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Collaborative consultation is a term widely used throughout the education system. In the education system collaborative consultation is a powerful tool, it enables all stakeholders involved to communicate and make decisions that are the most beneficial for the student. CC involves focusing, identifying and analysing the student's needs.
Methods for determining student's needs; e.g. resources required and personnel, requires professional problem solving and good interpersonal skills and includes setting a criteria for deciding when the student's needs have been met. Determining student needs may involve legal and ethical issues such as, non-biased assessments, confidential information, prior consent from stakeholder/s not present at consultation and disability rights issues (Elliott & Sheridan, 1992). CC can also be used to resolve a whole school problem such as bullying. Stephen Kerzner's article (Psychoanalytic School Consultation: A Collaborative Approach, 2009) describes a psychoanalytic group consultation model at a high school that proposes an invalidated empirical approach that he posits could be employed in both public and private school settings. Kerzner recognised that every member of a school community had an influence on each other in an indirect way, which they were unaware of. Kerzner posits CC was initiated by the school, which involved the help of a psychoanalytic consultant. Through collaborative consultation a supportive and safe space was created where group interaction and sharing could be held. Stakeholders gained awareness about their own and other's quandaries and emotional state, enabling them to recognise and change bullying and shaming behaviours. CC identified the issues within the school using a whole school approach and designed/created strategies that would effectively resolve the issue (Kerzner, 2009).
Research and experience within perspectives of CC
When researching and analysing the different perspective of CC, we first need to understand the different approaches used by the education system and wider community. Dettmer, Thurston and Dyck (2005) listed three types of approaches, purchase, doctor patient and process. They also identify the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches and offered their perspectives.
Dettmer et al. (2005) believed the purchase approach could be costly overall and may have limited success for the client (student). Mainly for the reason that this approach relies only on the expertise of the consultant (teacher) who has for this approach 'a one size fits all' understanding of the client's needs. Moreover, if the purchase needs to be modified considerably, the consultant can lose valuable time and energy, which could have been more effectively spent on the client's needs. This approach is not collaborative or consultive.
In relating this approach to my experience, it reminds me of my first practicum. My classroom teacher asked the students to write a recount about what they had done over the weekend. Once the students had written their draft, the teacher would edit their work without consulting the students about any of their grammar or spelling mistakes. I asked my classroom teacher later why the students were not involved in editing their work. They replied by saying "They would not understand and only become confused". To me that is 'a one size fits all' approach.
The doctor patient approach allows the patient (student) to self-diagnose as the doctor (teacher) probes the patient for their ailments. Dettmer et al. (2005) posit this approach "makes several assumptions" (Dettmer, Thurston & Dyck, 2005). (1) The consultant probes the consultee about issues they believe are of concern. (2) Is the consultee's self-diagnosis accurate and comprehensive enough for the consultant to understand it worth? And finial had all of the consultee's issues been 'brought to the table' and will the prescribed strategies and/or resources advantage or disadvantage the consultee (patient). This approach is precarious and may cause more harm than good.
I can relate this approach to my youngest daughter Janaii when she transitioned for Primary School to Secondary School. At the end of Primary School Janaii sat a test that was designed to assess her academic ability. Janaii did extremely well and was placed in the highest Year seven classes. During the first term Janaii struggled to achieve the same outcomes as her peers and began to question her intellectual ability and self-worth. After a discussion with Janaii I decided to meet with her year adviser and discuss the problems Janaii was having. They advised me to leave Janaii in her allocated classes until after half-yearly examines, which I did. At the start of term three Janaii moved down in a few of her classes and began to regain her self-worth. Janaii's struggle at the start of Secondary School demonstrates that the doctor patient approach isn't perfect and doesn't work for everyone.
The process approach is similar to the doctor patient approach except for one major difference, the prescribed strategies and/or resources are flexible and alternate strategies and/or resources can be sources through on going CC. That is, if the consultee is unhappy with the arrangements and/or the consultant feels modification are needed, further consultation will take place and alternatives are sort (Friend and Cook, 2003).
The death of a close Secondary School friend caused my eldest daughter to disengage with her education and social circle. Mediation and counselling was initiated by my daughter's year adviser, however my daughter rejected any advice offered by the schools counsellor. The school advised me to seek the help of the local mental health hospital in Port Macquarie, which I did. Through several CC between a psychologist, my daughter and me, my daughter's issues were finally resolved. Without this CC, I fear to think where my daughter may be at the moment.
Relevance to the practice of teaching in diverse contexts
Since the closure and government funding cuts to special education schools, the public education system has had an influx of students with additional needs (Snyder, 1999). This influx of students with additional needs has created a wide-range of concerns for public education teachers. Many of these teachers feel they were not knowledgeable enough to meet the needs of these students without further training or guidance by specialist in the field of the student's needs. Through CC teachers gained a better insight into the needs of these students and begin to understand the student's weaknesses and strengths. Without quality CC many of these students would go through the education system missing out on the skills and knowledge needed later in life (Shaywitz, 2003; Dettmer, et al, 2005).
Implications for the educational outcomes of students with additional needs
Education in the public school system is based on the curriculum and syllabus outcomes. However, the syllabus outcomes don't take into consideration the abilities of students with additional needs. For example, a student in upper stage two with a mild intellectual disability may still be learning at a lower stage one level capacity. If their teacher is to be effective in their curriculum delivery too these students, they need to be aware of the student's strengths and weaknesses. Therefor CC is vital to the success of these students.
I have personally seen how a stage two teacher has managed such a situation during my time volunteering at North Haven Primary school. Student X was still at a stage one reading level. Through CC with the student, parent (dad was working), teacher and parent helper, the student was placed in the reading recovery program. This involved said student spending time out of class with a parent helper reading books at and beyond a stage one level. The teacher stated they have had significant success through this method of intervention.
CC is essential for an inclusive classroom. CC needs to be solution focused. All stakeholders need to have input, that is, all voices need to be heard and everyone agrees on the solution. Good solutions need goals, both long and short term; they also need realistic reviewing dates (Friend and Cook, 2003).
Up to one third of school children have problems at school. These problems include learning, social and physical needs. Teachers are not expected to have all the expertise required to teach and manage students with additional needs. CC and co-teaching is essential when teaching students with additional needs.
The student's eco-system is either part of the problem or part of the solution. Their eco-system includes parents/caregivers, teachers, related services, support personal and the community in general. Urie Bronfenbrenner believed every aspect of a child's eco-system played a significant role in their social, mental and physical development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).
Compare position to current literature and practice
Current literature defines CC as an indirect problem-solving and decision-making model that involves the cooperative efforts of specialists, teachers, parents and caregivers to elucidate the primary needs and issues and to develop, implement, and evaluate appropriate strategies for intervention (Sheridan, Richards & Smoot, 2000).
Reflection for action
Identifies strategies to establish and maintain collaborative consultation model in own teaching practice consistent with position statement.