Problem Solving Protocol


There are several grievance procedures available to students both at the University level and within the School of Education. Students’ right to advice and counsel will be safeguarded, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs is available to provide information regarding the appropriate committee to which a specific grievance or appeal should be referred.

Affirmative Action/Sexual Harassment Grievances are referred to the Director of Human Resources/Affirmative Action Hearing Committee. Complete details of this procedure are provided in the Personnel Policy Manual.

Grievance with a faculty or staff member. A student having difficulties with a particular member of the faculty or staff first is encouraged to discuss the grievance with that particular instructor, advisor or staff person, beginning with the Problem Solving Protocol

Establishing and maintaining professional relationships with colleagues is very important if a school and university partnership is to function as a learning community. This does not mean, however, that there won’t be problems and conflicts among personnel. Wherever one practices the art and craft of teaching, individuals in a setting might perceive the same event differently or come to the situation with a differing set of values, beliefs and behaviors.

Such episodes can be positive in that they give the pre-service teacher an opportunity to practice the communication and problem solving skills necessary for collaboration to occur. Indeed, as members of the National Network for Educational Renewal, we are committed to helping pre-service and in-service teachers effect needed changes in school organizations. This document is intended to provide a set of protocols to assist the pre-service teacher, the cooperating and university supervising professor and others in solving problems that are inevitable when adults work closely together in these efforts. Some of this document comes from work done by the Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi. We are grateful to JoAnn Canales for her work in this area.

Guiding Thoughts About Conflict Management

  1. You may perceive there is a problem, but others may not. Your standards or norms may be different from the other person, resulting in your perception of a problem–or theirs.
  2. Most problems are best solved by those in the situation, not outside of it. If at all possible, talk to the person that you perceive to be a part of the problem, not others. This means talking with the person with whom you have the problem, not other practicum students or other teachers in the building if they are not involved. Rallying support for yourself before trying to solve the problem is not acceptable. It is fair and important to get problems addressed and solved, but the strategies used are critical. If you need to get perspective before approaching the person involved, your university supervising professor and/or advisor are the only people to whom you should speak.
  3. Most problems are best solved when they are addressed as soon as possible. When we sit on problems, they often become harder to solve. Also, unresolved prior conflicts can result in tension in a relationship. Your professional development includes learning to solve problems.
  4. When problems are well defined, resolutions often follow more easily. The following steps are helpful in problem definition.
    • Define the problem for yourself as clearly as you can—what is occurring, how often, and under what circumstances.
    • Consider who/what is contributing to the problem. Are you and others working from the same data and vocabulary? Are you and others drawing different conclusions from the same facts? Do you share the same values and beliefs? Are there ambiguous jurisdictions that need to be clarified? What are the honorable intentions of all who are involved? Think about how you might be contributing to the problem.
    • What is within your control and the others’ control regarding the problem? If the problem is outside the control of either of you, should you live with it or take it to a “next level?”
    • Stop and check your behavior as you identify the problem. Are you listening to the point of view of the other person? What is the other person’s perception of the problem? Are you attacking the person with whom you may not agree rather than attacking the problem? After thinking about these things, restate the problem.
    • Spend some time thinking about how to pose the problem. Try to be concrete and specific but at the same time respectful in your phrasing.
    • Consider when to meet with the person with whom you are having a problem. It is best to meet in private during an agreed upon time. Don’t address the problem in front of others or bring it up at an inopportune time. Always ask, “When could I meet with you?” or “Is this a good time to discuss a problem?”
    • In approaching another person with a problem, it is usually helpful to share perceptions of the problem before suggesting solutions. Remember at this point to listen carefully and objectively to the perceptions of others. Once a problem is identified, it is best to determine common objectives before brainstorming solutions. You might find your objectives are similar, but that your ideas about solutions vary. Try to find a solution that meets each participant’s objectives.
    • If the other person does not agree with you, it may not be because he/she isn’t listening. They may not agree with you. There are times when we must agree to disagree with grace. To get respect in a problem-solving situation, we must give it. There are times when we must also acknowledge the impact our solutions might have for the other person.
    • If a solution is agreed upon or negotiated, “field test” it and revisit the solution.

Specific Protocols for Pre-service Teachers/Interns

If you are a pre-service teacher/intern with a problem with a cooperating teacher

  1. Define the problem for yourself. (See previous information). Determine if the problem is “real.” Consult your university supervising professor if the issue is major…to help you with the reality check.
  2. Meet with the cooperating teacher
    1. present the problem
    2. listen to the perceptions of the cooperating teacher
    3. determine joint objectives and generate solutions
    4. negotiate if necessary
    5. generate an action plan, including goals, responsibilities, timelines
    6. share plan with cooperating teacher
  3. If problem is resolved, acknowledge that to cooperating teacher. If the problem continues, repeat the previous steps and check with university supervising professor.
  4. If a resolution is not possible, request help from the university supervising professor and if necessary, request a care team.

If you are a pre-service teacher/intern with a problem with a university supervising professor

  1. Define the problem for yourself.
  2. Meet with the supervising university professor
    1. present the problem
    2. listen to the perceptions of the university supervising professor
    3. determine joint objectives and generate solutions
    4. negotiate as necessary
    5. generate an action plan
  3. If problem is resolved, acknowledge this to university supervising professor. If the problem continues, repeat the previous steps.
  4. If a resolution is not possible, request the help of the Assistant Dean or Dean of the School of Education.

If you are a pre-service teacher/intern with a problem with a university/School of Education professor

  1. Define the problem for yourself. Attempt to be objective about the nature of the problem, owning up to the portion of the problem that might be caused by your decisions or behavior. (Example of what you might say to a professor: I know we’ve gotten off to a rough start, perhaps because I often talk to others in class instead of listening; I know this annoyed you last class. I have a really short auditory attention span…can we start over?)
  2. Ask for a meeting in person and privately. Don’t confront a professor in front of others. If the only way to approach a professor is through email, be respectful in your request for a meeting time.
  3. If you sense you are struggling in a class, don’t wait until the end to ask for help. Approach a professor early if you need to ask for assistance.
  4. Your tone and approach will influence the outcome of the meeting. Try to stay calm. Ask for the professor’s perception of the problem. Work to determine objectives and a solution to the problem. Determine action plans and timelines. Asking for them in writing is appropriate.
  5. If resolution is not possible, you do have the right, if you have an academic grievance, to use the informal then formal academic grievance procedure outlined in the Maryville University Student Handbook. Copies of the policy can be obtained in the Office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs. If a problem is not academic in nature, and a resolution has not been negotiated, a meeting with the Dean or Associate Dean can be requested.

If you are a pre-service teacher/intern with a problem with another pre-service teacher/intern

  1. Define the problem for yourself.
  2. Only if the problem involves other students should you also talk with them about your perceptions. Determine if you should meet with the student alone or as a group.
  3. As determined in #2, meet with the other pre-service teacher/intern
    1. present the problem
    2. listen to the perceptions of the pre-service teacher/intern
    3. determine joint objectives and generate solutions
    4. negotiate as necessary
    5. generate an action plan
  4. If the problem is resolved, acknowledge that to the pre-service teacher/intern. If the problem continues, repeat the previous step.
  5. If the resolution is not possible, request help for the site facilitator or university supervising professor.

Specific Protocols for Cooperating Teachers

If you are a cooperating teacher who has a problem with a pre-service teacher/intern in your school

  1. Define the problem for yourself.
  2. If you view the problem as minor, continue the remaining steps on your own. If you view the problem as major, talk with the university supervisor and site facilitator (if applicable). Determine whether to meet with the pre-service teacher intern alone or with others.
  3. As decided in #2, meet with the pre-service teacher/intern to
    1. present the problem
    2. listen to the perceptions of the pre-service teacher/intern
    3. determine joint objectives and generate solutions
    4. negotiate as necessary
    5. generate an action plan
  4. If the problem is resolved, acknowledge that to the pre-service teacher/intern. If the problem remains, repeat the previous steps.
  5. If resolution is not possible, consult with the university supervising professor. Determine if a “care team” is needed to resolve the problem. A “care team” consists of the student’s advisor, the student, an advocate of the student’s choice, and the student’s teachers for the semester. The purpose of the team is to address unresolved issues and establish a plan of action for the student.

If you are a cooperating teacher who has a problem with a university supervising professor or a site facilitator

  1. Define the problem for yourself
  2. Meet with the university supervising professor or site facilitator to
    1. present the problem
    2. listen to the perceptions of the university supervising professor or site facilitator
    3. determine joint objectives and generate solutions
    4. negotiate as necessary
    5. generate an action plan for addressing the issue
  3. If the problem is solved, acknowledge that to the university supervising teacher or site facilitator. If it continues, repeat the previous steps.
  4. If resolution is not possible, inform the site facilitator (if problem is with university supervising teacher), the principal and the Assistant Dean or Dean of the School of Education. If the problem is with the site facilitator, inform the principal and the Assistant Dean or Dean of the School of Education.

Specific Protocols for University Supervising Professors

If you are a university supervising professor who has a problem with a pre-service teacher/intern

  1. Define the problem for yourself.
  2. If the problem involves the cooperating teacher and/or other school staff, talk with the appropriate person about is/her perceptions. Determine whether to meet with the pre-service teacher/intern alone or with the CT and other school staff.
  3. As decided in #2, meet with the pre-service teacher/intern to
    1. present the problem
    2. listen to the perceptions of the pre-service teacher/intern
    3. determine joint objectives and generate solutions
    4. negotiate if necessary
    5. generate an action plan, including responsibilities, timelines, etc.
  4. If the problem is resolved, acknowledge that to the pre-service teacher/intern. If it continues, repeat the previous steps.
  5. If a resolution is not possible, request help from the site facilitator and the Asst Dean of the School of Education. Determine if a care team meeting is appropriate.

If you are a university supervising professor who has a problem with a cooperating teacher

  1. Define the problem for yourself.
  2. Meet with the CT to
    1. present the problem
    2. listen to the perceptions of the CT
    3. determine joint objectives and generate solutions
    4. negotiate if necessary
    5. generate an action plan
  3. If the problem is resolved, acknowledge that to the CT. If it continues, repeat previous steps. If the resolution is not possible, request help from the site facilitator or principal. Discuss the issue with the Asst. Dean or Dean of the School of Education.

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