“Two heads will only be better than one if their contents differ.” –Scott Page
Multidisciplinary teams can give reality to extraordinary outcomes or flashbacks to the unpleasant group projects of our youth and anywhere in between. Unfortunately, creating an effective multidisciplinary team isn’t as easy as scheduling an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. Teams meet with noble intentions and an immeasurable amount of care for their students but too often fall short without a clear direction or input from everyone involved. Before a team can be effective, they need to create an environment that engages each team member and capitalizes on differing perspectives.
At EBCS, we take this to heart and pride ourselves on having BCBAs from so many different backgrounds–special education teachers, general education teachers, speech pathologists, licensed counselors, and school psychologists. When people from different backgrounds come together, magic happens. And, when done in a school setting, children and school communities thrive. Not to mention, it makes work far more enjoyable.
A parable from India demonstrates the need for capitalizing on differing perspectives perfectly. One day, six blind men encountered an elephant for the first time. When each man took a turn touching the elephant, they each experienced a different part–an ear, the trunk, the tail, a tusk, a foot, and a leg. Understandably, their concept of an elephant varied immensely depending on which part they experienced, and, individually, they were all wrong. If, however, they listened to each other and became curious as to why thier perspectives differed, they arguably could have pieced together the truth. Ultimately, this is what we must do as a multidisciplinary team to effectively problem solve– get curious about the experiences of others and listen with the understanding that we alone do not have the complete picture.
To ensure your team has a clear direction, develop a consistent framework for running meetings to keep your team on track and out of the proverbial weeds. Before starting, define roles and expectations, such as the amount of time designated for the meeting, who will be moderating, and who will be taking notes. The meeting agenda and team notes should be provided to everyone in attendance. Utilize technology to streamline this process by using a projector or Google Docs to allow everyone to see them in real-time. Here’s an Example Agenda with questions to get you started. This list is not exhaustive and, since behavior is my specialty, the questions are targeted to address problem behaviors. However, they can easily be adapted for different situations. As long as your team stays focused on the problem at hand, gets curious, and listens with an open mind, your team will accomplish more than you’ve ever dreamed possible.
Written by Brittany Clingan, Ed. S.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
- Baldwin. (2019, March 10). The Blind Men and the Elephant. American Literature. https://americanliterature.com/author/james-baldwin/short-story/the-blind-men-and-the-elephant
- Page, S. (2021, February 5). Just having people who look different isn’t enough to create a diverse team. Linkedin. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/just-having-people-who-look-different-isnt-enough-create-scott-page/?published=t