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Practitioner agreement on problem identification in consultation Brix, Patricia A.


This was a descriptive study of the agreements reached by learning assistants and classroom teachers when identifying a student's problem(s) during a consultative problem identification interview. The behavioral consultation research literature suggested that problem identification was a critical component of the problem solving process (Bergan & Tombari, 1976) however, the reliability of information gathered during the consultation interviews required further investigation (White & Edelstein, 1991). This study addressed the issue of reliability of the problem identification interview in consultation by examining interrater and interparticipant agreements as to the priority, nature and number of problems identified during the interview. Nine learning assistance teachers conducted problem identification interviews with each of four classroom teachers from their individual schools regarding students who the teacher identified as difficult to teach. Participants rated their problem identification interviews with an evaluative rating scale of interview helpfulness, and levels of problem identification and shared understanding in their interview dyad. Post consultation interviews with each participant revealed the levels to which each identified the presenting problems i n priority by nature and number. Results reported the level to which each interview dyad (N=36) agreed upon the problem(s) identified. Two raters gave independent ratings to the level of shared understanding of the problem(s) identified by the participants as well as to the priority, number and nature of the problem(s). Participant-rater agreements were determined for the same variables. The results reported a moderate level of agreement (Kappa=.66) between the participants as to the nature of the highest priority problem. A moderate level of agreement was determined between Rater 2 and the learning assistance teachers (K=.67) and the classroom teachers (K=.78) regarding the nature of the highest priority problem as well. The implication of these findings suggested that the dynamic process of problem identification is reliable. However, the process may result in lack of complete agreement between participants until the process results in problem descriptions which are specific enough to allow problem solution to be attempted. A replication of this study is needed to further validate these results. Further research is warranted in order to confirm the level at which problem identification is completed.

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