The Collaborative Action Process: A Qualitative Inquiry into Processes, Practices, and Perceptions

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The use of prereferral problem solving has rapidly expanded over the last ten years because, in part, participation facilitates school professionals' ability to effectively address students' academic and behavioral difficulties. Successful implementation of prereferral problem solving is also credited with significantly reducing special education rates, as students are provided with targeted intervention services. This qualitative study documented the experiences at one school when school professionals implemented a prereferral problem solving model called The Collaborative Action Process (CAP).

Data gathered at the selected school reflected implementation over a two year period.  Data sources included interviews, direct observations and recordings of problem solving meetings, reviews of student records, artifacts, and permanent products.  Data were also gathered to explore the CAP implementation experiences of school professionals at twelve other elementary schools within the same school district.   

Findings from this study indicated that CAP implementation during the 2002-2003 school year differed significantly from implementation during the 2003-2004 school year.  During the 2002-2003 school year, implementation integrity was extremely high, most school professionals enthusiastically participated, perceptions of the process were predominantly positive, many referred students' academic and behavioral difficulties were successfully addressed, and special education rates at the school were significantly reduced.  In contrast, during the 2003-2004 school year, school professionals evidenced minimal adherence to implementation procedures and they expressed significant concerns about the feasibility and benefits of participation.  During that year, students' needs were not successfully addressed and the reductions in special education referral and eligibility rates were not maintained. 

School professionals cited the district's decreased financial and personnel support as causing the dramatic diminution in the success of the CAP.  However, implementation was actually influenced by complex, often reciprocal, relationships among the district, the building administrator, and the school professionals.  Specifically, the following conclusions were drawn: district support influences implementation; district facilitators potentially influence implementation; the principal's attitude and level of enthusiasm influences implementation; the principal's level of control and participation influences implementation; teachers' perceptions about the feasibility of participation influence implementation; teachers' perceptions about the benefits of participation influence implementation; and, collaboration among school professionals influences implementation.