Instructional planning practices of rural, multi-grade teachers : a case study
Knaub, Kristi Lynn
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Multi-grade teachers must consider numerous factors when planning for instruction. The challenges of meeting content standards for several grade levels, teaching numerous subjects, and managing student behaviors contribute to a complex process. The purpose of this study is to investigate the methodologies used for long and short-term instructional planning in multi-grade classrooms, including organization of students and subject areas. Qualitative case-study research was conducted on three rural Montana teachers who teach multiple grade levels. Interviews, classroom observations, and planning documents were used to construct descriptions of the participants' yearly, unit, weekly, and daily planning. Goals of planning, resources used, planning formats, evaluation of planning effectiveness, and alignment to planning models were also compared. The multi-grade teachers relied on previous plans, knowledge of students, and curriculum guides as primary resources to meet their planning goal of effective content coverage. Notable differences existed in planning format, organization of instruction, and use of curricular integration between the least experienced teacher and more experienced teachers. Teachers also relied on executive planning routines to manage their planning duties. The teachers' planning strategies could be applied to general education settings as a model for differentiating instruction for diverse student populations. Additionally, preservice teacher education programs could benefit from adding courses focused on realistic planning methods rather than theoretical models. Finally, multi-grade teachers could benefit from peer-mentoring programs and structured opportunities to share and reflect upon their own practices.