Clinical Forum: Implementing Collaborative Consultation
Full Steam Ahead With No Prior Experience!
Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Alaska
Language Speech Hearing Services in Schools, Oct 1992; Vol 23: pg 369-370
Attention has been focused on the increased need for a
transition from a traditional pullout treatment approach to a
collaborative-consultative model. This article describes
experiences encountered initiating a collaborative model with no
prior experience. The two factors that were trey to the success
of the program were flexibility and perseverance.
transition, collaborative, implementing
"I want all speech-language services at this school
integrated into the regular classroom!" This was the initial
statement made by my principal during the inservice meetings in
August 1990. Overnight I needed to change from using a
traditional, pull-out service delivery model to a collaborative
model. Having received such a strong directive, I was concerned!
It was my first year as the speech-language pathologist at this
K-2 elementary school, and I had no prior experience with
collaboration. I was assigned a caseload of 45 students with the
specific mandate to integrate services to students into all six
kindergarten classrooms, and to integrate services as much as
possible at the first and second grade levels.
Because of the short notice, there was no time to discuss
philosophies of teaching or to get to know the faculty on a
personal level to build a working rapport. The classroom teachers
were skeptical about this collaborative model, and I was
unfamiliar with the curriculum and had no training in classroom
management. There was no time to ease into this new model.
In addition to the six kindergarten classrooms, I targeted two
first and two second grade classes in which to integrate my
speech-language services. The specific services I provided varied
from class to class, depending on student needs and teacher
flexibility. For example, in one second grade classroom, I served
as consultant to the teacher to help build general language
activities into the class lesson plans. I also consulted with the
teacher on an as-needed basis to provide specific support
for.speech-language students. This plan was selected because this
was the teachers first year teaching. In other second grade
classrooms, I was a team teacher with the special education and
regular classroom teachers. We planned the lessons together, but
rotated subjects to teach each week. Targeted language areas
included vocabulary, verbal reasoning, sequencing, and syntax The
teachers not instructing on a particular day provided support
with classroom management and student assistance. Being in the
classroom and teaching several different content areas allowed me
to interpret how functional the targeted language skills were and
to observe their carryover into classroom work.
Specific experiences I gained in two of the classrooms
exemplify the need for flexibility in implementing integrated
services. Some of the teachers with whom I worked were excited
and willing to try new ideas; others were hesitant In one first
grade classroom, the teacher and I decided to begin slowly,
increasing the level of collaboration as we both became more
comfortable with my presence in the room. With my own lack of
knowledge regarding the curriculum and how to incorporate speech
and language goals into the class lessons, beginning slowly
helped to reduce some of my own anxiety. Initially, I selected an
appropriate language objective. and the classroom teacher would
suggest the curriculum activity in which to teach the objective.
Before long, she was requesting information from me about how to
generalize language activities to other topic areas, and I was
asking her about classroom management techniques.
Although we soon became comfortable planning the lessons
together and team teaching, we were somewhat frustrated with our
difficulty in effectively completing the necessary activities to
meet student needs in the same classroom. We explored alternative
ways to teach language arts collaboratively and decided to teach
groups of students in separate classrooms. I worked with all of
the speech-language students and with a random group of six
regular education students while she taught the rest of the
class. We continued to collaborate during our weekly planning
sessions to develop the lessons and determine student progress. I
was very encouraged that the adapted approach was successful.
The experience in the second classroom was somewhat different.
The classroom teacher was skeptical about having another adult in
the classroom, and she voiced concerns about sharing the
responsibility for teaching the students even for brief periods
of time. As a solution to her level of discomfort I suggested
that we try collaborating for one 2-week social studies unit. At
the end of the trial unit, we could assess the potential for
farther collaboration. I suggested methods for providing
individual attention to students with significant needs and
further discussed the benefit to the remaining students in the
classroom from small group interaction. I was able to begin
interjecting ideas for developing speech-language skills during
the lessons. Through observation I learned classroom management
skills and improved teaching techniques.
Because I was only providing support in the classroom as the
teacher needed, I felt somewhat like a glorified aide. However, I
was buying time in her class, so I persevered. Problems with
implementation had to be worked through slowly one step at a
time. The teacher's attitude and our working relationship
changed after I let her know more clearly my objectives for her
classroom. Soon thereafter I started teaching with her instead of
for her. An advantage she recognized was that I was able to
circulate to the children who needed more individual help.
Although it was shaky at first, our collaborative effort finally
became a positive working relationship. At the end of the school
year, plans were made to continue working together the following
The primary concern with implementation of a collaborative
model was in determining how to go into the classroom without
prior training or time to prepare with the classroom teachers.
The teachers and I found that we did not have to have all the
answers in the beginning. we discovered that flexibility and a
willingness to persevere were the key ingredients needed to make