in two organizationally dif-
ferent middle schools. Because of its broad exploratory emphasis on
the subjective world of teaching, it required an approach which allowed
the researcher to uncover and describe the complex meaning systems the
teachers used to understand themselves and others and to make sense out
of the world in which they worked. A methodology capable of describing
culture, or cultural attributes of teaching, was needed. Ethnography,
the hallmark of cultural anthropology, is such an approach (Wolcott,
1975). It has traditionally been the social scientist's tool for under-
standing culture, but has in the past several decades been applied to
the study of public school worlds and their inhabitants (Cassell, 1978).
There are several approaches to ethnographic research, each of which
is based on particular epistemological assumptions. An emic approach,
like the one applied here, is based on the assumptions that an under-
standing of culture can best be achieved through a study of the actor's
definitions of the social scene, and that peoples' meanings, perspectives,
and beliefs or ideational systems offer explanations for their behavior
(Harr6 & Secord, 1972; Pelto & Pelto, 1970). Working to build a
knowledge of culture from the participants' point of view, rather than
from the researcher's preconceived notions of significant variables to
explore, this approach is fundamentally inductive. Thus, using an emic
an attempt to discover and describe the pattern of that
particular culture in reference to the way in which the
various elements in that culture are related to each
other . rather than an attempt to describe them in
reference to a generalized classification derived in
advance of the study of that culture. (Pike, 1954,
Since ethnography is the work of describing culture, a definition
of culture is a central methodological issue. In this study, a defini-
tion of culture was derived from the theory of symbolic interacticnism
(Blumer, 1969). Culture is referred to as a cognitive map, mental
set of principles for creating dramas, for writing scripts,
and of course, for recruiting players and audiences ..
Culture is not simply a cognitive map that people acquire
and then learn to read. People are not just map-readers;
they are map-makers. Culture does not provide a cognitive
map, but rather a set of principles for mao-making and
navigation. (Frake, 1977, pp. 6-7)
Moreover, according to the symbolic interaction theory, culture is
knowledge acquired by persons as members of an interacting group, with
meanings created from and modified by their interactions and recurrent
daily activities within the group (Spradley, 1980).
In this study, teachers' ideational systems or professional world
views have been treated as dimensions of a culture of teaching acquired
within culturally distinct school worlds. By applying this notion to
teachers' perspectives, and employing an ethnographic approach, the
researcher was able to understand characteristic patterns of beliefs
and practices in each school, to identify potential explanations for
prevailing perspectives, and to generate valid hypotheses for future
research on teaching. The reported findings are ethnographic descrip-
tions of the cultural themes characterizing the teachers' professional
perspectives and practices at each of the two middle schools.
Research Sites and Subjects
The impetus for this study grew out of an interest in understanding
how teachers' ideational systems were affected by school organization and
curriculum. In particular, the study was based on a need to know if
teachers' perspectives and practices differed in two organizationally different
middle schools, and if so, how and why they differed. Consequently,
two middle schools with distinct organizational patterns were selected
as sites for the research. School A, to be referred to as Hidden Brook,
and School B, to be referred to as Long Meadow, were primarily different
in teacher organization, student grouping, and special curriculum com-
ponents. At Hidden Brook, the teachers were organized in subject area
departments. Each subject area had a representative unit of teachers
called a department that was staffed by teachers from the sixth, seventh,
and eighth grades. Under the leadership of an appointed chairperson,
department members met on a monthly basis for subject area curriculum
decision-making. Teachers from the same departments shared curriculum
plans, equipment, and media materials. Department chairpersons reported
department decisions and plans to the administrators in periodic steer-
ing committee meetings.
The students at Hidden Brook were generally arranged in chronological
groups, so that students were separated by age and the number of years
at school, and changed teachers, curriculum, and location in the build-
ing with each passing year. More specifically, a student's day consisted
of six academic area classes (e.g. science, math, etc.) with one class
period for physical education or an elective. The electives were as-
signed by grade level and a student was enrolled in two electives each
At Long Meadow, teachers were assigned to interdisciplinary teach-
ing teams. The school had six nearly equal size teaching teams, each
comprised of a teaching staff of four academic teachers and three
specialists. Team teachers shared a common group of students, a similar
daily schedule, common planning time, common planning and teaching areas,
the responsibilities of parent conferencing, student diagnosis and
evaluation, and decision-making regarding the planning and management
of team activities. Teams met weekly under the leadership of a teacher
team leader, who also served as a team representative on a school
decision-making council that met bi-monthly with the administrators.
Each team had approximately one hundred and sixty sixth, seventh,
and eighth grade students who were multiage grouped. Sixth, seventh,
and eighth graders were enrolled in the same classes, rather than
separated as distinct learning groups. As a result, students were
assigned to a team and remained with the same team of teachers for their
three years at Long Meadow. Students were enrolled in four subject area
classes with two classes scheduled for student-elected exploratory
classes alternated daily with two consecutive periods of physical edu-
cation. These elected mini-courses were rotated three times a year.
The students at Long Meadow were also enrolled in a twenty-five
minute daily class called Advisor-Advisee. This twenty-five minute
period was designed for teacher-student guidance and affective education.
The program's goals emphasized the affective development of students,
including objectives in the areas of self-awareness, communication
skills, self-concept, and moral development. Teachers were assigned the
responsibility of providing assistance and guidance to a group of about
twenty-five sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. The role of advisor in-
cluded tasks such as orienting students to school procedures, providing
students with school news, maintaining cumulative records, arranging
parent conferences, advising students on elective course selections,
and planning and teaching daily activities designed to promote affective
growth and development (see Appendix A ). Every student and teacher
participated in the program that started the school day.
This brief sketch is meant to highlight the organizational features
distinguishing the two middle schools. More detailed information on
the specifics of these features, as well as additional information on
the schools' structures, can be found in Appendix A.
In order to highlight these organizational differences, the selected
schools were as similar as possible in other areas. Both schools served
approximately nine hundred and fifty students in grades six through
eight, from the same county in North Central Florida. Moreover, the
student populations were roughly similar in demographic character. Of
Hidden Brook's nine hundred and fifteen students, there were 57% white,
43% black, and 0% other. According to the socioeconomic predictions
provided by the State Department of Education's annual report, 55% of
the students qualified for a free or reduced lunch plan. Similarly,
Long Meadow's nine hundred and sixty students were 58% white, 39% black,
and 3% other. Approximately 54% qualified for a free or reduced lunch
plan. These similarities made the two selected schools desirable sites.
Gaining entry for ethnographic fieldwork was a determining con-
sideration in site selection. At Hidden Brook and Long Meadow the
principals were equally receptive and felt this qualitative study would
be interesting and useful. There was no entry problem at either school.
In exchange for participation in the study, the schools were promised a
consolidated report of major findings.
The actual access strategies employed included first a personal
contact with each of the school principals describing the nature of the
research, and requesting permission to spend a school year observing
and interviewing in the school. Following that, a request form was filed
with the county school board for approval. Once the county's permission
was granted, the entry issue was resolved.
Two teachers from each school were selected as the focus of the
study. These four teachers were selected according to the following
1. Two or more years of teaching in the school.
2. Previous teaching experience in another school.
3. Willingness to participate in year-long ethnographic study.
4. Identified by school principal and assistant principal as
"good" classroom managers.
5. In School A, belonged to the same department.
6. In School B, belonged to the same team.
These criteria were established in order to reduce teacher differences
that might not be related to school organization and highlight charac-
teristics that might.
Teachers were assigned pseudonames in order to protect their iden-
tities and preserve anonymity. At Hidden Brook, Mrs. Cassidy and Mrs.
Reed were selected. Both were social studies teachers who had each
been at Hidden Brook for over ten years. At Long Meadow, Ms. Lane and
Mr. Waters were selected. Both were members of the same team and had
been at the school for over two years. Ms. Lane had the team leadership
responsibility and had been at the school since it opened in 1974.
Ethnographic fieldwork was the primary research method used in
this study. It is a method designed to discover the cultural knowledge
people are using to organize their behavior and interpret their ex-
perience. As a result, the ethnographer's work is much like that of an
explorer trying to map a wilderness area, seeking to describe what exists.
Appropriately, in doing ethnographic fieldwork, both research
questions and answers are discovered in the social scene being studied.
The research process is cyclical wherein the major tasks of data col-
lection and analysis are simultaneously and interdependently recurring
research processes (see Figure 1). Each of these general steps in-
volves specific procedures used in data collection and analysis.
The primary methods of data collection were observation and inter-
viewing, supplemented by photography and artifact collection. Since the
study's focus was to understand teachers' perspectives, one of the major
sources of data was teachers' verbal descriptions of their intents and
perceptions regarding their teaching and the factors affecting it.
Teachers' perceptions alone, however, were inadequate for specifying
how and why their perspectives developed and were maintained. A variety
of studies have indicated that teachers' self-reports about their be-
havior and their actual behavior are not always related (Evertson &
Brophy, 1974). Thus, the interview data were supported with observa-
tions of teacher behavior.
The specific teaching context has often been cited as an important
determinant of teaching behavior (Brophy & Evertson, 1974; Evertson,
Anderson, & Brophy, 1978; Good & Grouws, 1977; McDonald & Elias, 1976)
and of teachers' perceptions and attitudes (Abramowitz, 1977; Anglin,
1979; Cohen et al., 1975; Flizak, 1967; Little, 1982). Consequently,
teacher observations were not limited to classrooms. The four teachers
were observed in all aspects of their teaching work at school. This included
Figure 1. Major steps in the ethnographic research process.
a variety of places and events in each of the two schools. Observations
were conducted of formal and informal meetings, interactions with staff,
parent conferences, student conferences, school assemblies and events,
field trips, faculty events, and lunch meetings. In addition, teachers
were observed in classrooms, corridors, lounges, offices, and meeting
areas where the above events occurred.
Over a nine-month period, the researcher conducted observations
and interviews in the two middle schools focusing on the task of dis-
covering two teachers' perspectives and practices in each setting.
Observations and interviews moved from general to specific, addressing
over time,increasingly focused questions.
The researcher utilized what might be referred to as a passive
participant observer role which involved participation as a teacher-
helper in each of the four teachers' classrooms. This enabled the re-
searcher to experience a part of the teacher's job first-hand while
continuing with observations. Participation served to reduce researcher
obtrusiveness as the role of helper became more apparent than the role
of researcher (Bruyn, 1976). The researcher participated in the
1. Served as a classroom aide (e.g. helping students, distributing
materials, grading papers).
2. Prepared classroom materials (e.g. bulletins, worksheets,
3. Substitute taught (e.g. some degree of substitute teaching was
done in each of the four teachers' classrooms, ranging from a
whole day for Mrs.Reed to a single class for Ms. Lane).
While conducting observations, the researcher kept a written record
of all observed phenomena. The field notes included verbal descriptions,
drawings, maps, and quotations from actual discourse. The recording
of field notes was guided by certain principles recommended in the
literature to insure accuracy and validity in fieldwork:
1. Cultural meanings can be distorted during the process of making
an ethnographic record. To avoid this, the researcher should
identify language differences as observed in the field. For
example, in each case where discourse is recorded, the speaker
should be identified. In addition, the ethnographer should
avoid describing phenomenon in his/her terms as opposed to the
2. There is a tendency to rephrase discourse data when recording
fieldnotes. To avoid this, discourse should be recorded verba-
tim. Even if the entire record can not be recorded, para-
phrasings should not be substituted (Spradley, 1980).
3. Finally, when describing observations, concrete language should
be used. This is essential to collecting sufficient raw data
needed for future generalizations (Smith & Pohland, 1976).
All notes recorded while in the field represented a condensed
account of what was actually observed. Consequently, it was necessary
following each day in the field to expand the condensed account, filling
in details and observations not recorded (Spradley, 1980). Maintaining
the same principles for field note recording, the researcher taped ex-
panded accounts. These taped notes were then transcribed and typed
onto 5" x 8" note cards for analysis purposes (see Appendix B for
In addition to field notes, the researcher recorded questions,
problems, concerns, and changes in schedules for observations and inter-
views in the same notebook. Since the ethnographer is the major re-
search instrument, a section of the notebook was reserved for recording
researcher biases, feelings, and attitudes potentially influential in
the research. This process of introspection is essential to effective
fieldwork as it helps the researcher continually separate personal from
professional judgments (Wax & Wax, 1980).
Informal and structured interviews were conducted with the four
teachers, the school principals and assistant principals, and two addi-
tional staff members in each school setting. All interviews were taped
to insure an exact record of responses and questions. Informal inter-
views were guided by several principles designed to insure that the
interviewed individual would feel comfortable enough to honestly report
the needed information, and would focus on the interview purposes:
1. Interviews began with friendly conversation about aspects of
school life, followed by a clear goal for the interview.
2. Beginning questions were general and descriptive to give the
individual a sense that questions would be answerable.
3. interviews did not confront the individual with direct questions
about motive. As a rule, "why" was avoided in references to
personal behaviors or practices in question. This could pro-
duce defensive rather than factual responses (Spradley, 1979).
4. To avoid the acquiescence response set, where subjects tend to
endorse the positive first, questions with positive and negative
options were avoided (Webb, Campbell, Schwartz, & Sechrest,
A systematic plan for data collection was used, drawing from James
Spradley's Developmental Research Sequence model (Spradley, 1979; 1980).
Spradley recommends collecting data in phases to be accompanied by the
appropriate analysis steps. The preliminary phase of data collection
involved the collection of broad descriptive data about the setting and
individuals to be studied. Grand tour observations and interviews were
used during this phase to scope and survey the research setting. Spradley
uses this term to emphasize the collection of data on the major features
of the social scene (e.g., events, objects, places, actors, etc.).
In the second phase, the data collection was more specific, address-
ing particular features within the analyzed grand tour data. This phase
involves making focused observations and interviews. Data were collected
on certain categories or domains which emerged as significant in the
analysis. For the identified domains, Spradley advises the researcher
to address structural questions. For example, for the domain, "ways to
reprimand students," data should be collected in order to answer the
question, "what are all the ways teachers reprimand students?" This
procedure was applied to each of the domains deemed significant for
Once the key domains have been expanded, Spradley recommends narrow-
ing the scope of investigation by focusing the observations and inter-
views more specifically. Data across domains were examined for compari-
son and contrast and categories were consolidated or divided. In con-
junction with this final phase of data collection, the researcher began
the search for what Spradley calls "cultural themes." A cultural theme
is defined as "any principle recurrent in a number of domains, tacit or
explicit, and serving as a relationship among subsystems of cultural
meaning" (Spradley, 1980, p. 141). Cultural themes are essentially
assertions of a high degree of generality. The work of discovering
cultural themes involves immersion in the cultural setting, followed by
a period of immersion in the data.
Utilizing Spradley's model, the data were collected in three phases.
The first phase consisted of twenty-four days in the field, six days per
teacher, during the months of August, September, and October. During
this time, the researcher conducted nonparticipant observations for the
purpose of answering broad descriptive questions. Sample descriptive
questions included what is the physical setting in which the teachers'
work, with whom do teachers interact, what is the nature of these inter-
actions, what are teachers' daily tasks? To answer these questions,
each teacher was observed for six full days. Each of the twenty-four
day-long observations involved shadowing the teacher from the time he/she
arrived at school until the time of departure. Thus, observations were
conducted in the office, teachers' lounge, halls, meeting areas, and
Following each day of observation, the observed teacher was inter-
viewed. The interviews conducted with each of the four teachers during
this first phase focused on grand tour questions or questions about the
descriptive observations. The teachers were asked to describe a typical
day in detail, recounting what they did from arrival to departure. In
addition, teachers were asked to describe specific aspects of a typical
school day. Sample questions included could you describe how you plan
your lessons, could you describe how you evaluate student work, could
you describe a typical parent conference, can you explain the arrange-
ment of your room? Moreover, questions about the history of the school,
its organization and their teaching schedules were included. In
addition, background data on the two schools were collected. Documents
were secured from each school, including a statement of school philosophy,
a copy of the school's map, and the daily school schedule (see
The second phase of data collection took place during November,
December, January, and February with sixteen days of fieldwork, four
days per teacher. During this second phase, observations became more
focused, attending to specific domains acknowledged in the analysis.
Examples of questions included what are ways teachers differentiate
students, what are teachers' instructional priorities, what teaching
strategies do teachers use? Observations were extended during this
second phase to include teacher meetings, faculty meetings, and teacher
contacts in lounges. In these sites, observations focused on teacher
participation, topics discussed, how and what decisions were made,
teacher tasks and responsibilities, and teacher-teacher interactions.
Sample questions included what tasks do teachers do with other teachers,
what decisions do teachers make alone and with other teachers, how do
the teachers participate in meetings?
In addition, interviews were conducted during the second phase
with the four teachers and with one informant staff member from each
school. Information on teachers' perceptions of themselves as teachers,
their beliefs about teaching and learning, and their goals and related
practices were the major issues addressed in The teacher interviews.
Informal interviews were conducted with each of the four teachers fol-
lowing observations, with the questions addressing observations and the
above issues. A structured interview was developed at this time to
insure that sufficient data were collected on these important issues
(see Appendix B for interview questions).
The researcher talked with a number of staff members before select-
ing the informant in each school. Certain criteria for the selec-
tion were applied. All of the informants were currently involved in
the school and had a significant history (i.e., more than five years)
of involvement. The informants had to demonstrate a knowledge of the
school and staff and an articulateness in describing both. Informants
who did not attempt to analyze the school from an outsider's perspective
were selected over those that did. In addition, the informants selected
had the time to devote to interviews.
With the informants, the questions were a combination of grand
tour questions and questions about being a teacher at the respective
schools. The informant interviews served three purposes: to learn how
the school operated from a different perspective; to search for counter
evidence to emerging hypotheses, checking the perceptions of the four
teachers against the informants' views; and, last, to gain helpful leads
regarding new questions yet unexplored and to collect data from school
participants less directly involved in and thus less self-conscious of
the research endeavor. Sample informant questions were could you de-
scribe a typical teacher's day, what is expected of a teacher here,
where would a teacher find support or assistance at school, what problem
plagues teachers the most?
The third and final phase was the most intense, taking place during
the months of March, April, May, and June. Data were collected for
seventeen days, evenly distributed between the two schools and among
the four teachers. During this phase, observations were primarily con-
ducted in the four teachers' classrooms, but included as well schoolwide
events, meetings and out-of-class activities in which teachers were
involved. Observations continued to focus on teacher-student, teacher-
teacher, and principal-teacher interactions, and classroom instruction.
Specific questions addressed included what kinds of activities do
teachers and students do together, what responsibilities do teachers
have at the close of the school year, what do teachers do with other
teachers, how does the principal interact with teachers, what do teachers
and administrators do together? Interviews following observations ad-
dressed daily practices, school events, and teacher beliefs. At this
point, it was necessary to know if teachers had felt successful during
the school year and in what ways, what rewards they had received from
their year's work, and what they would have liked to change and why?
To gain additional information about school leadership and organi-
zation, structured interviews were conducted with the principals and
assistant principals. The principal interviews addressed beliefs about
teaching and learning, goals for the school, criteria for hiring teachers
and defining effectiveness, perceptions of school history, perceptions
of students, expectations of teachers, and the decision-making system.
The assistant principal interviews focused more on curriculum and school
organization. Questions addressed goals for the school, the physical
organization of time, space and persons, the school philosophy, the
curriculum and rationale, beliefs about students and learning and the
decision-making structures at school. Each of the administrator inter-
views was a minimum of one hour with two hours being the average amount
of time (see Appendix B for interview questions).
During all three phases, additional data were collected through
artifacts, photographs, and incidental observations and interviews.
Specifically, copies of actual student lessons and sample handouts were
collected, and photographs of the halls, walls, and four teachers'
classroom areas were taken. Over the year's time, the researcher became
a familiar face and made contacts with school members not specified in
the schedule for data collection. These were recorded as field notes,
serving to enrich the data base of the study. Examples included secre-
taries, individual students, interested teachers, and the school deans.
One final item was used in the data collection. Since teachers'
role perceptions emerged as a major domain for understanding teachers'
perspectives and practices, two open-ended questionnaires were used
(Fox, Schmuck, Egmond, Ritvo, & Jung, 1973). These instruments focused
on the teachers' perceptions of what they did as teachers.
Like data collection, data analysis was an ongoing research pro-
cess which involved several procedures. The ultimate goal of the analy-
sis was to produce ethnographic accounts of the four teachers' perspec-
tives and practices in the two middle schools. Two major analysis
functions were the search for guiding and illuminating questions to
direct the data collection and the search for cultural themes which
offered connecting explanations for the teachers' perspectives and
The methods used in the analysis applied suggestions from several
sources (Cassell, 1978; Glaser & Straus, 1967; LeBar, 1970; Spradley,
1980). Similar to the data collection, the analysis proceeded in phases.
Concurrently with the first phase of data collection, the analysis
focused on defining relevant domains or categories which emerged through
continuous readings of the field notes. Referred to by Spradley (1980)
as domain analysis, this phase involved identifying organizing features
of the teachers' perspectives and practices (see Appendix C for a sample
list of domains).
During the early stages of domain identification, field notes were
studied and domains listed as they emerged. As recommended by Spradley
(1980), semantic relationships were applied to data in selecting domains.
Referred to also by Spradley (1980), the first relationship, called
strict inclusion, involved the search for data which could complete the
X is a kind of Y semantic skeleton. The second most useful semantic
relationship used in domain analysis was a search for data which could
complete the X is a way to do Y semantic skeleton. These two relation-
ships were the most useful though others were used (see Appendix C for
a complete list). To facilitate the process of domain identification a
recording sheet was used (see Figure 2). An actual example can be
found in Appendix C.
As domains were listed, a file card system was created for the
recording, sorting, and retrieval of ethnographic data. Since all of
the data were originally recorded on 5" x 8" note cards organized by
school and teacher and arranged by date, each field note entry could be
referenced with the teachers' code initial, date of observation, and
page number, and recorded on a separate domain file card. For each
discovered domain, a file card was created. A domain card like "Kinds
of Tasks Teachers Do With Other Teachers" had twenty-five field note
card citations for future reference (see Figure 3).
All eighty-five domain cards had citations as seen in Figure 3.
This meant that for all discovered domains of meaning, field note
I. Semantic Relationship
Included Terms Relacionshios (Kinds of) Cover Te-j
Figure 2. A domain recording sheet used for domain identification
RED (3) TASKS TEACHERS DO WITH OTHER TEACHERS [domain]
J 2/4,2 B 5/22,17 Q 3/31,9,10 L 5/7,20/28
J 4/1,11 P 5/21,13 L 3/31,4-18 L 5/7,29
B 4/9,8 D 10/28,2 S 8/25,1 Q 5/22,29,30
B 4/10,1 L 1/19,2 Q 5/27,37,38,
J 4/15,9 G 6/1,3 Q 4/6,14 G 6/2,1
J 5/5,1 J 6/3,3 L 4/16,6
J 5/21,20,21 G 4/29,6 G 6/4,1,3
Figure 3. A domain file card, used to record, sort and retrieve
fieldnote data references.
excerpts were read and recorded. The code, Red (3), was recorded on
the field note card where the excerpt was located.
In the second phase of analysis, domains were clustered and con-
solidated into a more manageable number of larger categories. Teacher
role perceptions, teacher colleague relations, teacher-student relations,
and classroom instruction were the final list of consolidated categories.
This clustering process involved continual rereadings of field notes
referenced on domain cards to safely limit the categories. During this
phase, consistency and contrast were studied among the domains within
categories from each school's data.
Once the categories were selected, the search for relationships
between aspects of the teachers' perspectives and practices and the
search for connecting themes began. This was the final analysis phase.
Several procedures were used here. First, the final week of the school
year was devoted to immersion in the two school worlds. Through immer-
sion, assumptions about possible themes were tested. Second, several
domains were examined in detail from both school sites in order to
clarify themes with contrast. For example, "Topics Teachers Discuss
With Other Teachers" was selected for closer examination, and revealed
that teachers at Long Meadow spent time discussing their work and de-
voted much of their conversations to talk about their students and
instructional plans. Hidden Brook's teachers talked very little about
their work and rarely discussed specific instructional plans for specific
students. This led to the discovery of one distinguishing cultural
theme. Finally, domains within categories were examined looking for
ways the various domains related to each other. In the category of
"Classroom Instruction," the domains "Kinds of Students" and "Ways
Teachers Group Learners" revealed a consistent theme about the teachers'
views of students as learners and about their role perceptions as well.
A list of potential themes characterizing teaching at Long Meadow
and Hidden Brook was generated. Subthemes were consolidated and dubious
ones deleted. Using the selected themes, the search for supporting
examples began and consisted of reviewing domain cards, and then field
note citations, for appropriate examples. The examples were typed on
3" x 5" cards and sorted by themes for writing purposes. Just prior to
writing the actual ethnographies, theme papers were drafted to organize
generalizations and data for the final report.
In ethnographic research, where the researcher is the instrument of
data collection and analysis, special measures are needed to insure
validity. Several important validity issues were addressed in this
Researcher values, beliefs, and assumptions pose a threat to
validity. Measures must be employed to insure that the data collected
and analyzed are not distorted by the researcher's biases (Webb et al.,
1966). In this study, where data were collected in two schools and
four different classrooms, preferences for one setting over another had
to be controlled. A fixed schedule of observations was designed to in-
sure equal attention and time for each teacher, in each school. In
addition, the schedule was designed to account for prime times during
the school day and year. Observations were scheduled for varying days
of the week and during varying times of the school day.
While a schedule insured equality in time, it did not equalize the
breadth, depth, and quality of observations or interviews. In order to
guarantee that sufficient raw data were being collected in all settings
regardless of researcher interest, an outside individual periodically
reviewed the field notes. This was an extremely useful measure as it
alerted the researcher to several areas where additional data were needed
(Webb et al., 1966).
The role of researcher in the field is critically related to the
collection of valid data. How the participants perceive the researcher
can greatly affect the kind of data they are willing to report or reveal
(Webb et al., 1966). Consequently, a supportive, peer relationship was
established with the participating teachers. The researcher guaranteed
anonymity so that the teachers could talk openly about their lives at
school. Moreover, the researcher served as a teacher helper providing
assistance with instruction and discipline. As a former teacher, the
researcher had additional credibility in this role.
Acknowledging the problem of what has been called the reactive
arrangement effect (Campbell & Stanley, 1963), the researcher employed
additional measures to reduce discrepancies between real teacher behavior
and research setting teacher behavior. At the outset of the study, the
participating teachers were told the study sought to understand teaching
in the middle grades. The researcher also conveyed the message that
the research was intended to be descriptive and not evaluative.
One additional means used to reduce the reactive effect was the
length of time in the field. When a researcher appears only periodically,
it is far easier for teachers to alter behavior to suit the perceived
needs of the researcher. The continued presence of the researcher makes
alterations more cumbersome, and thus less likely (Becker, 1952). A
period of ten weeks was spent in the field in order to maximize the
possibility of collecting valid data.
As a final strategy, the search for counter evidence to emerging
hypotheses was continually conducted. As themes emerged, additional
observations or interviews were conducted to retest the suspected con-
An ethnographic study of teaching usually employs one of two ap-
proaches--macrocosmic or microcosmic (Talbert, 1976). Macrocosmic
studies generally focus on the school system as a whole, while micro-
cosmic studies direct their attention to actual events and behaviors in
the classroom. In this investigation of teaching, the level of atten-
tion was divided. An understanding of the perspectives and behaviors
of the teachers was the fundamental data base, but their meaning was
only fully understood through some exploration of each of the two
schools' contextual features. Working as a single researcher, neither
level received as much attention as might be desirable. Furthermore,
with more attention given to the microcosmic level of study, generaliza-
tions regarding the two schools as whole entities were limited.
A year-long ethnographic investigation requires extensive partici-
pation and cooperation on the part of the subjects, particularly when
the number is limited as in this study. This contingency reduced the
pool of teachers who could willingly participate. With the additional
constraints of the original selection criteria, the pool was further
limited. The final four teachers met the criteria and were willing and
eager to cooperate but several characteristics of the four suggest ad-
Ms. Reed and Ms. Cassidy represent teachers with almost twice as
much experience as either Mr. Waters or Ms. Lane. Moreover, Ms. Reed
and Ms. Cassidy represent an older range in terms of chronological age
than Ms. Lane and Mr. Waters. Ideally, having a younger and older, less
experienced and more experienced teacher pair at each school would have
yielded a more balanced sample. Research has indicated that age and
years of experience may play important roles in teacher perspectives
and practices (Lipka & Goulet, 1979).
Researcher-subject rapport and teacher personality were additional
limitations. It was discovered that the teachers at Long Meadow answered
questions with more detail and elaboration than the teachers at Hidden
Brook. In some cases this meant that more data were collected from the
teachers at Long Meadow. Teacher personalities may have accounted for
some of the discovered differences. Furthermore, the researcher had
previous professional associations with the teachers at Long Meadow,
whereas the research project constituted the first association with the
teachers at Hidden Brook. This too could account for the discovered
difference in the data collected.
in the study of teachers' perspectives and practices, a variety
of methods were applied:
1. Passive participant and nonparticipant observations of teachers.
2. Observations of teachers in school events, meetings, lounges,
classrooms, offices, and corridors.
3. Interviews with teachers.
4. Informant interviews.
5. Administrator interviews.
6. Paper and pencil instrument.
7. The collection of artifacts.
8. The collection of photographic data.
As the major purpose of this studywas heuristic and not predictive,
these methods were believed to be most useful in providing an under-
standing of teachers' perspectives and practices in the two middle
Teacher attitudes and behaviors are influenced by a number of
complexly interrelated variables. One clear message from research is
that the organization and administration of a school creates conditions
which can influence teachers and their teaching (Anglin, 1979; Charters,
1978; Cohen, Bredo, & Duckworth, 1976; Metz, 1978; Meyer et al., 1972;
Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston, & Smith, 1979). In addition, re-
search suggests that the effects of a school's organization and adminis-
tration are mediated, paralleled, and even challenged by a range of
other influences such as the nature of the school's history, the
ccmposition of the student population or teacher background training
and experience (Bell, 1979; Brookover, Schweitzer, Schneider, Beady,
Flood, & Wisenbaker, 1978; Charters, 1978; Lortie, 197E; Metz, 1978).
The implication from the existing research is that teachers' perspec-
tives and practices may be influenced by many and varied school
This research investigated teachers' perspectives and practices
in relation to school context, in two organizationally different middle
schools. Since this study was heuristic and not predictive in nature,
the analysis and interpretation focused on a search for significant
relationships between school contextual features and teacher perspec-
tives and practices. The findings revealed that the teachers working
in the same school were more similar than dissimilar in their beliefs
and practices. Moreover, it was discovered that teacher role identi-
ties, relationships with others at school, pedagogical perspectives,
job attitudes, and classroom practices seemed to be influenced by
interrelated school contextual variables such as school history, the
instructional and physical organization of teachers and students,
administrator priorities, the daily teaching schedule, and the program
of curriculum and instruction.
In this chapter, the results are reported for the teachers at each
of the two schools. Within each school section, tne results are
organized so as to highlight major themes characterizing the perspec-
tives and practices of the teachers at that school. In addition, the
results reported address the study's two initial major questions: What
characterized teachers' perspectives and practices at each middle school,
and what school factors seemed to influence the production and main-
tenance of those prevailing world views? Global comparisons, inter-
pretations, and conclusions regarding middle school organization and
operation, and teacher perspectives and practices will be reported in
the following and final chapter.
Teaching at Hidden Brook
Mrs. Cassidy and Mrs. Reed worked in a middle school whose organi-
zation, administration, and curriculum seemed to elicit and support a
highly structured, subject-centered approach to teaching based on two
assumptions: that teaching was foremost the work of transmitting a body
of knowledge, and that school and classroom order required limited
student freedom and a distant, authority role relationship with students.
As members of subject-area departments, with an administration that
promoted subject-area specialization and academic achievement, and with
a principal-endorsed standardized and textbook-based curriculum, Mrs.
Cassidy and Mrs. Reed approached the work of teaching with a compli-
mentary focus on curriculum content and academic achievement. Moreover,
in a school with a history of difficulty with innovation and student
discipline, and an administration determined to preserve order, Mrs.
Cassidy and Mrs. Reed approached students with an on-guard posture
designed to "keep students on their toes."
This overall posture, however, did not clearly mirror Mrs. Cassidy's
and Mrs. Reed's professional aspirations and beliefs. In fact, instruc-
tional practices may have more nearly reflected the priorities and norms
at work in the larger world of the school. Mrs. Cassidy and Mrs. Reed
seemed to have aspirations which addressed teaching as a moral and
humanistic enterprise. They preferred to identify themselves as
student-centered rather than subject-centered teachers, concerned with
both student socialization and academic achievement. Yet, somehow in
the context of school pressures, administrative expectations and prac-
tices, a turbulent school past, former high school subject-centered
teaching experience and training, and an uncertainty about teaching
middle school students, they seemed to have sublimated those beliefs
and aspirations in exchange for the assurance and order insured by a
standard, predefined, and administrator-sanctioned approach. What
characterized Mrs. Cassidy's and Mrs. Reed's professional perspectives
and practices and how were they related to the character of life at
Curriculum vs. Student: Conflicting Interests
Mrs. Cassidy and Mrs. Reed conducted themselves as teachers in ways
that reflected a commitment to curriculum coverage above other instruc-
tional considerations. Classroom life was highly structured, teacher-
directed, and information-centered. One typical example from the record
of Mrs. Reed's classroom teaching reads:
The students enter the classroom and take their assigned
seats. The bell rings and some students are seated while
others are at the pencil sharpener waiting to or sharpening
their pencils. Mrs. Reed is at the front of the room
standing behind a tall lectern. She is referring to her
attendance book and starts to call the students' names, one
at a time to see if they're present. Then she moves to the
center of the front and says, to a student, "Put your art
project away or Mrs. Reed will take it away and you won't
have it." Another student retorts, "He could bring another
one from home." Mrs. Reed says, "We don't need your one,
two, threes." Moving ahead she says, "Tomorrow we'll be
going to the Teaching Auditorium and we all must follow
the Teaching Auditorium rules or you won't be allowed to
participate." One student asks, "Does this mean we'll be
sent out?" Then, she says, "Yes, that's true." Then, she
says, "Please turn to page 79 and read pages 79-80 and 81
[in the textbooks]. You have ten minutes to read this."
The students open their books and start to read. During
this time, Mrs. Reed is doing some writing at the lectern.
The classroom is quiet. After ten minutes, Mrs. Reed says,
"Everyone should have finished, so take out a sheet of
paper. While you're doing that I'm going to pass back
some graded papers and you should put these in your social
studies notebook." Mrs. Reed continues, "We're going to
go over what you just read and I am going to show you an
outline of the Chang dynasty.' She puts an outline of facts
on the overhead projector and the screen. She reads the
outline aloud, asking a few questions. Then she says,
"I want you to copy this outline." The students start
writing. After about ten minutes, Mrs. Reed says, "Class,
everybody is probably finished copying this now. Take out
another sheet of paper because I'm going to give you some
questions." She takes a tape recorder and starts to play
a tape which is her voice asking questions. The students
have to answer the questions on paper. The questions are
about the Chang dynasty and China. When this is done,
the tape provides the correct answers, so students ex-
change papers with their neighbor and check the work.
Then Mrs. Reed says, "Please call your score out when I
call your name." They do. The bell rings and she says,
"All right, you may go." (Reed 10/28, 1-5)
Mrs. Reed had a business-like style of teaching which focused on
information-dissemination. Her class lessons generally involved the
presentation of information with written exercises for students. The
evaluation of student work was generally a public affair. The emphasis
during instruction seemed to be on the product rather than the process
of learning. Interaction between the subject and students appeared to
be secondary to the major business of disseminating the social studies
Information-dissemination also seemed to be Mrs. Cassidy's primary
goal. Her instruction generally involved the presentation of infcrma-
tion with written, seatwork activities for student practice. The
The students enter and take their assigned seats. Mrs.
Cassidy calls roll. "All right, open your books to page
237," Mrs. Cassidy begins. "We're going to talk about art.
I have a book with pictures I am going to show you." She
opens up several books and holds up pictures. She says,
"These represent art from the Renaissance." She shows the
Mona Lisa. One student says, "They showed her without
clothes on one time." Mrs. Cassidy frowns and turns her
back to the student and says, "Thank you for sharing that
with us, Wally." "Now, we'll read from the book, page 237,
Marlene will you start?" Marlene reads. After three stu-
dents have read and Mrs. Cassidy says, "There will be things
I am going to be writing down on the overhead. I want you
to copy them down." One student asks, "Are we going to
have more questions? I hate questions!" The students
start to copy the definitions. Mrs. Cassidy writes on the
overhead projector. She finishes and says "Keep your
papers. We're going to have a quiz tomorrow on what we've
done these past few days." The bell rings and students
leave immediately. No one asks about the quiz. (Cassidy
It seemed that Mrs. Cassidy had planned to provide a stimulating, open-
ended lesson introduction with her pictures and yet she turned to her
textbook plans almost immediately. Was she discouraged by Wally's
response? When asked about this event, Mrs. Cassidy explained:
I'd like to have more time for those kinds of things, you
know, but we've got just so much to cover and sometimes I
think it just gets the kids off track. (Cassidy 4/5, 20)
Mrs. Cassidy seemed to feel pressured to attend to the required cur-
riculum content above her concern for student motivation.
Again emphasizing content-coverage another class observation
illuminates her commitment to teaching the information specified in the
textbook. The record reads:
Mrs. Cassidy says to the students, "Let's take out our books
[textbooks]." The students all reach underneath their
individual chairdesks and pull out their copy of the social
studies textbook. Mrs. Cassidy continues, "Turn to page
87." Then Mrs. Cassidy takes a seat at her desk and con-
tinues, "Look at the map on page 87. We're going to answer
questions 1-6 together using the map." She reads a ques-
tion, looks up, calls on a student to answer, and continues
until all questions are done. When all of the questions
have been answered, Mrs. Cassidy moves to a stool in the
front of the room and talks for about five minutes on the
nature of cities and civilizations. She asks, "What things
promote the development of cities? Why do cities pop up
in certain places"? One student says, "People are maybe
there or travel together and then start a place." Mrs.
Cassidy says, "Well, not exactly but Brad"? Brad responds,
"It's the weather." She says, "That's close"! Calling on
another student she says, "Wilma"? Wilma says, "Maybe
because of the rivers and the farming"! Mrs. Cassidy
says, "Right that's it!" Then she says, "I want you to do
the Under the Chapter questions in your books. Use a
separate sheet of paper." The students begin to write.
(Cassidy 10/28, 1-3)
Mrs. Cassidy's lesson seemed to emphasize content coverage and very
specific answers to what appeared to be somewhat open-ended questions.
In this observation, Mrs. Cassidy searched for a specific answer until
she found a student who could supply it. None of the suggested answers
were wrong; however, the answer she approved was the answer provided
verbatim in the textbook chapter reading.
In addition, much of Mrs. Cassidy's teaching time focused on pre-
paring students for testing. In fact, Mrs. Cassidy essentially taught
many of her tests to her students. One example from the record reads:
Then Mrs. Cassidy puts a list of questions on the overhead
screen. She says, "You need at least the questions down
right now. This is what the test is on tomorrow." Some
students begin to copy the list. Mrs. Cassidy sits at her
desk. Some students are still talking. From her desk,
Mrs. Cassidy calls, "Pam, have you gotten them all answered?"
Pam says, "No." Mrs. Cassidy continues, "Then you should be
studying." Pam still talks to her neighbor and Mrs. Cassidy
says, "The test tomorrow Pam, Pam, Pam, will cover every-
thing about Christianity, the Dark Ages and all the rest."
In about fifteen minutes, Mrs. Cassidy gets up from her
seat and moving to the overhead projector, says, "Let's
correct our papers. Okay, number one Alex." Alex says,
"Crusades." I realize now that all of the students are
supposed to have finished their answers to the questions
at this point. They worked on these questions yesterday
as well. Mrs. Cassidy continues to call on students,
"Number three, Rachel." Rachel says, "Baghdad." (Cassidy
Mrs. Cassidy's end of the year review and final exam clearly illustrated
this test preparation teaching theme. The record reads:
I enter the room and Mrs. Cassidy is writing at her desk.
She says, "I'm writing out questions for our final exam and
the students are reviewing." There is a list of questions
on the screen and I observe that the students are copying
the list. There are one hundred questions. The students
are looking in their textbooks for answers too. I ask to
help and Mrs. Cassidy let me type up the review questions
#25-100 so the ". .. students have something to look at and
take home with them," she explains. I type questions
noticing that for every question, there is a factual, re-
call answer. Examples include: Where do Moslems worship?
(220), What was feudalism? (137), What were the crusades?
(152-153), What is the Koran? (126). The numbers were the
pages in the textbook where the answers could be found. The
questions for review were the same questions on the final
exam, only reordered and stated in the form of a multiple
choice. (Cassidy 5/28, 1)
Mrs. Cassidy explained to me that, "The final exam is just the same
questions in multiple-choice form" (Cassidy 5/28, 3).
Mrs. Reed's instruction reflected much this same thrust. Like
Mrs. Cassidy, she seemed reluctant to attend to student needs in light
of curriculum requirements. On the first day of school she made an
effort to address her students as persons but rushed through that
portion of her lesson in order to address the content lesson for the
day. The record reads:
She places a stick figure drawing on the overnead projector
and flashed a skeletal person on the screen and said, "This
is you on day one. I don't know you yet. I need to call
roll and see who you are." She proceeds to call roll.
Following that, she says "We have certain rules I want you
to copy. These will go in your social studies notebook."
Then, she displays a list of rules on the screen for the
students to copy. The rules list was as follows:
1. I enter quietly.
2. I leave when the teacher dismisses.
3. I listen when someone is speaking.
4. I do not interrupt the teacher or classmate.
5. I remain seated.
6. I sharpen my pencil before class.
When she sees that most of the students have finished, she
proceeds to say, "We're going to be studying maps and
mapping. I want to explain about our homework. It's done
when I call for it and not ten minutes later." Then, she
said, "I want you to complete this inventory about your-
self." She displays the following on the screen:
My name is Those of my family
who live at home are
I like to
I am good at When I select a
TV program, I turn on
One extra thing about myself is
The students copy and complete the inventory from the over-
head. In about ten minutes, Mrs. Reed says, "Pass these to
the front of your row." She collects the papers. Then, she
says, "We'll be studying maps so let's look over here at the
map." She stands near the large map in the room and the
students turn to face her. She asks the students to name
.. the oceans of the world," and many students raise
their hands. She calls on students to answer, and they do.
The students name the oceans she identifies and then the
bell rings. Mrs. Reed says, "All right you may go." The
students leave. (Reed 8/25, 1-4)
Mrs. Reed acknowledged the need to know students as persons, yet she
only allowed a minimal amount of time and provided very narrow specifi-
cations for students to tell about themselves. As she explained later
that day, "There's hardly enough time to teach what I need to teach so
we don't waste much time" (Reed 8/25, 12).
If we were to look strictly at Mrs. Cassidy's and Mrs. Reed's per-
ceptions of the effective teacher, their observed focus on subject
matter content would not surprise us. Both teachers described the
effective teacher according to traditional assumptions about the role
of the teacher as a disseminator of knowledge. Mrs. Cassidy said:
The effective teacher is someone who knows subject matter
or what they're teaching; has a knowledge of their area
or discipline. I think that's the first step. (Cassidy