Collaboration between general education teachers and occupational therapists in classrooms: a layered analysis of professional practice in the USA

Doctorate other than PhD

Wilson, Debra Marie. 2015. Collaboration between general education teachers and occupational therapists in classrooms: a layered analysis of professional practice in the USA. Doctorate other than PhD Doctor of Professional Studies. University of Southern Queensland.

Collaboration between general education teachers and occupational therapists in classrooms: a layered analysis of professional practice in the USA

TypeDoctorate other than PhD
AuthorWilson, Debra Marie
SupervisorVan Der Laan, Luke
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Professional Studies
Number of Pages35

Collaboration research focusing on occupational therapists and general education teachers working in the classroom environment is a timely issue. Indeed collaboration as a concept, is a pressing issue in contemporary literature and in practice. Within the context of USA practice
and Federal regulations collaboration is deemed best practice for providing services for students with special needs in the least restrictive environment. In addition, new guidelines encourage collaboration in general education classrooms to support all children in the classroom, not only children with special needs.

Though legal mandates relating to teaching children in the least restrictive environment underpin the need for collaboration, the literature review provides evidence that research highlighting what collaboration looks like in the classroom setting is unreported. Gaps in the literature indicate that while collaboration is deemed best practice, the extent to which occupational therapists and general education teachers are collaborating is limited. The
literature review findings include disparate definitions of collaboration, a wide-range of inconsistent terminology, a general lack of research crossing disciplinary boundaries, and limited practical application for guidelines for collaboration in general education classrooms. There is a need for research to inform professional practice and highlight promising new knowledge underpinning successful collaboration in education.

The purpose of this study is to combine a workplace-based project with rigorous research to provide a deep understanding of the phenomenon of collaboration between occupational therapists and general education teachers working together in inclusive classrooms. S'cool
Moves, Inc. is an education consulting company providing staff development and training for United States school districts, organizations, and associations. As S'cool Moves evolved and provided training aimed at improving collaboration and professional practice, gaps in academic
research and the professional knowledge base became evident. The study’s objectives are to a) close the gap in research regarding occupational therapist and general education teachers collaborating in the classroom environment, b) contribute to the current body of knowledge
and professional practice through completing a rigorous research study focusing on collaboration between occupational therapists and general education teachers, c) revise the current S'cool Moves training framework to reflect the research findings, and d) evaluate the
extent to which the revised training framework meets the needs of the stakeholders who participated in S'cool Moves training sessions.

The study seeks to answer two research questions, 'How and to what extent do general education teacher and occupational therapist pairs in the USA collaborate successfully and to what extent do the systems, assumptions, and worldviews enable or disrupt such collaboration in primary school classrooms?' and 'How and to what extent does the S'cool Moves collaboration training framework integrate relevant theory and meet the needs of stakeholders in the teacher-occupational therapist collaborative relationship.'

The methodology adopted by the study assumes a pragmatist paradigm and mixed methods research design. Phase one of the study is qualitative and through the use of semi-structured interviews, seeks to uncover key elements of successful practice and deep insights in order to
understand how the occupational therapists and general education teachers developed collaborative relationships that enabled positive outcomes for students in the classroom
environment. Based on these findings, the S'cool Moves training program is refined and implemented. Phase two of the study seeks to validate the findings of phase one in terms of an evaluation of the S'cool Moves revised training program and the extent to which it meets the needs of the stakeholders.

An underlying premise of the study is that observable behavior is the manifestation of layered meanings and interpretations that are not as easily observed. In the case of studying the phenomena of successful collaboration between occupational therapists and general education
teachers, the Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) theoretical framework is adopted which proposes that the litany (headline data) is underpinned by a systemically structured environment created based on the assumptions of those associated with the phenomena either as active decision
makers or those who function within systems created by others. The assumptions are representative of the dominant worldviews those associated with the phenomena and the
assumptions are in turn, at the deepest level, influenced by long-held myths and metaphors largely stemming out of their socialization and education. Based on the research findings the definition of collaboration was refined, an A-E
Collaboration Cycle framework was developed and the 'One for All' collaboration strategy was introduced.

The study contributed to professional practice by applying research findings to underpin a training framework designed to provide evidence-based guidelines and strategies to enhance collaboration between occupational therapists and general education teachers working in classroom settings.

The study contributed to methodology in that CLA is applied outside its originating 'futures studies' context and evidences its appropriate application in contemporary social science and educational research contexts.

Through conducting the complex interweave of workplace-based projects and research, the case of developing professional leadership is evidenced by the multi-dimensional outcomes of the study. The ability to integrate empirical, methodological, and theoretical knowledge that
engages current work-based issues is illustrated and promises to broaden paradigms traditionally associated with the nexus between Higher Education and professional

The study is limited in that the research findings can only be transferred or generalized in so much as those reading the study relate to the findings, trust the audit trail, find the researcher trustworthy, and view the research as supporting or enhancing previous theory generated from
the fields of occupational therapy and education. Future research is required to expand the findings to rural, urban, and suburban school districts throughout the US, as well as include other multidisciplinary support staff in the research.

Keywordscollaboration; occupational therapists; teachers; students with special needs; United States
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390399. Education systems not elsewhere classified
390411. Special education and disability
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education
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