New Education Class Teaches Teamwork

March 5, 1998

Three Baylor instructors, all from different departments, prepare for their 2 p.m. Thursday class. They gather their lecture notes, textbook and class roster and head for Room 203 in the Draper Academic Building. What is going on here? Are all three faculty members from three entirely different disciplines teaching the same class? The answer is yes. These instructors, along with two professionals from outside the Baylor community, are taking a whole new approach to teaching a class in the School of Education.

Bridging the "tower trench gap," (the division between academia and actual experience), Janet Bagby, lecturer in educational psychology; Dr. Carole Hanks, assistant professor of nursing and director of the pre¡nursing program at the Waco campus; and Dr. Kathy Whipple, professor and chair of communication sciences and disorders, are joined by two non¡academic professionals, Pamela Marcum of the Klaras Center (a local MHMR facility) and Jill Hay of Region 12 education center, to team teach "Early Childhood Intervention, An Interdisciplinary Approach."

Agencies that assist families with children who have developmental disabilities frequently rely on a team of specialists to provide interdisciplinary, early intervention services. A typical team could include a speech pathologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, nurse or doctor, psychologist, dietitian and certified teacher. These professionals work together to decide the best treatment options for the child.

Therefore, it is inherently logical to teach an early intervention class using that same interdisciplinary approach, said Bagby. In this way, students will not only become familiar with the range of services a team can provide a family, but also they will discover how to work together as a team, a concept normally not found in a college class.

In a typical class session, the Baylor students and the five instructors called each other by first names as they argued and discussed different issues. They talked about confidentiality agreements, discussed what would be the best approach to deal with a single mother whose child had Downs Syndrome and watched a video of an actual early intervention assessment. However, they also moved away from this early intervention subject matter to talk about teamwork, confrontation with peers and communication skills. Throughout the three¡hour class period, student participation was excellent, with many questions asked and comments made.

"I'm a speech pathology major, and I really want to work with children," said Jennifer Jennings, a senior who is taking the course. "I like the way that the class is team taught. It is real relaxed and you can say what you are feeling."

The 13 students enrolled in the Baylor course come from a wide range of majors, from education to speech pathology to psychology. During the spring semester, these classmates will discover not only why a child might develop disabilities but also the various strategies for maintaining collaborative relationships with team members and with a child's family. Before the semester is complete, the students also will have gained actual field experience by participating in a home visit with an early intervention team.

"This is a trail¡blazing class because typically we are not taught as individuals to be collaborative. We are teaching these students how to work together as a team and how to learn from each other," said Bagby.

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