A survey of instructional grouping and staff utilization patterns in open space facilities of Texas high schools



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The purpose of the study was to describe and analyze student grouping and staff utilization patterns in open space areas in Texas high schools. A review of the literature putting open space into historical perspective revealed that architectural openness was a feature that grew contemporaneously with, and closely related to, flexible grouping and staffing patterns, two other components of individualization. This study descriptively analyzed the grouping and staffing practices occurring in the open areas of high schools of the state. The population frame for the study was twenty-two high schools in the state purported by the literature to have some open space, as operationally defined for this study. The sample used for the study was fourteen of these schools. The survey instrument was an interview-observation schedule developed from literature on grouping and staffing in open space. Respondents included the chief instructional administrator and either the department chairman or team leader of each department of team using the facility. The interview schedule included questions on the subjects grouped in the open area, the different sizes of instructional groups used by the respondents, and the learning activities utilized in each size group. Data on staff deployment were garnered by questions on the number of each type of instructional position used in the facility, by title and by the respondents' estimates of their percentage of time spent in certain "instructional tasks" selected from the literature. Data on subjects in the open area, grouping sizes and activities, and titles of staff were then verified by on-site observation in order to obtain partial validation of the data collected through the interviews. Observational sources included teacher schedules, lesson plans, and observation of instruction. The data obtained from the interviews in the survey were transferred from the coding on the interview schedules to presentation in tables and descriptive narrative. Means and modes were computed on quantitative data so that ranges both within and among the schools could be analyzed. This method of data treatment produced the following findings and conclusions about the status of grouping and staffing patterns in the open area of Texas high schools: 1. Only three schools made more than a very limited use of open space that involved only one or two subjects or teams of teachers. 2. English is the subject most frequently found in open space, and there is almost no interdisciplinary grouping of students. 3. The most common grouping pattern was found to be that which included some use of individual activity, small groups of from 3-6 students, and in 50% of the schools, teaming of two or three classroom-size groups. In all but three schools, however, the traditional classroom-size group of from 20-35 students was the repository for the most different types of learning activities, 4. The majority of the schools in the survey showed little diversity within the facility in the number and types of different grouping patterns utilized. 5. The schools surveyed exhibited almost no differentiation of instructional staff, either by title or by instructional tasks. Thus, the implications inherent in the above conclusions are that most recent moves toward open space in Texas high schools have been limited in the degree to which student grouping and staff utilization patterns have been diversified to utilize this openness. Physically open facilities are serving organizational patterns still tending toward the traditional classroom-teacher unit. The implications of this study thus provide guidelines and directions for future research by showing that physical openness may not, in itself, be the proper component upon which to base future research and debate.