Brian Miller

Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

James E. Henderson

Committee Member

Peter Miller

Committee Member

Steve A. Duchi Jr.


teaming, small group development, middle school, norming, participatory action research, community of practice


The teaming concept has served as a cornerstone of middle level philosophy and education since the middle school movement began in the 1960s. The literature on teaming is quite extensive and the interpretations of that research often differ among schools. For the purpose of this study, teaming is defined as a small group of teachers with different content responsibilities who work with the same group of students in a school-within-a-school structure. Described as a signature practice in the middle school movement, teaming provides an organizational framework that allows schools to design and deliver effective learning to every student (Crow and Pounder, 2000; Hackmann, Petzko, Valentine, Clark, Nori, and Lucas, 2002). Despite the widespread use of teaming, most of the empirical research focuses on the structural components of teams. Little empirical attention is given to middle school teams as small groups and the steps necessary to enhance the interpersonal dynamics and relationships of teachers on those teams in the establishment of shared beliefs. Given the complex social dynamics of small groups, a Participatory Action Research (PAR) study was designed to better understand the influence of a collaborative norming process on teacher perceptions of exemplary teams. Social constructivist learning theory, small group research, and the learning community concept served as the background necessary for the development of the theoretical framework. A single middle school was selected for this study based upon specific criteria (e.g., grade configuration, teaming at multiple grade levels, team size, team composition, and support of middle level philosophy). In this PAR study, data was collected through semi-structured interviews, observation, and a review of artifacts. The participants actively engaged in professional development sessions and a collaborative norming process that helps to identify the shared goals of the teams. Data were analyzed throughout the study to guide decisions and determine emergent themes. This study illuminated practical issues in enhancing team performance and informed efforts at this school to improve the signature practice of middle level education. By studying the phenomenon of individual teachers working to establish shared beliefs within their teams, educational leaders may gain valuable insight into the transformation of these small groups. The dialogue and reflection inherent in this type of collaborative norming process was as valuable as the product -- a site specific framework for exemplary teams.