Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and Collaborative Problem Solving

Collaborative Problem Solving® (CPS) is an evidence-based, trauma-informed practice that helps students meet expectations, reduces concerning behavior, builds students’ skills, and strengthens their relationships with educators. The Collaborative Problem Solving approach integrates with Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) in educational settings. Though often thought of as an intervention to be utilized with students who have significant behavior challenges, CPS benefits all students and can be implemented across the three tiers of support within an MTSS framework.


Tier 1 (Universal Support)

Collaborative Problem Solving is both a universal approach to be used with all students and an intervention that can be used to meet the needs of students with emerging needs. Educators use the core mindset of “kids do well if they can” and the practice of CPS to increase positive interactions with all students. These practices improve classroom and school climate and build positive relationships. This shifts adults to view behaviors as skill-based, to model empathy and other thinking skills, and create classroom structure and routines that honor the varying developmental needs of groups of students.

Universally, a problem-solving structure (Plan B) is utilized to gain perspectives from students in everyday situations and class discussions and is used with groups of students to proactively work on common “hard to meet” expectations, i.e., coming in from recess, having a substitute teacher, engaging in group discussions, etc. When the components of CPS are used in the classroom, it helps to develop essential skills that allow students to effectively communicate and collaborate with others, understand different perspectives, problem solve, think flexibly, manage emotions, and build positive relationships with peers and adults.

Tier 2 (Targeted Support)

Educators embed structured problem solving, Plan B,  into existing targeted intervention times such as counseling groups, academic support classes, and/or morning meeting to practice thinking skills and problem-solving. Progress with Plan B interventions can be monitored using data from CPS assessment and planning tools and thinking skills checklists.

Tier 3 (Intervention Support)

CPS provides an assessment process and a proven intervention centered around problem-solving that builds skills for students requiring the most support. Additionally, the individualized information gathered in the assessment process is used to inform Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA), to write goals for Behavior Support/Intervention Plans (BSP/BIP) or Individualized Education Plans (IEP), and to monitor progress towards those goals. The assessment data and Plan B interventions can also inform accommodations for 504 plans.

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Collaborative Problem Solving integrates well with the goal of MTSS to effectively identify and meet the diverse social emotional and behavioral needs of students in schools. CPS can be utilized across all three tiers of support to foster strong adult and peer relationships, teach important cognitive thinking skills, and foster a learning environment that is grounded in collaboration, empathy, and curiosity.

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