SENCO Practitioners Organizational Challenges – Critical Essay

Introduction

Special educational need coordinators have to face challenges within the workplace every day and some of these challenges are associated with the clients such as the children as well as the parents while others are associated with management and staff members. This essay is based on the interview conducted with a SENCO practitioner, Special educational need coordinator, Anna. She is responsible for training, offering support and teaching children as well as providing support to staff members who are not trained properly. In the interview, she was asked about the challenges she faces within the organization and the impact of those challenges. Furthermore, the interview has been analyzed based on the theories studied within the course and the theories have been applied within the context of the solutions to the challenges faced by the interviewee. This essay is based on four parts. The first three parts will address a detailed account of the three selected challenges provided within the interview and then a conclusion will be provided. The theories used within this report include Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Barrie Joy and Roger Pask provide leadership theory of mentoring and coaching, of McGregor’s  Theory X and Theory Y, the two-factor theory by Herzberg, Situational leadership style theory by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey, the theory of six thinking hats by Edward de Bono, and The Five Stages of Team Development by Bruce Tuckman.

SENCO Practitioners Organizational Challenges
SENCO Practitioners Organizational Challenges

Training

The interviewee states that there is a lack of finance for supporting training and development of staff members which could improve their knowledge regarding the requirements necessary for early years education practice. This challenge impacts colleagues, as well as families and children in such a way that not having proper training, make the staff inefficient as a team as well as inefficient individually because they are unable to provide top-notch services to their clients. This all goes down to funding and training, according to the interviewee as well as changes in the law.  Lack of training is caused because of lack of funding the main solution to this challenge is to provide training and development to the staff members and to educate them regarding early years education (Elnaga, 2013). Training and educating employees can motivate them to perform better at the job and reduce inefficiency. Motivation is the force which directs an individual for achieving their ambition; it presents intensity, persistence, and direction. Having motivated employees, who are willing to put in the required effort as well as persistence towards achieving strategic objectives of the organization is necessary. The theory of motivation, introduced by Abraham Maslow in 1953, perfectly defines how the fulfillment of basic needs leads to the acquirement of higher needs (Aruma, 2017). The need for self-actualization is at the top of the needs hierarchy by Maslow. In order to appease the self-actualization of the staff and potential social workers, it is necessary to provide training and development sessions to employees so that they can support the families better. Staff members should have an up-to-date working knowledge as well as a good understanding of the material which is to be conveyed to the children. The staff members should be trained in such a way that they have appropriate skills as well as understanding to apply new knowledge in their day-to-day tasks.

The interviewee also states that there is a lack of support by the management for employee training. In order to support the staff members it is necessary that management counsels and disciplines employees who continually perform below standard, the organization should introduce Employee Assistance Programs which aid the underperforming employees to deal with issues related to wellbeing, health, safety, and work performance.

This kind of programs provides confidential advice and counseling along with free services for the workers. Training can also be done because most of the time the employees that underperform are often not well-suited for the particular task or they lack the necessary skills and knowledge to perform the responsibilities accurately (D’Souza, 2016). Managers should also be given the option to have the bystanders, fellow workers or customers that are witnesses to the underperformance of the employee provide a written statement. This will enable the managers to obtain as much information as possible regarding the problem or issue at hand. Barrie Joy and Roger Pask provide leadership theory of mentoring and coaching in their book, Mentoring-coaching: a guide for education professionals. Joy and Pask state that there are 4 main stages of mentoring and coaching which involve context, issues, responsibility and the future. It is thus essential for the management to open up to the staff members in order to check for any kind of blind spots which they might have and to check if the challenges facing the management are focused on feelings or not (Barrie Joy, 2007).

The staff should be provided with a well thought-out and specific training program in order to aid them in developing skills that will help them in jobs within the organization. One approach that can be taken is to hold the skill-development programs and initiate sending the staff members to take part in training courses and acquire certificates. This will increase employee engagement and increase their morale within the workforce.  This solution can be explained best with the aid of McGregor’s  Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X assumes that employees intrinsically are not motivated to work and would like to escape it as soon as possible. The theory Y on the other end, states that the skills and capabilities employees have enabled them to perceive their job as normal and relaxing. Thus Theory X provides a rather pessimistic view while Theory Y provides a rather optimistic view regarding employee behavior at work (Arslan, 2012).  Theory Y suggests that a participative style of management should be implemented for employees whose intrinsic needs are to be satisfied (Kayode, 2013). The main limitation of this theory is that these two theories cannot be used together which means all types of employees will not be accommodated with just one theory.

 

Language barrier

The interviewee gives an example of a language barrier by stating that when she first started her career in early years education, she had to face numerous issues with the language barrier. It was difficult for her to communicate with parents regarding the child whether the child has had a good night’s sleep or not. Communication, according to the interviewee, is the key for special education needs provider and language barriers hinder communication. (Artelt, 2018).

There is a severe challenge in communication between the children and the staff members because of the language barrier. English is not the first language of the parents and the children which creates problems related to communication. These impacts work as it creates inefficiency and leads to inconsistency in the delivery of information between the clients and the staff members. The lack of efficiency caused due to language barriers can be a contributing factor for dissatisfaction within the workplace for many of the staff members according to the two-factor theory by Herzberg. Frederick Herzberg, who was a behavioral scientist presented the two-factor theory which includes two factors, motivators and hygiene factors that are responsible for employees dissatisfaction or satisfaction (Tan, 2013). In the case of the staff members, the interviewee points out that due to language barriers they are unable to adequately obtain information regarding the children as well as regarding parents. This leads to poor work performance which will eventually lead to a lack of sense of achievement by the employees. The motivational factors in Herzberg theory include recognition, growth as well as promotional opportunities, meaningfulness of the work and growth (Dartey, 2011). When the employees are unable to communicate the needs of their clients and are unable to fulfill their tasks properly they will be held responsible for the failure for not fulfilling the demands of the parents and children. This will lead to a low sense of achievement and growth for the staff members. The limitation of the two-factor theory, in this case, is that it overlooks the situational variables (Haruna, 2013). The theory also ignores blue collar workers which means that it might not be applicable in the scenario of special needs educators.

According to Pohjola, language takes the top importance specifically when it comes to working in a linguistic and culturally diverse environment (Pohjola, 2016). For a special needs education provider, language is the key to expressing and sharing emotions and to connect with children as well as the parents (Haddon, 2006). However, communication becomes difficult due to language barriers. Native speakers do not realize that it Is not just the accent but the way of speaking which creates communication and language barrier to effective communication (Ramlan, 2018).

The best strategy for combating and eliminating language barriers is through effective leadership. The management should ensure that the subordinates speak slowly as well as clearly when communicating with non-English speakers (Luthra, 2015). Proper training should be given to the management regarding the use of simple English that should be free of jargons and be specific. Leaders of the management teams need to impose strict language discipline so that they can communicate effectively with non-English speakers. Situational leadership style theory by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey can best be applied in this regard. Situational leadership refers to the adjustment of the leadership style to match the situation (Meier, 2016). The leader makes the decisions such as the decision to inform the staff members to strictly adhere to language rules and to use simple language when a conversation with children and their parents who are not non-Language speakers (Tenzer, 2015).

Using the situational leadership style, staff members can be managed and their productivity and efficiency can be enhanced by providing training and development workshops on reducing language barriers (Mujtaba, 2009). According to the situational leadership theory, a leader can change his or her leadership style depending on the situation as well as on the readiness of the follower (Hersey, 1984). The strength of this theory is that situational leadership focuses on adapting the communication style according to the needs of others (Graeff, 1983). Situational leadership aids in diversity management as well as in coaching of individuals who work in a diverse environment. Thus situational leadership can be adapted to instruct the staff members in removing language barriers by using the simple mode of communication which is most suitable to the non-English speakers.

Shonhiwa argues that despite the extensive use of situational leadership in removing language barriers, the theory does have some limitations which should be considered.  The main criticism of situational leadership is that there have been only a few studies that actually justify the propositions as well as assumptions provided by the approach (Shonhiwa, 2016). This lack of a strong body of research regarding this theory raises questions about its application and validity. The second criticism of the theory is that it does not completely explain the issue of one to one versus group leadership. For example, there might be language barriers removed on an individual basis and the leader might as well be able to enhance the awareness of management regarding language barriers by matching his or her style with the overall development level of the individual, however, this will not work in case of comparative development levels between the individual and the group.

Lack of Teamwork

The interviewee stated that there is a lack of teamwork because of a shortage of staff. This dilemma of staff shortage exerts more pressure on the existing staff to perform the majority of duties individually such as completing the ample paperwork, obtaining information from children and parents, etc. This proves to be a hindrance in cultivating teamwork. The impact of this challenge is that it hinders productivity and its consequences can be long term inefficiency. The best solution for this issue is to provide an ample amount of staff and ensuring that the staff works in a team. Meredith Belbin’s team role theory for teamwork can be best applied for enhancing teamwork within staff members. According to the theory, there are three categories in which team roles have been categorizedInvalid source specified.

These include action-oriented roles, people-oriented roles and thought oriented roles. The action-oriented roles are associated with three kinds of individuals; the coordinator, team worker, and resource investigator. While the thought oriented roles involve monitor evaluator, plant and specialist. The monitor evaluator is the person who assesses the team critically and analytically whiles the specialist is the expert in the subject matter. The person who is associated with the name the of the plant comes up with groundbreaking solutions and gives ideas that involve innovation. The theory can be applied to the staff members as it can help them coordinate their activities for accomplishing tasks better and for prescribing the positions to specific roles in relation with the individual who is best in performing those roles. This means that the theory is applicable in associating the right individual with the right job. Since the work is complex, it requires specific individuals to accomplish specific tasks which are why this theory is the most applicable in imparting teamwork in staff members. The question is no longer about knowledge of a specific person or the abilities which they should have but it is mostly about predicting how the individual might behave performing certain tasks.

The interviewee states that there are numerous team dynamics which one has to observe such as working with parents, with professionals and management in which one must be aware of how to conduct oneself. In order to deal with the team dynamics, it is important to know the interests, member skills, backgrounds information as well as mutual goals. Thus to improve teamwork, it is necessary to work through the team dynamics as well as conflicts. The Five Stages of Team Development by Bruce Tuckman is a useful insight into the development of teams and their behavior which explains the team dynamics and its formation. The model presented by Tuckman explains how a team develops as well as establishes relationships beginning with the formation of the team, followed by the brainstorming session. The storming stage is what the interviewee talks about as this stage involves the reality of the weight of completing the tasks as the initial excitement for completing the tasks wears off and pressure arises. The strength of Tuckman’s five-stage theory lies in the fact that it elaborates how group dynamics work and how individuals working together end up in conflict. The limitation of this theory in the application is that it does not take into account the individual growth and responsibility within the group. Characteristics of each stage also depend on the kind of tasks as well as human behavior which is why this theory cannot be applicable for every situation. The strength of this theory is that it is a complete guide for team development.

In order to alleviate team dynamics and conflicts, it is essential to consider the theory of six thinking hats by Edward de Bono. This theory helps groups explore a multitude of perspectives and aids to relieve the tension in case of complex situations or challenges (Serrat, 2017). Thus by applying this theory, the issues within the group such as lack of teamwork can be decreased. The main idea of the theory is to empathize with others and to play roles by wearing a particular hat. For example, the first that provides the neutral, objective and facts related approach. The red hat is associated with emotions as well as instincts. The black hat is judgmental, negative and critical while the yellow hat is completely opposite as it provides a positive outlook. The green hat cultivates creative thinking which provides different possibilities while the blue hat is the organizer that overviews the entire scenario (Aithal, 2016).

Conclusion

The three challenges which the interviewee has provided insight about include lack of training, lack of teamwork and language barriers. The causal factors of all three challenges have been elaborated within the text. Lack of training is caused because of lack of funding. This challenge impacts colleagues, as well as families and children in such a way that not having proper training, make the staff inefficient as a team as well as inefficient individually because they are unable to provide top-notch services to their clients. Training and educating employees can motivate them to perform better at the job and reduce inefficiency. There is a severe challenge in communication between the children and the staff members because of the language barrier. English is not the first language of the parents and the children which creates problems related to communication. These impacts work as it creates inefficiency and leads to inconsistency in the delivery of information between the clients and the staff members. There is a gap in teamwork and the impact of this challenge is that it hinders productivity and its consequences can be long term inefficiency. The best solution for this issue is to provide an ample amount of staff and ensuring that the staff works in a team. Meredith Belbin’s team role theory for teamwork can be best applied for enhancing teamwork within staff members. The model presented by Tuckman explains how a team develops as well as establishes relationships beginning with the formation of the team, followed by the storming session.

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