A teaming approach to develop appropriate strategies is necessary and beneficial to all who are involved with a student. Teams may take on different groupings at various times depending on the needs of the student, the issues at hand and the support that is needed to make the team efficient and effective. Each team member may not need to be a part of each meeting, as the agendas for meetings will vary according to the issues addressed.
A team has been defined as a collection of at least two people working together to achieve a common goal. To achieve an integrated education as the shared goal, a sense of community and cooperation at the school building level must be developed. Not only do group efforts frequently yield better and more sustained outcomes; many people find the interaction itself to be reinforcing and feel more supported than when working in isolation. Teams provide the supportive environment that is conducive to the new learning involved in change.
At the beginning stages of planning, it is mandatory to involve the appropriate administrators from the general and special education areas. It is extremely important that these administrators be present at the same meetings to begin the development of a successful team. After the team has had a chance to become cohesive, and each member becomes responsible for a part of the implementation plan, the meetings should become smaller and occur less frequently.
A team developed to support a student may include:
As a team develops, it is important to keep in mind the following critical elements necessary for it to be effective:
The TEAM QUESTIONNAIRE may assist the team and individual team members in assessing effectiveness and areas for improvement.
The role played by a team member may differ from that role he or she plays as a professional or parent on a day-to-day basis. On an individual level, team members may think of themselves primarily as representing expertise in a specific area. As part of a team, the members may share roles and responsibilities to ensure the success of the student in an inclusive environment. All team members must be treated as equal and integral parts of the student's educational program.
Role definition is vital to any successful team effort. With the new and altered roles that accompany the development of an integrated team, it is especially important to thoughtfully delineate and negotiate each member's contribution. The following is an overview of what some team roles and responsibilities might be:
General Education Teachers
Special Education Teachers
Support Staff (i.e. OT/PT, Speech Language,
The ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES FORM may be helpful in determining (as a team) who is responsible for the various strategies/activities that will be implemented for a student in an inclusive environment. Team members feel more comfortable when roles and responsibilities are defined rather than just assumed and possibly misunderstood by some of the members. When roles and responsibilities are determined at the beginning of the teaming process, future team meetings will be more efficient and effective.
TEAM COMMUNICATION SYSTEM
Planning and implementing the successful inclusion of a student with disabilities involves sharing information effectively and efficiently. It is virtually impossible to share all the information known about a student. For this reason, making wise decisions about what information to share is critical. In addition, all members of the team need to feel as though their time is being spent productively and wisely.
Communication about the student's successes and needs may be shared with team members through a variety of ways:
Although team communication is vital to the success of a student in an inclusive setting, the entire team does not need to be involved in every issue that demands attention. At various times throughout the school year different team members may be needed for specific meetings and at other times meetings may require the attendance of the entire team. It is important that a sound team communication system be built to share important information on the successes and needs of the student.
The MEETING form can be used to facilitate communication among team members. The use of a prepared agenda, role assignments and time limitations organizes meetings so the team members involved will feel the time spent was worthwhile and productive. Team members leave such meetings knowing what actions are to be taken and who is responsible for each action. A time is scheduled for a follow-up meeting when needed.
Once the appropriate team(s) has been developed for a student, the effectiveness of that team will be determined by its ability to implement the plans that are decided through the collaborative process.
This collaborative teaming should be viewed as an ongoing forum by which the team can develop modifications for the student. Ongoing teaming empowers teachers and students by actively recruiting them to participate in the decision-making process. For this process to take hold in the school setting, the following guidelines are helpful for the long term success of a team:
team meetings need to be held on a regular
and reasonable basis (meetings may need to be set on a
weekly time frame to begin with and phased to monthly as
the school year progresses)
As the team discusses specific issues related to the student, the team may need to problem solve and prioritize the solutions suggested. The following problem- solving steps may be helpful when dealing with specific issues on the agenda: