Determining (and Creating) Team and Agency Readiness

Readiness refers to the willingness and ability of a team and school (or other agency) to engage in the TA process and effectively implement new practices and programs.1, 13

Determining readiness can help you:

  • Prioritize potential TA sites (e.g., if able to provide TA to only a limited number of sites)
  • Identify sites where TA is unlikely to be effective (e.g., because of lack of readiness, a team would have difficulty responding to the type and level of TA you can provide)
  • Identify areas where knowledge, skills, or motivation are lacking so they can be addressed by TA

Readiness exists on a continuum. It’s not a simple matter of “ready” or “not ready.”13 When assessing readiness, you may identify factors that indicate a lack of readiness that you can work with the team to address. On the other hand, you may find that moving forward with TA is not appropriate given the presence of serious barriers (e.g., lack of administrative support).

Understanding, in advance, the nature of the TA that will be provided helps recipients gauge how well it will fit their needs.29 Helpful information includes:

  • The content being offered
  • Team member and school or agency responsibilities
  • The intensity of the TA and its likely duration

Various elements of readiness have been identified and research suggests they fall into two categories—motivation and capacity (i.e., being willing and able).13 There is, however, no widely agreed-upon definition or tool for assessing practitioner or agency readiness, so it may be most practical to conduct these assessments informally during the course of your interactions with team members. The document under "Tools and Resources" below, provides ideas for readiness indicators to consider.

Advice from Colleagues

You do the best you can, but it's easy to misread situations. Sometimes things go the opposite of the way you think they will. A team you don't expect much of may rise up. A team with strong administrative support may fall apart or their commitment wane over time.

Gaining buy-in from team members and administrators is recognized as a key factor in the adoption and use of new practices.4, 20 To foster and maintain buy-in:

  • Involve organizational leadership—change is more likely when it is supported by administrators20
  • Make sure instructions for what the team will implement are clear and concise9, 14
  • Use the following strategies to increase motivation:1, 4
    • Use data to emphasize the child’s needs
    • Celebrate small successes and progress 
    • Address concerns, questions, or resistance 
    • Address barriers that need to be lessened or removed 
    • Identify team members who can serve as champions who inspire and lead others to implement 
    • Provide information and allow individuals time to process what the change might mean for them

Advice from Colleagues

Sometimes assessing whether people are ready for TA overlaps with helping them get ready. You may have to "sell" what you have to offer or, during initial interactions, provide simple information that will help them have an early success with a child. This helps to build “buy-in.”

Tools & Resources

Good follow-through on early recommendations is one indicator that a team is ready for more intensive TA. You might ask the team to:

  • Participate in a large-group training event
  • Complete one or more OHOA modules
  • Participate in a webinar as a team
  • Engage in an online meeting to evaluate needs
  • Assess an area of student need that relates to a potential TA activity

Advice from Colleagues

A colleague once shared with me something she called the “Rule of 3.” She would give teams three things they needed to do before her next visit or she would keep track of the number of times a team had not followed through and give them three chances.
Differing motivations among team members are a challenge. Some people are incredibly motivated and others sign on without really wanting it. You can try to weed out people who are less committed, but at the same time you don't want to make the TA process too onerous because the people who really need it might not get it.

Tools & Resources

Try to stay as neutral as possible in situations where different team members, such as family members and school personnel, strongly disagree about the needs of or best course of action for a child. Refer families to local advocacy agencies when needed—e.g., parent centers, legal aid, agencies for persons with disabilities.

Advice from Colleagues

People in disagreement may want you to be a referee, but that is not the role of the state deaf-blind project. You have to let them know that you don't take sides. Sometimes disagreements are due to lack of content knowledge, so initial assistance might involve providing information or pointing them towards the OHOA modules. Anything you provide should be given to both sides.

Tools & Resources