ERIC Identifier: ED352847
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Fradd, Sandra H.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Languages and Linguistics Washington DC., Center for Applied Linguistics
Collaboration in Schools Serving Students with Limited English
Proficiency and Other Special Needs. ERIC Digest.
Learning to work cooperatively and collaboratively with others to address the
needs of specific students is not easy. Few educators have training in this
area. Although collaborative cross-disciplinary programs are beginning to appear
in schools, few school personnel have had training in applying multicultural
concepts to addressing the needs of learners with disabilities and limited
proficiency in English.
Collaboration across disciplines and grade levels cannot occur without an
organizational structure that promotes interaction and communication. The local
school level is the arena where collaboration can have an immediate impact on
students. Although there is a strong movement toward collaboration, there are
still many obstacles to be overcome in assisting special needs students with
limited proficiency in English. This digest will discuss the development of
collaboration at the school level to meet the needs of these students.
BARRIERS TO COLLABORATION
Some barriers to collaboration
have grown out of federal and state funding policies and practices. Territorial
and political perceptions, as well as legal realities like weighted funding
categories and requirements for program participation, stand in the way of
promoting effective integrated programs. While the services to be provided
through special programs were designed to assist students, supplemental and
resource programs have had the effect of fragmenting instruction and promoting
competition among funding recipients.
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF COLLABORATION
Changes in educators'
orientation toward collaboration have grown out of changes in the ways that
effective instruction and school organization are perceived. The evolution of
indicators for effective schools has occurred through research and practice
founded on a belief in the importance of success for all students, not just for
those who are academically talented (Fradd & Weismantel, 1989). An important
aspect of the emergence of collaboration is the shift from a perception of the
principal and teachers as solely responsible for educational outcomes to the
perception of education as a process that includes teachers, parents, and
students throughout (Stedman, 1987). The evaluation of the ways that schools
involve the people who work and learn there continues as the press for
multicultural equity and equality becomes more widespread and insistent.
Teachers, parents, and community
members can encourage collaboration through informal as well as more formal
interactions. Volunteering to assist others and sharing perspectives are means
of promoting collaboration. Teachers and parents can influence administrators
and policy makers by asking the kinds of questions that focus on process as well
as on results; however, schoolwide collaboration and program integration are
difficult without administrative support (Heron & Harris, 1987). Effective
collaboration models exist (see, e.g., Allington & Broikou, 1988), but few
of these models include the cultural and linguistic diversity that often
complicate the collaborative process (Baca & Cervantes, 1989; Correa, 1989).
COLLABORATION AMONG TEACHERS
Collaboration can occur
through informal interpersonal interaction and through structured formal
interactions. Both are important and can provide positive outcomes. But
collaboration across multicultural populations poses particular problems. At the
informal level, collaborators gravitate toward those with whom they feel
comfortable and compatible--often people with similar values and perspectives.
However, this tendency to select persons with similar ideas and cultural
backgrounds usually promotes the status quo. When people with different values
enter the collaborative process, their ideas may be misunderstood and rejected
unless the collaborators are prepared to deal with different ways of thinking
and communicating (Fradd, 1991; in press).
One of the first steps in initiating formal collaboration across disciplines
is the identification of the specific areas of interest, need, or expertise in
each discipline that affect instruction. Each educator has strengths and
limitations. For example, few regular education teachers are able to communicate
in languages other than English; special education personnel may fail to
comprehend the complexities of working with culturally diverse students and
families; bilingual educators may lack an understanding of regular or special
education requirements or curricula.
On the other hand, bilingual and ESOL teachers usually know about the
development of students' English skills and how particular students compare with
others of the same age from the same language background. They know how to
integrate language development information with subject matter instruction and
how to reduce the language demands of the task while maintaining a focus on the
content of the lesson. These teachers usually are in close contact with parents,
siblings, and the ethnic communities. They may be able to serve as cultural
informants to help teachers and administrators address cultural as well as
subject matter requirements of the students (Fradd & Weismantel, 1989).
Regular classroom teachers can compare the performance of individual special
needs students with that of mainstream students. They observe the students
interacting with peers and know the students with whom the target students
prefer to interact. These teachers also notice the types of activities that
motivate students and are aware of the ways in which particular students
approach or avoid tasks (Baca & Cervantes, 1989).
Special education teachers are experienced at developing effective behavior
management programs, breaking the learning process into specific steps, and
instructing students in useful strategies for approaching and mastering academic
content. They observe behaviors and record and monitor learning. These facts can
be useful in developing effective plans and programs.
Unfortunately, teachers are often unaware of the types of information
available from their potential collaborators; thus they may not ask each other
for specific information or request advice in developing instructional plans. In
an informal collaborative setting, contributions from those of varying
backgrounds may be neglected. The establishment of formal collaborative
procedures can facilitate the exchange of information and ideas among different
teachers and help foster the development of a collaborative and cooperative
atmosphere that may lead to informal collaboration in the future.
Strategies have been developed for
establishing and maintaining collaboration to assist LEP students with mild
disabilities. One such strategy is referred to as "cooperative planning" (Hudson
& Fradd, 1990). An important feature of this strategy is that none of the
personnel involved is recognized as more of an authority than the others. All
are considered equals within their areas of expertise and all have areas in
which they can develop new skills for working with LEP students. The steps in
cooperative planning listed below can be implemented through formal planned
procedures or through informal interactions among colleagues.
and maintain rapport
demands of each instructional setting
and summarize data
discrepancies between student skills and teacher expectations
instruction intervention and monitoring system
the plan and follow up as needed
Collaborative skills can be developed by meeting regularly to discuss student
needs and to monitor student progress. This process can also allow educators to
determine the specific interventions that lead toward success (Damico & Nye,
COLLABORATION WITH PARENTS
Once teachers have begun
successful cooperation among themselves, they may also want to involve the
students' families. The school experience for LEP students, and probably for
many others, is likely to be viewed from different perspectives by the many
people involved--the most extreme differences usually occurring between family
members and school personnel (Casanova, 1990). Recognition of these potential
differences was acknowledged in federal legislation that requires that parents
be included in the planning process when students are placed in special
education programs (Casanova, 1990). Without information from the parents, many
assumptions may be made about the students that do not reflect the parents'
perspective. Parents can provide important information about the student's
status and behavior in the family and in the community, as well as information
about family and community norms.
In addition to parent programs that promote a general understanding of the
school system, specific programs for fostering understanding and collaboration
between families and the school can be developed (FIRST, 1991). Means of
assessing the family's present circumstances in order to provide understanding
and support include obtaining information on the family's resources, their
interactional styles, and the ways family members participate in the community
(Correa, 1989). Learning about the family's experiences prior to and since their
arrival in the United States, their religious beliefs and practices, parenting
practices, and roles ascribed to family members and close friends can also help
the school plan collaborative programs and activities with family members
Involving family members in the teaching process can benefit students,
families, and the school community in general. Interaction between families and
schools can enhance understanding of school practices and school culture in
addition to promoting learning activities in the home. Instructional programs
using the home language as well as English provide the greatest opportunities
for family participation as this type of collaboration is fostered through
direct communication between the home and school in the language that is most
comfortable for the family members. A number of books and programs are available
for encouraging parent involvement in bilingual literacy development (see, e.g.,
Saunders, 1986). Suggestions for involving parents in school programs include
cultural events and activities that involve students and families;
displays of student art and other products that families can enjoy;
written and oral communication in the language of the home;
designated school personnel from whom families can obtain information about
school events, student achievement, and concerns;
trained interpreters and translators to serve as informants and communicators in
working with families and school personnel;
handbooks and written forms available in the languages of the families
represented in the school; and
trained personnel to discuss student performance and school culture with
In an era of decreasing resources and rapidly
increasing student diversity, collaboration is an essential strategy for
enhancing resource utilization and program cost effectiveness. Collaboration can
also provide the means to meet the educational needs of many students in
mainstream and special education settings. As administrators, teachers, and
parents learn to collaborate, they increase learning opportunities for
themselves and for their children.
Allington, R. L., & Broikou, K.A. (1988).
Development of shared knowledge. A new role for classroom and specialist
teachers. "The Reading Teacher," 41, 806-811.
Baca, L., & Cervantes, H. (1989). "The bilingual special education
interface." Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Casanova, U. (1990). Rashomon in the classroom: Multiple perspectives of
teachers, parents, and students. In A. Barona & E. Garcia (Eds.), "Children
at risk: Poverty, minority status, and other issues in educational equity"
(135-149). Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.
Correa, V.I. (1989). Involving culturally diverse families in the educational
process. In S.H. Fradd & M.J. Weismantel (Eds.), "Meeting the needs of
culturally and linguistically different students: A guide for educators"
(130-144). Boston: Little, Brown.
Damico, J.S., & Nye, C. (1991). Collaborative issues in multicultural
populations. "Best Practices in School Speech-Language Pathology," 1.
FIRST Grants: Federal leadership to advance school and family partnerships.
(1991). "Phi Delta Kappan," 72, 383-388.
Fradd, S.H. (1991). Effective practices in meeting the needs of non-English
language background students. "Preventing School Failure," 36, 35-40.
Fradd, S.H. (in press). "Collaborative teaming to assist culturally and
linguistically diverse students." Tucson, AZ: Communication Skill Builders.
Fradd, S.H., & Weismantel, M.J. (1989). Precedents, prototypes, and
parables: The use of narratives for training teachers to work with limited
English proficient and handicapped students. "B.C. Journal of Special
Education," 11, 30-38.
Heron, T.E., & Harris, K.C. (1987). "The educational consultant: Helping
professionals, parents, and mainstreamed students." Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Hudson, P.J., & Fradd, S.H. (1990). Cooperative planning for learners
with limited English proficiency. "Teaching Exceptional Children," 2, 16-21.
Saunders, G. (1986, July). Teaching children to read at home: A look at some
of the literature. "The Bilingual Family Newsletter," 3, 3-4.
Stedman, L.C. (1987). It's time we changed the effective schools formula.
"Phi Delta Kappan," 69, 215-224.