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Elementary School Departmentalization: Advantages and Disadvantages


The profession of a teacher requires the constant exploring and development of knowledge. A teacher needs to be skilled in the implementation of the teaching methods, techniques, and ideas according to the conditions and situations. It is extremely interesting to investigate the educational approaches that could benefit both teachers and their students. For instance, it is proved by the experience of many specialists that the one content elementary education supports the teachers’ total commitment to the subject and the professional growth. However, departmentalization still fails to adjust to the American educational system.

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Having over twelve years of experience in teaching, I can make my assessment of the pros and cons of the distinct trends and methods of education in schools both in China and the USA. I observed many elementary school specialists struggling in the attempt to manage the high-level performance in teaching multiple subjects a day. And in my professional opinion, it is hardly believable that teaching several subjects per day could provide the efficiency in mastering the matter by the teacher and transmitting the knowledge to the students.

It is reported in the multiple research papers that the majority of elementary teachers have a fear of teaching mathematics. It is possible to assume that the reason for this is primarily in the lack of sufficient time for knowledge development and the preparation of the lessons. As a result, the teachers’ knowledge deficiency negatively impacts the class performance “depriving students of the opportunity to build a strong foundation in mathematics” (Taylor-Buckner, 2014, p. 1). Another disadvantage of the generalist teaching method is the excessive workload that puts a lot of pressure on the educational specialists. Eventually, these challenges the generalist teachers face in schools decrease the level of job satisfaction, and it inevitably influences the students’ poor performance, especially in the science classes (Strohl, Schmertzing, Schmertzing, & Hsiao, 2014, p. 113).

The previous research of departmentalization proves it to be highly effective in teaching the precise sciences in elementary school (Liu, 2011, p. 43). The reported benefits of this method implementation are the increase of the teachers’ proficiency level and obtaining a more in-depth knowledge of the subject. The specialization in one subject allows teachers to feel “more confident and prepared in their teaching than they did when they taught self-contained classes” (Strohl, Schmertzing, & Schmertzing, 2014, p. 13). The other advantages include efficient time management, better student performance, and better students’ transition to secondary school. However, it also was observed that departmentalization improves the efficiency of teaching “at a cost to student-teacher relations” (Earl, Hargreaves, & Ryan, 2003, p. 1994). Therefore, the more detailed research of the departmentalization impacts will benefit the field of education and will provide the possible solutions for the current challenges the teachers and students face in schools.

The issues of the departmentalization advantages and disadvantages are of sufficient interest for the research. It is important to address such matters as the level of the teachers’ proficiency, the efficiency of knowledge transition to the students and its impact on the overall performance in the different subjects, the teachers’ mathematics anxiety, the maintenance of the student-teacher relations and its impact on the education processes, etc. The controversial and scarce findings of the previous research demonstrate that these issues require more focused and profound investigation.


Nowadays, both teachers and students face a lot of difficulties in education. These challenges exist primarily because of the defects of the educational method. The detailed research of departmentalization will assist in finding the solutions for the current issues and will help to provide the educational system advancement in the future.


Earl, L., Hargreaves, A., & Ryan, J. (2003). Schooling for change: Reinventing education for early adolescents. London, UK: The Falmer Press.

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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.

Taylor-Buckner, N. (2014). The effects of elementary departmentalization on mathematics proficiency. Columbia University Academic Commons. Web.

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