Departmentalization in American Elementary Schools

Nowadays, most of the US elementary schools adopt “a self-contained model” of education (Chang, Munoz, & Koshewa, 2008, p. 131). This model implies that the students are taught by the same teacher every day. Although the traditional generalist model is proved to be less stressful for the children and provides a better knowledge of the students’ personalities, it also has some disadvantages. Implementation of the departmentalization in elementary schools could support a more profound knowledge of the subjects by the students, such as mathematics, and would allow teachers to focus and increase the skill level.

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The key words for the research were “departmentalization,” “elementary schools,” and “one-content teaching.” The key words allowed narrowing down the search area by emphasizing the main features of the subject. The search limiters are the type of the publications and the date. In this case, the limiters were the peer-reviewed articles issued after 2007. Referencing to the peer-reviewed articles in allows obtaining the relevant and extensive data and helps to save time. The analysis in these articles is based on the summaries of the most competent scholars. Thus, as a resource, the peer-reviewed articles are the best ground for the adequate research.

Departmentalization in Elementary Schools

The generalist educational model is common in the US elementary schools and is considered appropriate for the students. Nevertheless, the generalist approach to education when a teacher is involved with teaching one group of students each day and instruct them in the variety of subjects didn’t prove to be efficient.

First of all, the self-contained model gives the teachers a small degree of job satisfaction. The intense workloads cause the teachers’ “burnouts” because of “the mismatch between job requirements and perceived abilities” (Strohl, Schmertzing, Schmertzing, & Hsiao, 2014, p. 111). These burnouts and negative responses influence the students’ achievements badly.

The second disadvantage of the generalist model is the poor performance of the students. “Mathematics and science reports have consistently revealed low performance amongst U.S. students and proposed reforms to improve student achievement in these areas” (Strohl, Schmertzing, & Schmertzing, 2014, p. 3). It is considered that the elementary school teachers’ level of knowledge is too basic for the provision of the students with the adequate and sufficient information on the subject (Gerretson, Bosnik, &Schofield, 2008, p. 303). In this regard, the departmentalized teaching is better for the learning achievements improvement because it provides the in-depth knowledge of the subject.

The departmentalization is adopted in the secondary educational institutions in the USA and is proved to be more advantageous. It gives the teachers opportunity “to specialize and teach one content area in-depth, which may in turn lead to higher teacher satisfaction and teacher retention” (Chang et al., 2008, p. 131). The teachers need to prepare the smaller amount of lessons for each day, and it increases the classes quality. Thus, it is reasonable to consider that the higher level of the teacher’s specialization affects the students as the information receivers positively.

The observed disadvantages of the departmentalization in the elementary schools are “not knowing students on a more personal level, loss of integration and connection across different subjects, added stress on young children when they have to move from classroom to classroom, and the time wasted during such moves” (Liu, 2011, p. 47).

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The evaluations of the students’ performances in the various subjects in school make it clear that the current educational methods and models are inefficient and require changes, particularly at the elementary level. The departmentalization or its combination with the self-contained model would have the good outcomes in education. It would increase the teachers’ job satisfaction by reduction of their workloads and would provide the students with the sufficient knowledge


Chang, F., Munoz, M., & Koshewa, S. (2008). Evaluating the impact of departmentalization on elementary school students. Planning and Changing, 39(3&4), 131-145.

Gerretson, H., Bosnik, J., & Schofield. (2008). A case for content specialists as the elementary classroom teacher. The Teacher Educator, 43, 302-304.

Liu, F. (2011). Pre-service teachers’ perceptions of departmentalization of elementary schools. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 7(1), 40-53.

Strohl, A., Schmertzing, L., & Schmertzing, R. (2014). Elementary teachers’ experiences and perceptions of departmentalized instruction: A case study. Journal of Case Studies in Education, 6, 1-17.

Strohl, A., Schmertzing, L., Schmertzing, R., & Hsiao, E. (2014). Comparison of self-contained and departmentalized elementary teachers’ perceptions of classroom structure and job satisfaction. Journal of Studies in Education, 4(1), 109-127.

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