Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Zoe A. Barley

Second Advisor

Dr. Nickola Wolf Nelson

Third Advisor

Dr. James R. Sanders


The purpose of this study was to contribute to the descriptive and interpretive knowledge base about collaboration based on two interdisciplinary teams of elementary school educators representing disciplines of general education, special education, speech-language, reading, and counseling. Using an educational ethnographic design, data were collected through open interviews, team meetings and classroom observations. These data supported the construction of two distinct case studies as well as working hypotheses concerning interdisciplinary collaboration among professionals from specialized disciplines.

One case study was characterized as caseload collaboration. The team originated out of the desire among teachers from specialized disciplines to effect a more coordinated system of support for children receiving services in reading and speech-language pullout programs. The members of the team , while pursuing a goal to transcend the boundaries of their own expertise, remained bound to the strong influences of their disciplines.

The second case study was characterized as classroom collaboration. Within this collaboration, the routines, decisions, and dilemmas of the team were directly related to planning and coordinating curriculum and assessment for all students. While the general and specialized discipline educators were successful in providing in-class learning experiences for all students, including those with special learning needs, their experiences suggest that positive relationships and open communication among team members is crucial for success.

Four working hypotheses represent themes common to both sites: (1) the negotiation of elements of dynamics within the team process to every member's personal satisfaction is the sine qua non of successful collaboration; (2) although structural issues such as time, administrative support, schedules, and space are important in the collaborative process, they are not the sine qua non of collaboration; (3) interdisciplinary collaborative team s will be more likely to experience success in their efforts if team goals are clearly articulated and developed in concert; and (4) successful collaboration involving educators from specialized disciplines will require reexamination of their roles and professional responsibilities.

The experiences of these teams suggest that interdisciplinary collaboration is a complex and challenging phenomenon.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Counseling Commons