Kathryn Ackerman
Name of the Book: The Special Educator’s Guide to Collaboration Author: Sharon F. Cramer

Background of the Text:
This book was first written in 1997 and revised in 2006 by Sharon Cramer, PhD, a professor at Buffalo State College. This book was inspired by the experiences of over 1,000 collaboration projects completed by college students in the field of education, which included their valuable insight from journaling.

The purpose of this book is how to maximize the effectiveness of collaboration between special education and other professionals who work together within a school environment by providing them realistic tools to incorporate into everyday situations. An extensive amount of research has been completed on the subject of collaboration. Author Sharon Cramer has compiled the research, ideas and thoughts of many authors and has included over 625 citations of valuable contributions made to the field of collaboration in the past 35 years. With this information, she has created and described four major principles of collaboration. The four principles that she described are embedded throughout the text. They include heightened professionalism, facilitating independent problem solving, creating an interaction process that enables teams of people with diverse expertise to generate solutions to problems and to have a vested interest in the agenda. The text is purposeful and sequential in that it hopes that teachers can use this tool to walk through the stages of collaboration. The order of the text features are as follows.

Past and Present Trends in Collaboration
Ingredients for Successful Collaboration
Tips for Evaluating a Situation
Developing an Effective Collaboration Strategy
Designing a Plan for Change
Strategies that Work and Don’t Work
Evaluating the Success of a Plan
Summarizing the Outcomes
Generalizing your Plan to Parents and other Grade Levels

This text could be used as a resource for special educators for self assessment, everyday strategies or it could be used as a tool for professional development as the basis for a yearlong improvement plan. It is user friendly in that it provides the “stories” or reflections from successes and failures of other teachers, and also ways to “try out” strategies designed to give teachers structured, focused ways to tests their own collaboration skills. It encourages teachers to follow the stages of development in collaboration, and to journal and reflect upon what they have learned in order to become more successful in the areas they deem necessary.

Evaluation of the Book:

Yes, very clear to understand the author, her intentions, her experiences, and purpose for writing
Yes, includes over 625 citations in her references to back up research from early 1970’s to present day
She wants to empower special educators to challenge themselves to be successful and improve their collaborative relationships starting with themselves!
Originally written in 1997, and revised and updated in 2006 with new ideas, references and project journals
It is clear, purposeful, and logical. The information is presented in a way that is easy to follow as if they are a part of an experimental journey

The teacher reflections within each chapter allow readers to understand that there are hardships and difficulties in teaching and that these experiences can be used as learning moments. Another strength of this author was how knowledgeable she was of the research that has already been completed on collaboration. She demonstrated a thorough understanding of the subject matter and therefore presented ideas from the early 1970’s to today and could analyze what has worked well in the past. One of the many valuable tools that she offered throughout the entire book was the concept of changing your individual behaviors in order to become more successful. There are great self-monitoring tools that any teacher at any grade level could use to promote a more positive classroom environment.

The weaknesses of this book include that it is specific special educators, and it prefaces it in the title, and introduction. However, this book would also useful to general educators, and paraprofessionals interested in collaboration. It would be time consuming to implement all of the strategies suggested in the book in order to complete the year long development program. It would take a large commitment from an educator to set goals, self reflect, and continue the process throughout an entire year.

This book does have value to a committed, self driven educator hoping to improve their own skills in the field of collaboration. If they are willing to acknowledge and recognize the strengths and weaknesses that they possess as well as others, this could be an extremely valuable tool for them. I would definitely recommend this book to others based on the ease of readability, its logical order and the immediate results that could be seen by completing the “Try it Out” tasks in each chapter. I believe that this book can help you realize your own successes and weaknesses, but encourage you change and become better. I would recommend you buy it, and the price is also right…just $40.95 on Amazon.com!