THE IMPORTANCE OF USING CONSULTATION IN PROBLEM SOLVING

 

The term consultation may have broad meanings across educational, educational, medical and also psychological practice, one common feature is that consultation generally consists of two or more people working together to address concerns regarding a third party client. As applied to school settings, consultation is defined as a collaborative problem solving between a professional consultant e.g. psychologist, medical expert, social workers and one or more persons e.g. parents, educators who are responsible for providing some form of educational or psychological assistance to a child-client (adopted from Medway, 1979).

 

In general problem solving is a systematic process, wherein an issue of concern is identified, classified and analysed to the point an appropriate strategy is selected or devised and then implemented to address the problem. Following the implementation of the strategy, its impact on the problem is evaluated.

In psychology and education, problem solving may be usefully depicted through a series of questions such as:

1.       Is there a problem and what is it?

2.       Why is the problem happening?

3.       What can be done about the problem?

4.       Did the intervention work?

 

Mental health consultation is grounded on psychoanalysis theory-focusing primarily on helping consultees gain insight in to how personal feelings and behaviors that may be contributing to the presenting problems (Caplan, 1970) has been operationalised via two approaches:

         Teacher-centered consultation (primarily emphasizing on the teacherís feelings, attitudes and skills in relation to identified concerns

         Child centered consultation (focusing primarily on specific academic or behavioural concerns related to a child or group of children), adapted from Bralett and Murphy, 1998.

 

The role of indirect services and Ecological Theory.

In traditional psychological and medical practice, the psychologist or medical expert works directly with the client to problem solve or provide treatment. Alternatively in school based consultation , the psychologist or medical expert works with other professionals or caregivers (i.e. Teachers, support staff) and parents who have frequent, direct contact with the child client (i.e. student) and ultimately implement an applied intervention (i.e. consultee act as treatment agents within the consultation framework) given their pivotal role in the consultationand for the child to receive the services he/she needs to achieve success across settings. The indirect service-delivery model operates on the premise of two primary goals:

         The short term goal of resolving the studentís presenting problem (i.e. a remedial approach)

         The long term goal of improving the consultees problem solving skills (i.e. a preventative approach: Bralett & Murphy, 1998)

 

The ecological theory provides a useful conceptual framework for school-based consultation. Ecological theory conceptualise behavior and development as a mutual accommodation between an individual and the individualís environment (Sheridan &Gutkin, 2001). Brofenbrenner (1977) maintains that each individual is an inseparable part of a small social system and that an individualís development occurs within the context of four interrelated systems within the greater ecological environment:

         Microsystem

         Mesosystem

         Exosystem and

         Macrosystem.

A child microsystem is defined as the relationship between the child and his/her immediate environment (e.g, Home, School). A mesosystem is comprised of the interrelation between the major systems (and settings) in a childís life (e.g. the interaction between home, school and other treatment settings). In ecological theory an exosystems is defined as influences from settings in which the child is not directly included, but that affect that child in his/her immediate settings (e.g. a teacherís personal life). Finally the mesosystems is concerned with the overall cultural and sub cultural patterns (e.g. the effects of political influences and societal norms and values on an individual childís life) consultation is concerned primarily with the mesosystemic patterns and relationships influencing development (conoley, 1987: Haansen, 1986; Sheridan, Kratochwill, & Bergan 1996) and focuses analysis and intervention at this level.

According to Corrane Johnson and Shawn Crawford consultation has divided in to frameworks:

         Proactive practice

School psychologists who work in a model of comprehensive and integrated school psychology services (Nasp, 2010) do not have to wait for children to fall behind enough to meet the criteria for a diagnosis. School psychologists engage with learning teams when students are at risk of developing significant deficits in school, working collaboratively with educators and parents to remediate presenting problems-academic, social and behavioural. Furthermore school psychologists work to influences systems change in schools school districts and provincial initiatives by preventive framework (e.g Response to intervention) and programs (e.g. kindergarten phonological screening). Preventative is key: broad system reform and timely individual service prior to academic failure and the presentation of significant behavior (NASP, 2010: Zins & Erchul, 2002).

         Service framework

Typically in an assessment model the outcome of our work was a product-a psycho-educational assessment report-our ability to help student was narrowly focused on a diagnosis and special education funding (PAA, 2010). Fundamental to working in a consultative framework is the understanding that school psychologists can continue to work with students (e.g. assessment, counseling) and additionally help students by collaborating with educators and parents to build individual and systematic capacity that results in long term effective student support. Specifically, school psychologists actively participate in the planning and implementation of intervention and programming, coach educators and parents on the application of strategies, and troubleshoot barriers. As a result, consumers of school psychology services are more varied and include students, educators, parents and school systems.

         Shared responsibility

Pivotal to consultation is the partnership within the learning team. Team members: educators, parents and school psychologists are valued for their divergent expertise and it is recognized that each individual has unique perspective and strength, thus a distinct role and responsibilities. There is a non-hierarchical relationships that is voluntary with a common focus-the wellbeing of a student NASP, 2010; PAA, 2010: Zins & Erchul, 2002). The learning team works together to understand the problems, clarify the goals, then design and implement solutions. There is a fundamental commitment by all team members to assume shared responsibilities for the effectiveness of the plan and engage in continued participation. As such this process is action-orientated, designed to facilitate learning and change practices.

         Building capacity

The outcome of school psychologists providing services through a consultative framework is the enhancement of learning teamís capacities (NASP, 2010: PAA, 2010: Zins & Erchul, 2002).

Essentially our goal is for both educators and parents to become more proactive and responsive to evolving studentís needs. Through the collaborative partnerships in which school psychologists share their expertise, educators and parents are able to incorporate in to their personal knowledge the evidence based strategies used. Thus enhancing their capacity and empowering them to move forward. In a consultative framework, a school psychologist builds the capacity of those that they work with, in a sense attempting to work their way out of a job. Yet it is important to note, the demands for school psychology services increases in this model as educators values the timely support as classrooms demands increase (Mayer &Johnson, 2013).

Buffum, Mattos, & Weber 2009 came up with a model named RTI to problem solving, they define RTI as a practice of providing high quality instruction and intervention that match students needs and using students rate over time and level of performance to make important educational decisions. These decisions may offer more intense interventions in the regular education classroom and determining whether a student should enter special needs of education.

According to Reschly and Bergstrom (2009) the critical components of RTI are:

v  Provision of interventions to students via multiple tiers that reflects varying levels of intervention intensity and measurement precisions.

v  Specification of goals and objectives for treatment that stem from a mixture of federal state and local standards.

v  Universal screening of all students to evaluate both current educational practices and the risk status of individual students

v  Identification of studentís academic, behavioural and emotional regulation needs as indicated by a discrepancy between expected and actual performance.

v  Recognition of some variability across specific RTI models relative to their comprehensive in contributing to educational decision making and

v  Expectation that RTI data will be used to evaluate individuals, classrooms and schools to make important educational decisions

 

Conclusion

Consultation can be an extremely valuable and satisfying role for the school psychologist or social worker and a particular valuable resource for teachers and other school personnel, addressing both existing problems and preventing future problems. In spite of the importance of consultation in school psychology, most graduate programs offer limited coursework on consultation, and school psychology faculty often have varied levels of applied experience in providing consultation service. Consultation training must include not only a deep understanding of the process but also skills in working in an interdisciplinary group, working within the unique organization of school systems, developing collaborative relationships and implementing intervention within classrooms. Expanding the use of consultation in schools will require increased pre-service and in-service training and support, to ensure that school psychologists or social workers have the knowledge and skills necessary to effectually provide school based consultative services.

References

Bergen,J.R. (1977). Behavioural consultation. Columbus, OH: Merril.

Dougherty, A.M. (2009). Psychological consultation and collaboration in school and community settings (5th ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage learning.

Kratochwill, T.R, & Bergan, J. R. (1990). Behavioural consultation in applied settings. New York: Plenum Press.

Kratochwill, T.R, & Stoiber, K. C (2000). Emperically supported interventions and school psychology: conceptual and practice issues. Part ii. School psychology Review, 38(4), 469-509.

Rosenfields, S. A. (2008). Best practices in instructional consultation and instructional teams. In D. J. Reschly (Ed), Best practices in school psychology (Vol 5)(pp.1645-1660). Bethesda. MD: NASP.

Rosenfields, S. (2013). Consultation in schools-A re we there? Consulting psychology journal: practice and Research, 65(4), 303-308.

Sheriden, S.M & Kratochill, T.R. (1992). Behavoural parent/teacher consultation: Conceptual and research considerations. Journal school of psychology, 30(2), 117-139.

Watson, T.S. & Robinson, S.L (1996). Direct behavioural consultation: An alternative to traditional behavioural consultation. School psychology Quarterly, 11(3), 267-278