Dimensions of the Interactive Team," the authors explore what constitutes the ideal structure of a team and seek to illustrate its key features. The chapter explains the dimensions of interactive teaming, and discusses limitations that may serve as a barrier to the effective establishment of such a team. I feel that the chapter reflects the authors' synthesis of well-regarded attempts to explore these dimensions, both within the field of education and in general project management. The concept of Total Quality Management, widely respected in industrial management circles, is introduced as relevant within the field of education when focusing on the needs of individual students.
The authors rely on the experience of education theorists and practitioners to collect evaluations that are predicated on the observation of effective teamwork. They cite Wangemann, Ingram & Muse, who reviewed information on successful associations and found these essential ingredients: Clarity of Purpose, complementary dissimiliarity between the partners, overlapping self-interest, sufficient time to build bridges of communication and trust, clarification and coordination of roles and responsibilities within the partnership. shared ownership, emphasis on action rather than structure building, adequate resources, leadership from key administrators, institutional commitment to the satisfying of mutual self-interests, and an ongoing system for research and evaluation, and an understanding of each other's institutional culture. (Thomas, 73) The authors go on to divide the chapter into 10 dimensions considered essential to interactive teaming. In order to effectively evaluate the chapter, I have addressed all of these sections individually.
Legitimacy and autonomy. The legitimacy of interactive teams has been established legally through several public laws concerning family consultations as made by educators. I feel that the book's emphasis on this point is somewhat confusing; intuition tells us that the establishment of such teams should be done on an informal basis that is not pursuant to any Byzantine legal regulation determining its structure. However, intuition in this case may be wrong. The litigious nature of parents demands that public and private educators provide defensible reasoning for their actions, in the case that those actions later prove to have been detrimental. Whereas legitimacy is important because it limits the liability of educators, the autonomy of a decision-making team is important because it establishes an interactive team as the final arbiter. The strength of an interactive team is to be found in that decisions are made by all parties with vested interests. Interestingly, the authors note that factions of individuals with like interests within the overall team are beneficial.
Purpose and objectives. The authors state that "the main purpose for interactive teaming is to share information and expertise to ensure that the best possible decisions are made and effective programs are implemented." (Thomas, 75) Some of the ones that it notes as being among these decisions that are made to enhance a child's learning environment are referral, screening, classification, instructional planning, and the evaluation of a student's progress. Because teaming is a time and coordination intensive process, I would add that in the case of normal students that teaming should be reserved for measured, periodic evaluations or crisis situations. Although the establishment of such teams is sometimes necessary, their regular occurrence is costly in terms of time and lacks a sense of fairness if an educator focuses on several students at the expense of others.
Competencies of team members and clarity of their roles. The authors believe that it is essential that team members demonstrate competencies in their key roles in order to act as effective members of a team. A diagram is given, showing the respective influence of different team members on decisions concerning a student, which includes such professionals as a dietician, a computer specialist, the principal, a physical therapist, a parent, a social worker, and a nurse. Here I feel that the overhead and time expenses involved in the aggregation of the types of people suggested (which number not only the parent and the regular classroom teacher but also 15 specialists) are prohibitive at best. Although the conglomeration of such esteemed professionals might be indeed necessary in the event of a catastrophic situation, I feel that these mandates are unwelcome for a number of reasons. First, when the circle of decision makers moves beyond the relationship between the teacher and the parent, its inclusiveness should be dictated by the pertinence of other parties to the decision making process. For instance, a social worker might be included if the child has difficulties in school due to a negative relationship with an abusive father, or a dietician might be a member of the group if the child is problematically obese. One area where the effectiveness of teams has been widely cited is in the case of developmentally disabled children; according to one study, "collaborative models of teaching have helped meet this need for a highly interactive relationship between the team and the speech / language pathologist. Participation of every team member in the acquisition of communication goals into the general curriculum becomes a necessary practice if opportunities to learn are to be sufficient." (Bailey & Murray-Branch, 1993, p. 32) It is my opinion that the nature of the team should also be determined by the scope of the decisions to be made; a principal should certainly be present if the student risks expulsion, and a psychiatrist should be present if a change in the child's psychiatric medication is being discussed.
Role release and role transitions. By "role release," the authors are referring to the sharing of information between specialists that make up the group environment. The book notes three levels of this process: the release of general information, information skills, and performance competencies. These are noted as being important because it allows specialists to relay methods that they have been using in order to deal with the child in question. This helps other group members become familiar with the methodologies in place. I believe that this is an especially important process for the parent, who might be understandably skeptical about professional competencies if an adequate explanation is not provided. The authors believe that this process helps to engender mutual trust.
Awareness of the individuality of team members. Here the authors review the respective roles of team members and seek to categorize these perspectives with respect to age and tenure. They focus specifically on teachers and how they can be presumed to act and think based upon the stage they have reached in their career. The authors make reference to the concept of career cycles, whereby a teacher is initially a striver who wishes to implement theories and is easily influenced, goes through a period of self-enrichment, and eventually is at a point where she or he has developed a certain level of expertise. However, the focus of this section seems to be on the idea that a teacher should not be seen as someone harboring typical characteristics associated with a teacher, but rather should be seen as typical of a certain class or category of teachers. Whereas this might serve as a template for the understanding of some viewpoints, it should be remembered that categorical assumptions in small group settings are usually frowned upon. In this respect I believe that "awareness of individuality" goes beyond the election of sub-categorization over general categorization.
Process of team building. Here the book details five stages of development that a team must go through before it is able to function effectively. These include: forming, the process of orientation; storming, the polarization of interests; norming, the normalization of relationships and establishment of team goals; performing, where members work to accomplish a task; and adjourning, where members reflect soulfully upon changes in their relationships with other group members and whether group objectives were accomplished. According to Marilyn Friend of Indiana University, "others have confirmed these stages. Jones (1988), Geber (1991), and Chance (1989), for example, proposed that teams must initially come together and identify the needs they exist to meet. Gladstein, Ancona, and Caldwell (1988) clarified the importance of teams recognizing their task work (i.e., the activities related to the team's product or outcome) as well as their maintenance work (i.e., the activities that enable members to function effectively as a team)."
(Friend, 1997, p. 6)
Attention to factors that affect team functioning. Here the authors discuss commonly cited problems with the formation of teams. Some of these include a lack of participation, inter-professional rivalry, and a lack of structure in decision-making. The authors discuss the ramifications of these problems in terms of goal structures, communication climates, roles in meetings, and consensus-building strategies. Ann Nevin of the University of Vermont notes that "It is incumbent upon the organizational leadership to set an expectation for collaboration and to explicitly create opportunities, incentives, rewards, and training for such collaboration. " (Nevin, 1990, p. 44)
Goal structures are discussed as being cooperative, competitive or individualistic. Co-operative goal structures are seen as the only structures that are conducive to the synergistic evaluation and eradication of problems, and the authors note that in these situations,…