I-Team is a method of instruction designed to create interdisciplinary study, team building, and student self-direction. I-Team is being presented for use with Graland's upper school division, in the VAPA (Visual And Performing Arts) schedule block, for the 1999-2000 school year. I-Team is not designed to replace any classroom content course (e.g. music, art, drama, rap, HG&D, issues), and, in fact, augments all areas of study in the upper school.

I-Team begins with the existing grade structures and schedules. Each grade is divided into four sections and those sections rotate between four disciplines. Upper school students meet with two arts disciplines, 2.5 times a week, per semester, 18 weeks. For example, a student may have visual art and music, 45 times each, during the first semester. That same student would then have drama and issues/rap, 45 times each, during the second semester. The student alternates between the two semester disciplines on a biweekly basis (Appendix A).


With the implementation of the 1998-99 schedule, visual art lost 35 contact hours, with each student, per year. This has affected curricular strands developed since first grade. These strands count on the climax projects of upper school in such mediums as clay, print making, and pastels. With out these projects students do not receive full exposure to visual arts.

This year, music and drama gained some increased time to develop, and then apply, similar curricular strands. Even still, with the modest expansion of these programs, the performing arts can not apply their full curricular and interdisciplinary potentials, being bound by schedule constraints.

There is also a danger in using the visual and performing arts as an optional , or less significant, content area. Each builds very tangible and quantifiable strengths for students. Music has shown to compliment math skills. Visual art provides kinesthetic applications of spatial awareness. Drama hones communication, reading, and speaking skills. These are just a few of the benefits of VAPAs, and have been demonstrated through scientific studies. Issues, rap, and human growth and development are all valuable areas of study. Unfortunately, they have been placed in the VAPA schedule block. This may not be an intentional dismissal of the VAPA's significance to the school experience, but it encourages the mind set that the arts are expendable subjects.

The Graland mission statement trumpets the importance of experiential education and it's role at our school. The ACIS evaluation team of 1998-99 prominently noted experiential education and the arts as hallmarks of Graland's greatness. We are also challenged by the call for academic rigor in the recruitment, retention, and education of our students. These two concepts, arts and academics, are sometimes seen in conflict with each other; that one must be sacrificed so the other may flourish.

It is actually through the confluence of academics and the arts that fully formed human beings are created. What is a painter who can not manage the necessity of rent, or a musician unable to negotiate the points of a contract. Like wise, what is an engineer that ignores the ergonomic beauty of our palm's shape, or a politician who can only articulate an idea without perceiving the breadth of its consequences and emotions. We are not in the business of creating mathematicians, musicians, scientists, or sculptors. We are here to shape humanity.

I-Teams Take Shape

All of these disciplines meld together in the I-Teams, or Interdisciplinary Teams. Students are given the fourth component of the VAPA block as a vehicle for exploring issues, solving problems, and developing ideas in a creative, interdisciplinary space. Academic and social issues are presented to the teams. The teams then create solutions and presentations through the three artistic mediums. Students are also free to work the other direction; start with an artistic medium and then find an issue to use as a subject.

New, sequential, artistic concepts are presented at the beginning of each semester. Students then divide their class into four, five, or six member teams. The exact number may vary according to enrollment, and the vision of facilitator's implementation. The teams are then presented with the problems or issues.

There are three possible ways to present these ideas: (a) each student brings an academic problem area, or an issue, to the group, (b) departments, classroom teachers, or the facilitator may present problems or issues for expanded exploration, or (c) a combination of the two. For example, in the first instance, a student may be having difficulty with the math concepts of retrograde and inversion. Another student may want to grapple with current racial issues in the community. In the second case, the science department may want a project developed for marine biology, or the HG&D facilitator wants a project based on alcohol and tobacco use. Finally, there could be a combination of the two. Three student ideas could be agreed on in the group, two departmental problems are offered, and the facilitator introduces an issue. In a six member team, that means six problems or issues are explored for the semester. That would allow approximately 6 classes for the development of each solution/presentation. This is also the perfect medium to implement the Gates grant for inventions, through the visual art medium.

Because the teams are self directed, they must monitor the time spent, the medium of expression, and the form of implementation for each issue. One group might hammer out a script for a play in two classes, rehearse during the third class, and present it on the fourth class. Since a main purpose of the I-Team is to provide artistic application, at least one project from each discipline needs to be employed during the semester. The team may decide to use art for one particular project, and then they allow each person to do their own historical representation of the Middle Passage in watercolors.

The facilitator of the I-Teams can be anyone regardless of their artistic or academic background. In fact, there could be several different facilitators over the course of a semester. The facilitator's skills manifest in helping to keep the groups on task, offering ideas for research, and creating an environment conducive to the free exchange of ideas. The facilitator can also act as an agent to present experts (e.g. art teacher for clay slab construction) and issues.


There are several ways to perform evaluations. Since the presentations are artistic, it is difficult to fully objectify the results. However, a simple rubric can be used from each discipline. For instance, does the musical presentation include 1) five or more pitches, 2) four or more rhythms, 3) at least three different sections of four measures, or 20 seconds each, 4) at least two instruments, and 5) four instances of harmony. The final presentation could be a video tape "movie," a studio produced CD, a mural on a wall. There could be time set aside each class for presentations, or several days at the end of the semester. Students could present at assemblies or art galleries. In each case the rubric can provide a tangible, clear criteria for completion.

In the case of a departmental initiated activity there could be a traditional evaluation of facts. An historical skit or composition could be followed by a multiple choice quiz on the content. These quizzes could be generically created for each grade and would not require constant attention by the department.

A clearly written description of each grade's expectations provides both a road map for the students and an evaluation tool for the facilitator. In many cases, the members of other teams will probably be the best arbiters of achievement since they will be working with similar expectations. Student peers can be both rigorous for the fulfillment of criteria, and compassionate for reattempting mastery.


There are many ways in which students, teachers and Graland can benefit from this teaming program: (a) intrinsic motivation and relevance, (b) finely directed teacher assistance, (c) thorough interdisciplinary application, (d) and ubiquitous community/team building.

William Glasser touts that we, as teachers, have no control over whether students learn. He contends that if students find power and purpose through study then they will pursue it. He goes on to assert that students find camaraderie, control, and relevance through cooperative teaming. This is powerfully born out in the research and work of people like Slavin, Johnson and Johnson, Aronson and Sharan. In fact, the I-Team concept is a careful adaptation of several methods: Student Team Learning, Learning Together, Jigsaw, and Group-Investigation. Students do not have free reign to do what they please, but the do have tremendous ownership of their education.

One great benefit to student teams is that the teachers/facilitators have more freedom to work with the teams, and individuals, carefully and directly. If twenty students are engrossed in their activities, classroom management takes care of itself. The teacher can float between individuals and teams asking pertinent questions and nudging the direction of inquiry.

Sometimes, traditional interdisciplinary work ends up being the art teachers creating posters for an event, or music teachers doing a historical song. When that happens, the arts become a mere ornament to the perceived dominance of academics. The I-Team provide academic specialists with the artistic perspective to find new ways to reach and inspire students. It may be that the student sees the universe from a different angle, and there by teaches the teacher something new. Likewise, the inspiration of the arts becomes opened by the breadth of language, math, science, and history. Curriculums become clearer so that we have progression and sequence for the building of concepts, and interweaving of disciplines.

With all these teachers, classes, departments and grades working together, one can not avoid the necessity of professional teaming. All working together for the betterment of students without compartments, divisions, or separations. With teachers working together there is no better model for students. When students see this level of cooperation and communication, then they can begin to envision and manifest a more harmonious world for all our futures.

Appendix A

Sample Schedule For Seventh Grade

Week 1-Semester 1

___Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday ______Friday

Art _____7A ______7B ______7A ______7B ______7A

Music 7B ______7A ______7B ______7A ______7B

Drama 7C ______7D ______7C ______7D ______7C

I-Team 7D ______7C ______7D ______7C ______7D


Week 2-Semester 1

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Art ____7B 7A ______7B ______7A 7B

Music 7A 7B ______7A ______7B 7A

Drama 7D 7C ______7D ______7C 7D

I-Team 7C 7D ______7C ______7D 7C


Week 1-Semester 2

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Drama 7A 7B ______7A ______7B 7A

I-Team 7B 7A ______7B ______7A 7B

Art ____7C 7D ______7C ______7D 7C

Music 7D 7C ______7D ______7C 7D


Week 2-Semester 2

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Drama 7B 7A ______7B ______7A 7B

I-Team 7A 7B ______7A ______7B 7A

Art ____7D 7C ______7D ______7C 7D

Music 7C 7D ______7C ______7D 7C



If it is not possible to place issues/rap outside of the VAPA block then the I-Team can still be implemented with the interdisciplinary teaming of the issues/rap teacher. Instead of generating problem ideas from the students, departments, or teachers, the issues teacher can set the agenda. The quantifiable evaluation of the problems would then be the arts implementation. Several goals are achieved with this formula: (a) the arts curriculum can be continued without degradation to sequential concepts, (b) the issues/rap content is thoroughly addressed, (c) issues/rap students are given the opportunity to gain ownership of their content, and develop communication and team skills, (d) there is staff team building through the VAPA department, issues/rap, and any other related studies without degradation of any one program. In other words, this is a win-win situation with the potential for grand academic, artistic and social growth for teachers and students.

Regis Papers Page

Justin's Home Page

e-mail me justinmier@aol.com