Many schools have problem-solving teams that support teachers by helping identify and resolve students' academic and social problems. Although research is limited, it has been found that teams sometimes fail to implement problem-solving processes with fidelity, which may hinder the resolution of problems. We developed the Team-Initiated Problem Solving (TIPS) model to guide problem-solving processes of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Teams and the Decision Observation, Recording, and Analysis (DORA) instrument for measuring the fidelity of TIPS implementation. We conducted a TIPS Workshop for four elementary school PBIS Teams in North Carolina and Oregon and used DORA to assess the teams' implementation of TIPS processes in subsequent meetings. We found DORA was successful at allowing us to gather measures of fidelity of implementation, and that teams implemented TIPS processes with fidelity following the workshop. Limitations of these findings as well as implications for future research and practice are provided.
KEYWORDS: School teams, data-based decision-making, problem-solving, positive behavior interventions and supports
There is a long history of school personnel serving as members of problem-solving teams (Bahr & Kovaleski, 2006). Although these teams are known by different names, such as Teacher Assistance Teams (Chalfant, Pysh, & Moultrie, 1979); Prereferral Intervention Teams (Graden, 1985); Instructional Consultation Teams (Rosenfield & Gravois, 1996); and Instructional Support Teams (Kovaleski & Glew, 2006), their members share the common purpose of supporting teachers by helping to identify and resolve academic and social problems experienced by students, often within a curriculum-based measurement/response-to-intervention framework (e.g., Alonzo, Kerterlin-Geller, & Tindal, 2007; Batsche, Curtis, Dorman, Castillo, & Porter, 2007, Brown-Chidsey & Steege, 2005; Deno, 2005; Shinn, 1989; Sueai & Horner, 2009b).
The processes for effective team problem-solving have been a regular focus of consideration in the education and treatment of children. For example, Deno (2005) adapted the processes of the Bransford and Stein (1984) IDEAL problem-solving model (Identify problem-Define problem-Explore solutions-Apply chosen solution-Look at effects) to develop a data-based problem-solving model for use in schools (Problem identification-Problem definition-Designing intervention plans-Implementing intervention-Problem solution). By describing this as a data-based problem-solving model, Deno (2005) emphasized that access to relevant data is important for informing the various problem-solving processes and team members' related decision making.
In schools that implement School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS), the team that identifies and addresses students' social behavior problems is known as the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Team (Lewis, Jones, Horner, & Sugai, 2010; Sugai & Horner, 2006, 2009a). Data that can inform the problem-solving processes and the decision making of PBIS Team members are typically drawn from the School-wide Information System (SWIS: Irvin et al., 2006; May et al., 2003). SWIS provides a methodology for defining and collecting data about student office discipline referrals (ODRs), as well as a Web-based computer application for entering hand-collected ODR data and producing predefined and custom reports concerning the ODRs (May et al., 2003). A school's PBIS Team members receive training and technical assistance in the use of SWIS from a SWIS Facilitator who is employed by the school district and who has previously participated in a two-and-a-half day SWIS Facilitator Training event conducted by SWIS developers/researchers (Homer et al., 2008). SWIS Facilitators begin their work with a school by reviewing the procedures currently in use for gathering ODR data, and working to ensure that problem behavior codes describe behaviors that are observable and represent behaviors that are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. The facilitator delivers a 3-hour SWIS training focused on data entry, report production and data use, and returns to the school three additional times to work with PBIS Team members as they review and use data in team meetings.
In spite of the ordered process whereby SWIS Facilitators receive training from the SWIS developers/researchers, and PBIS Team members subsequently receive training from SWIS Facilitators, our follow-up attendance at some PBIS Team meetings revealed that team members are often idiosyncratic in the manner in which they use SWIS ODR data to inform problem-solving processes (e.g., how often meetings include a review of SWIS report data, specific reports reviewed, whether review of report data results in identification of one or more problems, specific methods used to analyze report data for the identification of problems, and so on). We also found that teams demonstrate varied levels of organizational skill regarding the management of the "structural" aspects of their meetings (e.g., how team members prepare for, conduct, and close their meetings; and how they monitor and document accountability for implementing decisions reached at previous meetings). Although research in this area is sparse, the failure to implement problem-solving processes with a high degree of fidelity is certainly not unique to PBIS Team members (e.g., Burns, Vanderwood, & Ruby, 2005; Doll, Haack, Kosse, Osterloh, & Siemers, 2005; Kovaleski, Gickling, Morrow, & Swank, 1999; Telzrow, McNa-mara, & Hollinger, 2000).
These issues convinced us that we could help PBIS Team members improve their meetings by developing a more formal problem-solving model--operationalized to be of particular use to PBIS Teams--that incorporated specific methods for analyzing data in a manner that would inform the model's processes and team members' decision making. In developing the model we chose to focus on processes that could help team members make decisions related to (a) school-wide problem behavior engaged in by a large number of students, often throughout the day; and (b) small-group problem behavior, engaged in by a smaller number of students, often in a particular location or at a particular time of day (e.g., cafeteria, playground, classroom, afternoon dismissal, etc.). We made this decision for two reasons. First, the problem-solving processes associated with addressing the behavior of individual students (e.g., conducting a functional assessment or functional analysis, developing and implementing a function-based behavior support plan) are well known and well documented (e.g., Crone & Horner, 2003; O'Neill et al., 1997), but this is not the case for school-wide and small-group processes. Second, PBIS Teams often "hand off" the responsibility for problem solving for individual students to some other school team, or to an individual (e.g., a school psychologist), while retaining the responsibility for problem solving for school-wide and small-group behavior issues.
The Team-Initiated Problem-Solving (TIPS) Model
The Team-Initiated Problem-Solving (TIPS) model is described in detail in a book chapter (Newton, Horner, Algozzine, Todd, & Algozzine, 2009) and in the manual used to conduct a TIPS Workshop for PBIS Team members (Newton, Todd, Algozzine, Horner, & Algozzine, 2009). The components of the TIPS model …