Interdisciplinary Collaboration

I was asked the other day why a school had changed its reputation from a scholastic school to a school that takes care of special education students. I was momentarily taken aback, as the school in question continues to have fine academic standards and has seen an increase in providing accommodations for special education students. This question made me think about the interdisciplinary potential between classroom teachers and others such as special education teachers. The potential power of interdisciplinary work at all levels could be a game-changer, e.g., in the classroom between two classroom subjects, in the child’s mind gathering information from multiples sources, and in professional contexts such as education and health care. The need for educators to draw upon other disciplines of knowledge could be a key to the improvement of modern schooling.

Health Care and Education

I recently ran into a doctor at Tufts Floating Hospital who regularly crosses the disciplinary divide between education and health care:

Ludwig Erik von Hahn, MD received his medical training at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where he also completed his pediatric residency in 1993. He completed his fellowship in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, Boston and at Tufts-New England Medical Center in 1998, and a two-year fellowship in child psychiatry at Children’s Hospital, Boston in 2000. He is board certified in Pediatrics and in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics.

Dr. von Hahn is interested in all of the developmental and behavioral disorders of childhood. He is especially interested in the interface between the health care system and the educational system, and in creating collaborative relationships between hospital-based clinicians, school professionals, and families through communication and joint training (Floating Hospital website).

Better Diagnostics Through Better Assessments

So let’s skip to the vision of how this would work in schools! I can see students coming to schools and after receiving a set of diagnostic assessments that were carefully integrated into the current curriculum, these interdisciplinary assessments would yield a a better set of supportive instructional ideas. For example, if Dr. von Hahn were to help teachers in a third grade classroom to build a better diagnostic assessment to identify students who needed a certain set of health accommodations or who needed a certain type of instructional guidance because of their health needs, teachers would be more able to see their work as instructional leadership informed by health care diagnostics. Better diagnostic assessments could lead to a better understanding of student intelligence. Wouldn’t it be great to know at the beginning of the year how your teaching ideas overlapped with health ideas to support student learning? Wouldn’t it be great to propel student learning because of the added fore-knowledge of their health needs instead of fighting or mis-identifying a hidden challenge in student thinking? And wouldn’t it be great to acknowledge that students come to us as fully developing humans, that health care providers could help us identify and more professionally accommodate all students, and that interdisciplinary assessment and collaboration could help us to promote a more equitable education for all students? Bring on these interdisciplinary collaborations!

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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