CPT Project: Emerging Research from the National Middle Grades Research Project [AERA Symposium]

Common Planning Time Project: Emerging Research from the National Middle Grades Research Project
Symposium at the Annual Meeting of AERA 2009  

Kathleen Roney, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, roneyk@uncw.edu
Steve Mertens, Illinois State University, smerten@ilstu.edu
Vince A. Anfara, Jr., University of Tennessee, vanfara@utk.edu
Micki M. Caskey, Portland State University, caskeym@pdx.edu

The intent of this symposium is to document the history and process of the National Middle Grades Research Project on Common Planning Time. Participant researchers used a standardized set of observation and interview protocols to gather data. Each participant researcher explored the data using an array of qualitative data analysis techniques. Project Leaders will facilitate the session. First, Project Leaders will present an overview of the project. Second, participant researchers will present their individual research. Third, project leaders will guide discussion regarding preliminary findings and next steps. Session will conclude with an open conversation with session participants.

Individual Research Presentations

The Use of Common Planning Time: A Case Study of Two Kentucky Schools to Watch
Chris M. Cook, Northern Kentucky University, cookc2@nku.edu
Shawn A. Faulkner, Northern Kentucky University, faulkners1@nku.edu

Interdisciplinary teams with common planning time have been a hallmark of the middle school organizational structure since the 1960s, yet research on the effective use of common planning time is limited. This study explores how interdisciplinary teams at schools designated a Kentucky School to Watch utilize common planning time, including the factors that enhance common planning time effectiveness, the beliefs and perceptions of the teachers concerning the use of common planning time, and the topics and activities that take place during common planning time sessions. Results indicate a common vision and mission, clearly defined goals for all types of planning (interdisciplinary team planning, grade- level planning, and professional learning communities), and effective building leadership were primary factors to enhance effectiveness.

A Comparison of Teacher’s Perceptions of Perceived Barriers Regarding the Implementation of Common Planning Time
at Two Middle Schools

Nicole L. Thompson, Mississippi State University, nt65@colled.msstate.edu
Dana Pomykal Franz, Mississippi State University, df76@colled.msstate.edu
Nicole C. Miller, Mississippi State University, ncm39@colled.msstate.edu

This study using the MLER SIG’s Common Planning Time protocol examines teachers’ perceptions of factors that facilitate or hinder the effectiveness and implementation of CPT at two middle schools in north-central Mississippi, one school with established leadership and one with a new principal. Researchers analyzed the questions in the perceived barriers section of the structured interview using cross case analysis. Categories of responses were consolidated into themes as follows: interruptions of team time, school and common planning time structure, individual differences including teacher buy-in, off-task behaviors, lack of time to complete team activities and the perception that CPT interferes with other job responsibilities. While teachers at both schools value CPT, findings reveal that better relationships amongst teams, better organization of teams, meeting time structure, and better leadership lead to fewer perceived difficulties with implementation of CPT.  

Middle Grade Interdisciplinary Team Planning in the Context of No Child Left Behind

Marilyn J. Taylor, University of Hawaii at Manoa, mjtaylor@hawaii.edu

This qualitative exploratory study describes both teacher preparation for and interdisciplinary middle grades teachers’ use of common planning time (CPT). It focuses on ten teachers on two teams in an urban middle school committed to middle grades philosophy. The data sources include one-on-one interviews, observations of CPT, demographic questionnaires, publicly available school information, and researcher reflections. Interviews and observations followed protocols developed by the National Middle Grades Research Project on CPT (Mertens, et al, 2007). Findings suggest: (a) teachers without prior preparation learn informally from peers to use CPT; (b) they use CPT to promote student and teacher learning and well-being and to respond to school-wide needs; (c) teacher knowledge of CPT varies and teams could function more fully and/or efficiently with formal professional development; (d) teachers have adapted the ways they use CPT under NCLB, planning fewer interdisciplinary units and more lessons to promote reading and math achievement. Overall this school committed to the middle school philosophy has made much progress in preparing teachers on-the-job to implement teams and use CPT, yet additional preparation, both pre-service and in-service, can help teams move to fuller implementation.