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Evaluation of Departmentalized Instruction in Elementary Schools: Exploring Implementation Experiences

Assigning upper elementary grade teachers to teach their strongest subjects to multiple classes ("departmentalizing"), rather than teaching all subjects to a single class, ("self-contained instruction") could mean more specialized instructional expertise in the classroom or focus for teacher planning time and professional development. This study examined the experiences of 90 schools that either voluntarily switched to departmentalized instruction for up to two years or continued with self-contained teaching in 4th and 5th grade classes beginning in fall 2019. The findings show that schools that switched were able to implement the key steps needed to departmentalize instruction but struggled with aspects of the approach. Teachers' reported experiences were consistent with some of both the benefits and challenges that prior research had hypothesized. Although the pandemic significantly disrupted instruction and the study activities, school and teacher experiences during this challenging time may inform schools and districts considering adopting departmentalized instruction.

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