Some Dos and Don'ts of Consulting

Effective consultation can be challenging. It is easy for a consultant to come in, identify problems, provide solutions, and leave. However, such an approach is unlikely to bring about lasting change in the environment. Utilizing strategies which include and support the individual, allow for discussion and listening, and provide follow-up support during implementation are likely to be more effective and to support behavior change.

Phase One: Developing the Appropriate Environment

Strategy to Use

Strategy to Avoid

Do use a team approach to address problem behavior.

Don’t expect a teacher to address challenging behavior by themselves.

Do engage in dialogue and collaboration with the teacher in understanding the problem.

Don’t become an expert by developing a question and answer dialogue.

Do let the teachers know that you have heard and respect both their thoughts and feelings about the problem.

Don’t try to take teachers’ minds off their problems by cheering them up.

Do paraphrase what the consultee has said to convey understanding and respect.

Don’t rely on your attention alone to convey understanding.

Do restate your confusion and ask for clarification.

Don’t wait, hoping that your confusion will be resolved by itself.

Do summarize the main points the consultee has said.

Don’t depend on the consultee to remember what has been said.

Do make frequent use of “I” messages in gathering information.

Don’t rely on direct questions or requests to gather information.

Do sit near the consultee with a relaxed, open posture.

Don’t sit opposite the consultee behind a desk, or table with a formal posture.

Do write when you’re speaking and say what you’re writing.

Don’t write when the consultee is talking, and don’t keep your notes to yourself.

Do develop solutions and strategies together.

Don’t offer immediate solutions or assume total responsibility for the solution.

Do individualize a strategy with the teacher, based on an assessment of the problem.

Don’t share your past successes as a way of giving the teacher a suggestion.

Do take a proactive approach and provide service for students at-risk.

Don’t wait till the problems occur or escalate to address them.

Phase Two: Program Development

Strategy to Use

Strategy to Avoid

Do use language that communicates.

Don’t use technical language.

Do provide work relief, planning time, support with materials, etc.

Don’t add a considerable amount of work to a teacher’s load.

Do suggest a strategy that is not initially too different from what teacher is doing or has done.

Don’t suggest a strategy that is considerably different from what the teacher is doing or has done.

Do give priority to strategies that build on skills the teacher already possesses.

Don’t encourage strategies that require the teacher to learn many new skills.

Do individualize the program recommendations to the environment and teacher’s skills. 

Don’t assume the teacher can initially implement the best program for the student.

Do be sure the teacher starts with some degree of responsibility.

Don’t assume total responsibility for implementing the program.

Phase Three: Implementing the Program or Recommendations

Strategy to Use

Strategy to Avoid

Do be present on the day the strategy is initiated to assist the teacher.

Don’t wait for the teacher to implement the strategy without you.

Do provide cueing, reminders, and modeling to facilitate implementation. 

Don’t rely on verbal reminders to ensure strategy implementation.

Do prompt just enough to bring about the response.

Don’t overuse prompts.

Do be available to help resolve problems that may develop.

Don’t wait for the teacher to adjust to the problems.

Do give immediate and frequent feedback.

Don’t wait too long to see how it’s going. (Student progress alone is usually NOT sufficiently reinforcing for teachers or aides to maintain program implementation.)

Do use a variety of ways to provide reinforcing feedback.

Don’t rely on your verbal support to meet the teacher’s need for reinforcement.

Do use on-going data combined with social praise to provide feedback on successful student and teacher change.

Don’t use data only for providing feedback and monitoring change.

Phase Four: Providing Follow-Up Support

Strategy to Use

Strategy to Avoid

Do identify and use a variety of reinforcing sources to support and maintain desired teacher behavior.

Don’t continue to be the teacher’s only source of reinforcement or support for the programs’ maintenance and success. (Use parents, students, teachers, administrators, classroom visitors, etc.)

Do encourage and support teacher statements of pride and competence.

Don’t leave such outcomes to develop by themselves.

Do use prompts, directions, cues, and modeling to facilitate the occurrence of the next step in shaping a new behavior.

Don’t wait for the teacher to assume more responsibility on their own.

Do gradually reduce prompts and reinforcers.

Don’t abruptly reduce them.

Do point out similarities between situations and communicate an expectation of generalization.

Don’t leave to chance the generalization of newly acquired strategies by the teacher.

Originally created by G. Roy Mayer, Ed.D., CSULA, Presented at PENT Summits 2003. Adapted here to ensure accessibility.