Collaborative Problem-Solving

We believe our students will exhibit fewer negative behaviors at DCCS than they may have exhibited in other settings because we will ensure that they are engaged, involved and respected. However, we recognize some students may not have the coping skills necessary to deal with the frustrations involved in developing problem-solving and flexible-thinking skills. Therefore, DCCS’s approach to dealing with discipline issues will follow the Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) model.CPS was developed by Dr. Ross Greene, an associate clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Through his decades of working with children with behavioral challenges, Dr. Greene found that “challenging behavior is a form of developmental delay.” Children exhibit negative behaviors because they do not have the cognitive or communication skills they need to express and address their feelings and frustrations. The two major tenets of Dr. Greene’s Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) approach are as follows (taken from his website,

First, social, emotional, and behavioral challenges in kids are best understood as the byproduct of lagging cognitive skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problemsolving (rather than as attentionseeking, manipulative, limittesting, or a sign of poor motivation). In other words, challenging behavior is a form of developmental delay. Second, these challenges are best addressed by collaboratively solving the problems that are setting the stage for challenging behavior (rather than through reward and punishment programs and intensive imposition of adult will).

Collaborative Problem Solving is a natural extension of the overall mission and education plan of the Dynamic Community Charter School. The school’s mission is to teach students the skills they will need to live fulfilling and independent lives as adults, and perhaps no skills are more important than those that empower one to deal with stress, frustration, and the unexpected.

While the simple disciplinary technique of providing consequences (rewards for good behaviors, loss of privileges or time-outs for bad behavior) may work for some students and some behaviors, our school will use CPS to address more challenging behavior problems, which likely stem from the student’s developmental delay.

Under the CPS strategy, the first step is for teachers and parents will conduct an assessment of the student using the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems, which is a discussion guide to help teachers and parents think through a child’s behavior problems, identify the child’s lagging skills, and identify the specific expectations the child is having difficulty meeting.

With the assessment in hand, the teachers, the parents, and the student will create a Proactive Plan. In Collaborative Problem Solving, the collaboration happens between the student and the teacher and/or parents. They have a conversation about the behavior and what’s triggering it, and together they develop strategies for avoiding future problems. Because the child has a role in developing the plan, he learns how to think through a difficult situation, rather than just react. The role of the teachers and the parents is to provide the child with the support he needs (through reminders, modified academic expectations, guidance in how to express certain emotions, or other accommodations) until he learns the skills he needs to be able to cope with frustration and difficult situations. These skills will empower and serve him throughout his life.

For students who do not have the communication skills necessary to explain the triggers for their behaviors and to participate in the development of a plan, the teachers and parents will work together to develop supports (e.g., books and exercises to help him learn to identify emotions and pictures for expressing them) that empower the student to express feelings and to make choices that will enable him to cope with those feelings.

The teachers and administrators of DCCS will understand that behavior problems cannot be addressed overnight. The student will need support in implementing the Proactive Plan, and the plan may require revising. However, the result of a successful Proactive Plan is a student with the skills he needs to be successful in life.