Importance, usage, and preparedness to implement evidence-based practices for students with emotional disabilities: a comparison of knowledge and skills of special education and general education teachers.
A growing number of students with emotional disabilities (ED) receive at least some of their instruction in general education classrooms. Accordingly, special education and general education teachers must be prepared to address the diverse academic and non-academic needs of students with ED. In the present study, we conducted a survey to identify teacher perspectives regarding the (a) importance, (b) amount of use, and (c) level of preparation regarding 20 evidence-based practices identified from a review of the literature. Survey results indicated that many special education teachers and general education teachers lack the necessary preparation to implement a number of evidence-based classroom practices effectively. Findings have major implications for preservice teacher education and in-service professional development.
KEYWORDS: behavior disorders; emotional disabilities; inclusion, general education teachers; special education teachers; evidence-based practices
By virtually any measure, students referred to as children and youth with "emotional/behavioral disorders," "emotional difficulties," or "emotional disabilities" (ED) are among the least successful of all students (Bradley, Doolittle, & Bartolotta, 2008; Kern, Hilt-Panahon, & Sokol, 2009). Research suggests that students with ED rarely evidence significant educational progress (Kern et al., 2009; Lane, Barton-Arwood, Nelson, & Wehby, 2008; Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004) and, in some instances, performance deficits actually worsen over time (Lane et al., 2008). Students identified as ED earn lower grades, are retained more often, fail more minimum competency exams, have higher rates of absenteeism, receive a greater number of office disciplinary referrals, and are suspended or expelled in greater numbers than are any other students (e.g., Kern, Hilt, & Gresham, 2004; Landrum, Tankersley, & Kauffman, 2003; Lane et al., 2008). Not surprisingly, according to the U.S Department of Education in the National Longitudinal Transition Study--2 (2011), students with ED have the second lowest high school completion rate (36.7%) and the highest drop-out rate (44.9%) among the students in 13 categories of disability. A possible contributing factor is that neither general education nor special education teachers have been prepared adequately to serve students with ED (Billingsley et al., 2006; Wagner et al., 2006; Simpson, Peterson, & Smith, 2011).
In the past, many students with ED were educated in self-contained classrooms, separate or alternative schools, or in residential facilities (Webber & Plotts, 2008). Today, more students with ED are being taught alongside their peers without disabilities in general education classrooms (Bradley et al., 2008). About 25% of students with ED spend 79% or more of their school day in a general education classroom (Bradley et al., 2008). Nearly half of all students with ED still are taught outside the general education classroom (Webber & Plotts, 2008). The disparity between the number of students with ED and number of students with other disabilities educated in inclusive settings may be attributable to the challenges posed by this population of students (Billingsley et al., 2006; Cook, 2002; Wagner et al., 2006).
Regardless of the educational setting, outcome data on students with ED are not positive (Landrum et al., 2003; Lane et al., 2008; Simpson et al., 2011). Data suggest that the aberrant behavior of students with ED adversely affects not only their academic achievement and social relationships, but also their post-secondary adjustment. Post-school outcomes for youth with ED are punctuated by high rates of unemployment or underemployment and lower wages earned compared to their disabled and nondisabled counterparts (Bradley et al., 2008; Simpson et al., 2011). Three to five years after leaving school, half of all students with ED are unemployed (Bradley et al., 2008). They also manifest interpersonal and mental health problems and engage in potentially self-destructive acts (e.g., alcohol and/or drug abuse) (Lane et al., 2008; Simpson et al., 2011).
Authorities long have contended that we must improve significantly the quality of education afforded students with ED (e.g., Knitzer, Steinberg, & Fleisch, 1990; Kern et al., 2009; Simpson et al., 2011). One way to improve the quality of education is to ensure that all teachers of students identified as ED possess the knowledge and skills required to address the myriad challenges associated with this difficult population of students. Indeed, Simpson et al. (2011) asserted that well-trained and competent teachers are the most important part of successful programs for students with ED. Fortunately, in recent years, researchers have identified a number of evidence-based practices that are applicable to students with ED (e.g., Dunlap et al., 2006; Landrum et al., 2003; Lewis, Hudson, Richter, & Johnson, 2004; Ryan, Pierce, & Mooney, 2008; Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briech, Myers, & Sugai, 2008; Simpson et al., 2011). However, in our review of the literature, we found that most studies on classroom practices of teachers of students with ED are now dated, include a relatively small number of teachers, and do not allow for comparison of special and general educators (Billingsley et al., 2006). Accordingly, there is little current information on the knowledge and skill level of special educators or general educators who work with students with ED.
There is a dearth of information on current teaching practices for students with ED. For that reason, we conducted a survey to assess the knowledge and skill level of professionals who play a crucial role in the education of students with ED. The purpose of our research was to determine the present knowledge and skill level of general educators and special educators who work with students with ED. We expected that such a survey had the potential to yield information useful to teacher educators in colleges/universities and to professional development specialists in the public school sector. Finally, we anticipated that obtaining information directly from teachers might result in a better understanding of the research-to-practice gap associated with classroom instruction (Burns & Ysseldyke, 2009).
In cooperation with a mid-Atlantic state department of education, we obtained a list of all special education teachers (9,654) licensed to teach students with ED in the state. Additionally, we obtained the names of all public schools in the state (1,979) and asked each principal to distribute a copy of the survey to five general education teachers who taught students with ED.
The majority of 1,588 general educators who responded were from preschool/elementary schools (44%), followed by middle schools (25%), and finally high schools (30%). Many were from suburban school divisions (46%), followed by rural school divisions (40%), and then urban school divisions (14%). Only a few respondents were new teachers (4%--less than one year); 32% had 1 to five years of experience; 24% had 6-10 years of experience; and finally, 40% had 10 or more years of experience. The vast majority of general education teachers who responded were fully licensed (96%), with 4% holding a temporary license (see Table 1).
Table 1 Demographics of General Education Teachers and Special Education Teachers Factors Levels Percentage Percentage of General of Special Education Education Teachers (N Teachers (N = 1588) = 1472) Level of Preschool/Elementary 44 34 School Middle 25 29 High School 30 * 37 Type of Public School 98 97 School Private School <1 <1 Alternative <1 2 Regional <1 <1 Residential <1 <1 School Urban 14 22 Setting Suburban 46 44 Rural 40 34 I am Yes 88 84 working with students with ED Numbers of Less than 1 year 4 2 years in this position 1 to 5 years 32 37 6 to 10 years 24 26 More than 10 years 40 35 Type of Temporary 4 11 license Fully licensed 96 89 Note: * The remaining 1% of General Education Teachers were from 'Other' level of School.
Of the 1,472 special educators who responded to the survey, 34% were from preschool/elementary schools, 29% were from middle schools, and 37% were from high schools. The majority of special education teachers were currently working with students with ED (84%). Most special educators were from suburban school divisions (44%); followed by 34% from rural; and 22% from urban school divisions. Our survey indicated that 2% of special educators had less than one year experience; 37% had one to five years of experience; 26% had 6-10 years of experience; and, 35% had 10 or more years of experience. The vast majority of special educators worked in public schools (97%), 89% of whom were fully licensed, while 11% held a temporary license (see Table 1).
We developed a survey to determine respondent perceptions regarding current evidence-based practices for students with ED. The survey contained two parts. The first part of the survey contained questions that related to respondent or site demographics including: level of school; type of program; geographic setting; type of service delivery system; position of the person completing the survey; number of years in position; type of teaching license; and area(s) of endorsement. Part two of the survey contained the survey items addressing evidence-based practices drawn from the extant literature in the area of ED. In completing part two of the survey, respondents were asked to circle the most appropriate answer on a five-point Likert scale (i.e., most = 5, least = 1) concerning perceived level of (a) importance, (b) usage, and (c) level of preparation to implement each of 20 evidence-based practices.
In order to select evidence-based practices, the authors conducted a hand search of articles focusing on reviews of the literature on students with ED published in the past 10 years in peer-reviewed journals: Behavioral Disorders, Beyond Behavior, Education and Treatment of Children, Journal of Behavioral Education, Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, and Remedial and Special Education (Dunlap et al., 2006; Kern et al., 2009: Landrum et al., 2003; Lewis et al., 2004; Mooney, Ryan, Uhing, Reid, & Epstein, 2005; Pierce, Reid, & Epstein, 2004; Ryan et al., 2008; Ryan, Reid, & Epstein, 2004; Simonsen et al., 2008; Simpson et al., 2011). Additionally, a search was conducted of strategies discussed in textbooks on students with ED (Kerr & Nelson, 2010; Lane, Gresham, & Shaughnessy, 2002; Lane, Menzies, Bruhn, & Crnobori, 2011; Rutherford, Quinn, & Mathur, 2004; Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, & Shiner, 2009). Because the purpose of this search was to identify 20 empirically-supported practices for students with ED, an exhaustive review was not conducted. We chose to limit the number of practices to increase the likelihood of an acceptable response rate (Sheehan, 2006).
According to Cook, Cook, Landrum, and Tankersley (2008), evidence-based practices are those practices for which there is reliable research to document positive outcomes. In selecting evidence-based practices, we relied on previously published guidelines (Lewis et al., 2004; Simonsen et al., 2008). The guidelines included practices that focused on two or more school age students identified as emotionally or behaviorally disordered, for which there was a minimum of three supporting empirical studies (group experimental, quasi-experimental--single subject studies), published in peer-reviewed journals, and recommended in textbooks written by experts in the field. Once we identified the 20 evidence-based practices, we grouped them according to: schoolwide; classroom level (academic and non-academic); and individual (academic and nonacademic) strategies (see Table 2). Next, we solicited input from three nationally-recognized experts in the field of ED regarding both survey construction and content. Based on the external feedback, minor adjustments were made in the organization and wording of the survey instrument.
Table 2 List of Evidence-based Practices (1) School-wide practices and learning environment * Clear rules/expectations [CRE] * * A crisis intervention plan for emergency situations [CIP] Classroom-level practices Academic Non-Academic * Academic supports and * A program of peer-mediated curricular/instructional intervention to promote positive modifications [GTM] behavior skills [PMI] A conflict resolution program [CRP] * A systematic approach to * Social skills instruction cooperative learning [CL] taught as part of regular class instruction [SSI] * Specialized instruction to * An anger management program promote learning and study skills [AMP] Clear rules/expectations [SI] * [CRE] * * Peer-assisted learning [PAL] * A behavior support/management plan--as appropriate [BSM] * Pre-correction instructional strategies [PCIS] * * Group-oriented contingency management [GOCM] Individual practices Academic Non-Academic * Choice making opportunities for * A system of positive behavior students [CMO] intervention and support [PB1S] * Specialized instruction to * The use of peer-reinforcement promote learning and study skills to promote appropriate student [SI] * behavior [PR] * Instruction in self-monitoring * instruction in self-monitoring of student performance [SMSP] of non-academic behavior [SMAB] * Behavior contracts [BC] * A formal procedure to develop function-based interventions [FBA] * Pre-correction instructional strategies [PCIS] * Note: * Includ practice in multiple categories (1.) Practice abbreviations in brackets.
Prior to survey distribution, division superintendents, special education directors, and building level principals were sent a pre-notification letter from the state Assistant Superintendent for Special Education informing them of the survey, its purpose, and its dissemination. Special education teachers received the surveys directly via the United States Postal Service. The survey and a cover letter were mailed within two weeks of the pre-notification letter. Each of the surveys mailed to principals had a school identification number for the dissemination of a second survey to non-responding teachers. Principals were sent reminder postcards if fewer than five general education teacher surveys were submitted from their school. A postage paid business reply envelope was provided to all participants. In every instance, data were analyzed and reported only in the aggregate.
Data analysis. In completing part two of the survey, respondents were asked to circle the most appropriate answer on a five-point Likert scale (i.e., most = 5, least = 1) concerning (a) perceived importance, (b) usage, and (c) level of preparation to implement each of 20 evidence-based practices. Responses regarding importance, usage, and preparation were summed across each practice and compared between special education teachers and general education teachers. The practices with the largest sums were considered to be the "most important," "most used," and "most prepared for". The practices with the smallest sums were considered to be the "least important," "least used," and "least prepared for" (see tables 3, 4, and 5). Mid-points on each of the scales were considered neutral and not used in the analysis. In a second analysis, the percent of special education teachers and of general education teachers who responded "usually used" or "always used" versus "rarely used" or "never used" for each of the 20 practices was computed. A criterion score of 80% was chosen on the basis of research on effective implementation of multi-tiers of school-based interventions (Bradshaw, Debnam, Koth, & Leaf, 2009; Homer et al., 2004). Furthermore, in assessing elements of effective instruction, West (2011) found that 80% was a valid standard to define quality teaching; whereas, 40% reflected "in need of improvement". Accordingly, we used 80% to distinguish those empirically-supported strategies that were in common practice and 40% to characterize those strategies that were not in common practice (see tables 6, 7, and 8). The number and percentage of general and special education respondents were sufficient for analysis (Levy & Lemeshow, 1999).
Table 3 Largest and smallest sums for importance of evidence-based practices General Education Teachers Special Education Teachers Most Important Practices: Most Important Practices: * Clear rules/Expectations * Clear rules/Expectations * A behavior support/management * Academic supports and plan--as appropriate curricular/instructional modifications * A system of positive behavior * A behavior support/management intervention and support plan--as appropriate * A crisis intervention plan for * A system of positive behavior emergency situations intervention and support * Academic supports and * A crisis intervention plan for curricular/instructional emergency situations modifications Least Important Practices: Least Important Practices: * Group-oriented contingency * Group-oriented contingency management management * A formal procedure to develop * A program of peer-mediated function-based interventions promote positive behavior skills intervention to * A program of peer-mediated * Peer-assisted learning intervention to promote positive behavior skills * Pre-correction instructional * Pre-correction instructional strategies strategies * Peer-assisted learning * A formal procedure to develop function-based interventions Note: The sums were obtained by adding responses from each general education teacher and special education teacher regarding their perceived importance across each practice. Table 4 Largest and smallest sums for usage of evidence-based practices General Education Teachers Special Education Teachers Most Used Practices: Most Used Practices: * Clear rules/Expectations * Clear rules/Expectations * Academic supports and * Academic supports and curricular/instructional curricular/instructional modifications modifications * A system of positive behavior * A behavior support/management intervention and support Plan--as appropriate * A behavior support/management * Specialized instruction to plan--as appropriate promote learning and study skills * Specialized instruction to * A system of positive behavior promote learning and study intervention and support skills Least Used Practices: Least Used Practices: * Group-oriented contingency * Group-oriented contingency management management * A program of peer-mediated * A program of peer-mediated intervention to intervention to promote positive behavior skills promote positive behavior skills * A formal procedure to develop * An anger management program function-based interventions * An anger management program * A conflict resolution program * Pre-correction instructional * Peer-assisted learning strategies Note: The sums were obtained by adding responses from each general education teacher and special education teacher regarding their usage across each practice. Table 5 Largest and smallest sums for preparedness to implement each of the practices General Education Teachers Special Education Teachers Practices Most Prepared to Practices Most Prepared to Implement: Implement: * Clear rules/Expectations * Clear rules/Expectations * Academic supports and * Academic supports and curricular/instructional curricular/instructional modifications modifications * A system of positive behavior * Specialized instruction to intervention and support promote learning and study skills * Choice making opportunities for * A system of positive behavior students intervention and support * Specialized instruction to * A behavior support/management promote learning and study plan--as appropriate skills Practices Least Prepared to Practices Least Prepared to Implement: Implement: * Group-oriented contingency * Group-oriented contingency management management * A formal procedure to develop * A program of peer-mediated function-based interventions intervention to promote positive behavior skills * A program of peer-mediated * An anger management program intervention to promote positive behavior skills * An anger management program * A conflict resolution program * A conflict resolution program * A formal procedure to develop function-based interventions Note: The sums were obtained by adding responses from each general education teacher and special education teacher regarding their preparedness to implement each practice. Table 6 How important is/are: Percent of General Education Teachers who responded: Very Un-Imp. Neutral Imp. Very Very Un-Imp. Imp. Un-Imp. PBIS 2.7 2.4 27.1 44.0 23.7 3.3 FBA 1.9 1.4 25.7 45.9 25.1 2.8 CRE 2.0 0.0 0.6 9.5 87.9 2.8 GOCM 2.3 2.8 41.1 38.6 15.3 3.0 CIP 2.3 0.3 3.5 27.3 66.7 2.9 CIM 2.1 0.4 3.0 355 59.0 3.0 CL 2.0 1.0 13.9 48.1 35.1 2.6 SI 2.0 0.5 4.8 40.3 52.5 3.0 PCIS 1.8 0.4 18.3 45.0 34.5 2.5 PAL 1.7 2.5 19.8 54.5 21.5 2.2 PMI 2.7 2.4 27.1 44.0 23.7 3.3 SSI 3.0 2.7 15.3 42.0 37.0 3.5 AMP 2.5 0.8 6.1 44.1 46.5 3.3 BSM 2.7 0.5 3.2 32.3 61.4 3.5 CRP 2.9 0.5 8.8 46.1 41.8 3.3 CMO 1.9 0.8 9.3 46.4 41.6 2.6 SMSP 1.7 1.4 12.9 51.7 32.2 2.6 PR 1.8 2.5 17.0 47.4 31.2 2.5 BC 2.2 2.5 19.6 45.5 30.2 2.8 SMAB 1.8 1.3 12.1 51.6 33.2 2.6 Percent of Special Education Teachers who responded: Un-Imp. Neutral Imp. Very Imp. PBIS 2.7 22.5 43.2 28.3 FBA 1.6 13.3 43.2 39.1 CRE 0.3 0.4 6.7 89.8 GOCM 3.5 39.7 37.4 16.3 CIP 0.5 2.4 23.3 70.9 CIM 0.1 1.1 25.5 70.3 CL 0.6 13.6 47.2 36.0 SI 0.1 2.9 30.9 63.1 PCIS 0.7 14.4 42.2 40.2 PAL 1.9 20.8 52.3 22.9 PMI 2.7 22.5 43.2 28.3 SSI 1.4 8.7 35.5 51.0 AMP 0.6 6.3 37.3 52.5 BSM 0.6 1.7 24.9 69.3 CRP 1.0 8.2 42.0 45.4 CMO 0.4 5.0 41.6 50.5 SMSP 0.8 10.8 48.6 37.1 PR 1.3 14.1 50.9 31.2 BC 2.2 18.4 43.6 33.1 SMAB 0.6 8.5 47.4 40.9 Note: Practice abbreviations are given in Table 2. Table 7 In my program we use/have: Percent of general Education Teachers who responded: Never Seldom Some Usually Always Never Seldom Used Used Used Used Used Used Used PBTS 0.9 3.6 16.9 45.6 33.1 1.1 4.3 FBA 9.6 17.7 31.2 27.3 14.2 6.2 15.6 CRE 0.7 1.4 4.8 27.7 65.9 0.6 1.7 GOCM 14.8 20.0 34.8 22.3 8.2 14.3 22.7 CTP 4.4 12.3 18.7 27.1 37.5 4.3 12.8 CIM 0.3 2.7 13.5 45.1 38.4 0.2 2.0 CL 2.4 8.6 31.0 40.8 17.1 3.0 10.5 SI 1.6 6.3 24.2 42.5 25.5 0.4 4.6 PCIS 5.1 9.6 29.5 40.8 14.9 4.6 10.0 PAL 2.5 11.9 45.4 30.9 9.3 2.0 14.7 PM1 17.1 21.5 30.9 21.6 8.9 15.0 24.3 SSI 7.9 17.4 31.3 27.4 16.0 8.2 17.7 AMP 10.4 18.5 33.5 25.6 12.0 12.1 20.5 BSM 1.6 6.6 23.9 37.5 30.4 0.8 4.2 CRP 8.8 14.9 32.1 31.0 13.3 10.6 16.3 CMO 1.3 5.7 30.3 42.2 20.5 0.8 7.0 SMSP 4.1 14.7 34.1 34.0 13.2 3.5 13.3 PR 5.9 15.0 34.2 32.7 12.2 5.5 15.9 BC 5.2 12.1 34.4 28.2 20.2 2.8 11.3 SMAB 5.1 15.9 34.8 32.2 12.0 3.0 15.2 Percent of Special Education Teachers who responded: Some Usually Always Used Used Used PBTS 19.7 40.5 34.4 FBA 27.3 31.6 19.3 CRE 6.8 26.4 64.7 GOCM 35.7 20.2 7.1 CTP 18.0 27.4 37,5 CIM 11.7 38.6 47,5 CL 33.3 39.0 14.3 SI 19.0 41.5 34.6 PCIS 30.3 37.2 17,9 PAL 46.9 28.3 8.0 PM1 34.8 19.4 6.7 SSI 28.6 25.1 20.4 AMP 30.7 23.1 13.5 BSM 20.4 39.6 35.1 CRP 31.2 29.5 12.4 CMO 25.0 43.1 24.2 SMSP 36.2 34.0 13.0 PR 39.6 28.1 10.9 BC 38.5 29.8 17.6 SMAB 35.5 33.6 12.8 Note: Practice abbreviations are given in Table 2. Table 8 How well-prepared are you/staff to implement: Percent of general Education Teachers who responded: Not At Not Very Not At Not All Well Ad. Well Well All Well Prep. Prep. Prep. Prep. Prep. Prep. Prep. PBIS 0.8 5.0 25.6 37.6 29.1 0.6 7.5 FBA 11.0 24.9 30.2 22.3 11.7 5.3 20.1 CRE 0.1 2.6 10.2 28.8 58.3 1.0 2.4 GOCM 13.8 24.7 34.1 18.8 8.7 11.3 24.7 CIP 5.7 16.9 26.9 26.0 24.5 3.9 15.2 C1M 0.4 5.4 25.2 38.8 30.3 0.2 3.9 CL 1.9 10.4 33.8 36.2 17.7 2.0 13.5 SI 1.6 9.6 30.2 36.2 22.4 0.6 6.0 PCIS 5.5 14.8 31.5 31.9 16.4 4.0 14.5 PAL 2.0 12.3 39.0 32.3 14.4 1.4 12.2 PMI 11.5 28.7 33.1 18.2 8.5 8.3 25.5 SSI 5.4 17.1 36.8 26.7 14.0 4.5 15.7 AMP 10.4 29.0 33.4 19.1 8.2 7.5 25.3 BSM 3.0 12.0 32.2 31.1 21.8 1.3 8.3 CRP 7.8 23.2 35.5 23.2 10.7 5.5 21.6 CMO LI 7.8 32.6 37.7 20.8 1.0 8.0 SMSP 3.1 15.7 38.7 29.3 13.2 2.5 14.6 PR 5.1 17.3 37.4 27.6 12.6 4.4 16.9 BC 3.3 10.2 34.8 30.0 21.8 1.9 9.7 SMAB 3.8 20.4 38.4 26.1 11.5 2.8 15.8 Percent of Special Education Teachers who responded: Very Ad. Well Well Prep. Prep. Prep. PBIS 23.7 35.7 32.5 FBA 31.2 27.2 16.3 CRE 11.3 28.6 56.2 GOCM 34.1 21.2 8.7 CIP 26.8 28.1 26.0 C1M 18.5 38.7 38.7 CL 35.7 32.1 16.6 SI 22.6 38.2 32.6 PCIS 32.7 30.5 18.3 PAL 41.5 31.2 13.8 PMI 37.1 20.5 8.5 SSI 28.3 30.4 21.1 AMP 32.4 22.4 12.5 BSM 24.8 36.0 29.6 CRP 35.9 25.1 12.0 CMO 28.3 37.5 25.2 SMSP 35.0 33.3 14.6 PR 37.7 27.3 13.7 BC 33.0 32.9 2.5 SMAB 34.8 32.8 13.9 Note: Practice abbreviations are given in Table 2.
For 15 (or 75%) of the 20 evidence-based practices, at least 80% of the special education teachers chose "important" or "very important," while their general education counterparts chose 11 (or 55%) of the practices as "important" or "very important" (see Table 6). General education teachers and special education teachers were in agreement regarding the importance of the two schoolwide practices (i.e., clear rules/expectations and a crisis intervention plan for emergency situations) (80%). A number of general education teachers (94%) and special education teachers (91%) indicated that they either "usually used" or "always used" and were prepared to implement clear rules/expectations as schoolwide practices (see tables 7 and 8).
Classroom practices such as curricular modifications, cooperative learning, peer-assisted and peer-mediated intervention, conflict resolution, social skills taught as part of the classroom curriculum, anger management, behavior support/management plan, pre-correction, and group-oriented contingency management can positively impact the academic as well as nonacademic performance of students with ED. The results of the present survey indicate that at least 80% of general education teachers and special education teachers chose "important" or "very important" as their response for only five of these classroom level practices: curricular/instructional modifications, a systematic approach to cooperative learning, anger management, a behavior support/management plan--as appropriate, and a conflict resolution program. Both groups of professionals acknowledged the importance and usage of a behavior support/management plan and academic supports and curricular/instructional modifications as well as their respective level of preparation (see tables 3, 4, and 5). However, a number of general education teachers (91%) and special education teachers (86%) indicated that they either "usually used" or "always used" only one classroom level practice (i.e., academic supports and curricular/instructional modifications). Both groups of teachers indicated that they were not prepared to implement any other classroom level practice (see Table 8).
Of the nine individual practices (see Table 2), 80% or more of the general education teachers and special education teachers chose "important" or "very important" in response to perceived importance of three practices: specialized instruction to promote learning and study skills, choice making opportunities for students, and self-monitoring of student performance. Both general education teachers and special education teachers were essentially in agreement with regard to the most important and most used individual practices (i.e., a system of positive behavior intervention and support) as well as their respective level of preparation (see tables 3, 4, and 5). However, general education teachers as well as special education teachers reported they were neither prepared to implement nor did they make routine use of any of the individual practices at the 80% level (see tables 7 and 8).
Discrepancies between general and special education teachers were observed with regard to classroom practices across importance, usage, and/or preparedness regarding pre-correction and social skills taught in classrooms. That is, while some special educators viewed these practices as important (82 % and 87% respectively), fewer than 80% of their general education colleagues did so (see Table 6). Neither general nor special education teachers indicated that they were "well prepared" to apply these practices (48% and 41% of general educators, respectively; 49% and 52% of special educators, respectively). Teachers also indicated that classroom practices such as: group-oriented contingency management, peer-mediated intervention to promote positive behavior skills, pre-correction, anger management program, a conflict resolution program, as well as peer-assisted learning were the least important, least used, and practices they were least prepared to implement (see tables 3,4, and 5). Both groups of teachers indicated that a formal procedure to develop function-based intervention was the least important individual practice and represented the practice they were least prepared to use.
Analysis of participant responses at the elementary (44% and 34% for general educators and special educators respectively), middle (25% and 29% for general educators and special educators, respectively), and secondary school level (30% and 37% for general educators and special educators, respectively) indicated that the majority (11 to 16) of evidence-based practices were deemed "important" or "very important," with clear rules and expectations still the most important on the list (i.e., 80% or more of the respondents indicated they were "important" or "very important"). In contrast, across grade levels, respondents indicated that they were either "well prepared" or "very well prepared" to engage in only one evidence-based practice (i.e. clear rules/expectations) and they "usually used" or "always used" only two practices (i.e., clear rules and expectations and academic supports and curricular/instructional modifications).
Data analysis across geographic locales indicated that respondents in urban (14% and 22% for general educator's and special educators respectively), suburban (46% and 44% for general educators and special educators, respectively), and rural settings (40% and 34% for general educators and special educators, respectively) affirmed that the majority of the evidence-based practices were "important" or "very important" (12-15 evidence-based practices; general educators and special educators, respectively). However, few of the strategies teachers indicated as important were in common practice (i.e., only 2-4 practices were "usually used" or "always used"). Of the 12 to 15 practices identified as important, respondents indicated that they were "prepared" or "well prepared" to apply only two evidence-based practices (i.e., clear rules/ expectations and academic supports and curricular/instructional modifications). Fewer than 40% of the respondents indicated they "usually used" or "always used" peer-mediated instruction, group-oriented contingency management, peer-reinforcement, or anger management plan. Overall, there was little that distinguished participant responses either across school levels or geographic settings (i.e., urban, suburban, rural).
Today, more students with ED than ever before are being taught in general education classrooms by a combination of general education and special education teachers (Bradley et al., 2008); some split their school day between special and general education settings (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Unfortunately, most general education teachers and special education teachers lack the preparation necessary to work effectively with students with ED (Cook, 2002; Lewis et al., 2004; Simpson et al. 2011). Results of the present survey revealed that there are a number of evidence-based practices that are not in common use. By definition, students with ED evidence deficiencies in the area of social skills and have an incontrovertible need for explicit instruction and support in this area (Simpson et al., 2011). Even so, neither general nor special educators indicated they were prepared to teach social skills. Given the importance of prosocial skills in both academic and non-academic situations (Kern et al., 2009), greater attention must be given to social skills instruction for both special and general education teachers (Kern et al., 2009; Lewis et al., 2004; Simpson et al., 2011).
Many students with ED engage in acting-out, disruptive, or aggressive behavior (Kerr & Nelson, 2010; Kauffman & Landrum, 2010; Simpson et al., 2011). In many instances, the magnitude of the problem necessitates a formal functional behavioral assessment and positive plan of intervention and support (Yell et al., 2009). Further, with nationwide attention on response-to-intervention (RtI) and positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS) in place in over 16,000 schools, more and more importance is being attached to function-based academic and non-academic interventions (Upreti, Liaupin, & Koone, 2010). The fact that both general and special educators indicated a lack of adequate preparation in formal procedures to develop function-based interventions is disconcerting. Absent a systematic problem-solving approach to developing a function-based intervention, the effectiveness of any subsequent intervention may be compromised (Umbreit, Farro, Liaupsin, & Lane, 2007).
Most general education teachers indicated that they seldom give students choice-making opportunities and neither special educators nor general educators attached importance to or made use of group-oriented contingency management. Both of these strategies are relatively easy to implement and have strong empirical support as basic classroom management skills (Kern & State, 2009; Kerr & Nelson, 2010; Shogren, Faggella-Luby, Bae, & Wehmeyer, 2004). Furthermore, neither general nor special educators made use of other individual evidenced-based practices, namely, peer-mediated intervention, conflict resolution, or peer-assisted learning. As the results of the present study show, too few evidence-based strategies are in common practice. In most instances, there was a direct correlation between level of preparation and use of various evidence-based practices.
There are several limitations that necessitate cautious interpretation of the results of the present study. First, as is the case with most surveys, the study was based on self-report data, the accuracy of which was not substantiated. Second, biased participant responses or a misunderstanding of the meaning of specific practices may have influenced teacher responses. Third, notwithstanding limited variance in participant responses, there was a relatively low participant response rate to the survey. Fourth, in selecting 20 evidence-based practices, we may have failed to include strategies more familiar to respondents; similarly, the inclusion criterion and selection process may have reflected author error or author biases. Finally, responses of participants in the present study may or may not be representative of either general education or special education teachers across the country, thus imposing limitations on the generalizability of the results.
There are several major implications that can be drawn from the present study. It would appear that there continues to be a substantial gap in research-to-practice with regard to both special education teachers and general education teachers. That is, the present study suggests that few teachers who work with students with ED rely on strategies that most likely will produce positive outcomes for their students (Kauffman & Landrum, 2010). Our findings mirror the results of previous investigations (Wagner et al., 2006). Unfortunately, they suggest that most students with ED do not receive an education based on empirically-supported practices (Landrum et al., 2003; Simpson et al., 2011). As Scott, Alter, and Him (2011) asserted, "in the absence of effective intervention practices, both teachers and the student with ED tend to experience failures that often result in burnout and attrition for teachers and school failure for the student" (p. 620).
Results of the present study underscore the need to increase substantially efforts to prepare school personnel to address the academic, social, and behavioral needs of this population of students. Rhetoric aside, we must evaluate critically the status of preservice and in-service teacher preparation in the area of ED (Bullock & Gable, 2004). The present study should contribute to that process. In addition, we must find ways to make what we know about evidence-based practices more trustworthy, accessible, transportable, and more likely to be incorporated into the classroom repertoire of both general education and special education teachers (Cook, Landrum, Tankersley, & Kauffman, 2003). Simply exposing school personnel to various practices is not enough; school personnel must be instructed directly and systematically to a mastery level on each specific skill and demonstrate their competency in applied settings (Gable, 2004). A related issue is the fact that many research-based strategies do not meet the criterion of acceptability voiced by some teachers, namely, strategies must be: easy to implement, not too time intensive, viewed as effective, and compatible with current practices (Gable, Hendrickson, & Van Acker, 2001; Landrum et al., 2003; Gresham, 1989).
The results of the present study indicate that we face some formidable challenges with regard to serving students with ED more effectively. Obviously, we must intensify efforts to ensure that school personnel make use of a growing number of evidence-based practices to improve the quality of education and, in turn, increase the prospect of more successful life outcomes for students with ED. Although difficult to ameliorate, the problems exhibited by students with ED are not immutable. However, "positive outcomes for students with ED will only occur as a result of having an adequate supply of competent and skilled teachers and other personnel" (Simpson et al., 2011, p. 5).
There is mounting evidence that the overall adjustment of students with ED co-varies with the extent to which they are able to cope with the academic, social, and behavioral demands of schools (Lane et al., 2008). Accordingly, schools must establish a "contextual fit" (Det-rich, 2007), so that proven effective practices map on to the culture of every school; and, intervention efforts transcend the individual student and reflect classroom-level as well as schoolwide supports (e.g., Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports). Inadequate teacher preparation exacts a heavy toll on students, none least of which is the loss of critical learning opportunities because their teachers possess little or no knowledge of evidence-based practices (Billingsley et al., 2006; Gable, 2004; Kern et al., 2009). Clearly, fundamental changes in initial teacher preparation and subsequent support are necessary if either special educators or general educators are to meet the academic and nonacademic needs of students with ED.
The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) at Old Dominion University and, in particular, Tancy J. Vandecar-Burdin for her respective efforts in assistance in collecting, compiling, and analyzing the data for this project
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Robert A. Gable and Stephen W. Tonelson
Old Dominion University
Manasi Sheth and Corinne Wilson
Old Dominion University
Kristy Lee Park
George Mason University
Correspondence to: Robert A. Gable, Child Study Center, Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk VA; e-mail: email@example.com.
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|Author:||Gable, Robert A.; Tonelson, Stephen W.; Sheth, Manasi; Wilson, Corinne; Park, Kristy Lee|
|Publication:||Education & Treatment of Children|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2012|
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