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IES Grant

Title: Teacher Anxiety Program for Elementary Students (TAPES)
Center: NCSER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Ginsburg, Golda Awardee: University of Connecticut Health Center
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2017–6/30/2020) Award Amount: $1,400,000
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A170071

Co-Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Pella

Purpose: The purpose of project is to develop a professional development program, Teacher Anxiety Program for Elementary Students (TAPES), to enhance teacher knowledge and skills around identifying and reducing anxiety in their students. Excessive anxiety in students can severely impair their academic functioning. Without specialized training and support, the complex social, emotional, behavioral, and educational needs of students with anxiety is challenging for teachers. Teacher knowledge and skills for supporting students with excessive anxiety are critical for improving student educational outcomes. Unfortunately, typical teacher training programs do not address student anxiety. This project will address this need by developing a training program to provide teachers will the knowledge and skills necessary to help children with anxiety in their classroom.

Project Activities: This project will be implemented in three stages. In Stage 1, a Development Team comprised of national experts, teachers, and school personnel will provide input on the content and format of the teacher training. In Stage 2, the research team will conduct a series of sequential open trials to assess feasibility, acceptability and utility of the training. Data and qualitative feedback from each trial will inform modifications for the subsequent trial. In Stage 3, the research team will conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial comparing TAPES to a brief didactic comparison teacher training to document the promise of efficacy of TAPES for improving teachers' knowledge and skills for supporting students with anxiety and students' anxiety and educational outcomes.

Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed training for teachers that will enhance their capacity to identify and reduce anxiety among their students, peer-reviewed publications, and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in urban, suburban, and rural public elementary schools in Connecticut.

Sample: Approximately 55 general and special education teachers will participate. These teachers will identify and enroll approximately 80 students in Grades K–5 who have elevated anxiety symptoms. Students will be from diverse socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds.

Intervention: The TAPES training includes one full day of instruction, materials to use with individual students and their parents (in teacher-parent-student meetings), and guidelines for classroom-wide strategies to reduce anxiety. Teachers will also receive weekly performance feedback and consultation to facilitate their knowledge acquisition and skill development. The content of TAPES is based on collaborative school-home intervention models and the materials are informed by empirically-supported cognitive behavioral strategies for reducing anxiety, such as anxiety psychoeducation, behavioral exposure, contingency management, cognitive restructuring, and relaxation strategies.

Research Design and Methods: This project will be implemented in three stages. Stage 1 involves establishing and holding meetings with a Development Team, comprised of national experts, teachers, and school personnel, who will review the initial draft of TAPES and provide feedback to ensure that it is acceptable to teachers and feasible for the school setting. Revisions will be made to the proposed training based on feedback from the Development Team. Stage 2 involves two successive open trials of TAPES with 15 teachers and 20 children. Pre- and post-training data from teachers, students, parents, and evaluators will be collected. Qualitative feedback will be obtained from teacher interviews during the first open trial and will inform modifications for the second open trial. The Development Team will also review data and provide feedback after each open trial, which will inform further revisions. Stage 3 involves a small randomized controlled trial with teachers assigned to treatment or control conditions to evaluate the promise of TAPES for improving teachers' knowledge and skills in supporting students with anxiety, and students' anxiety and educational outcomes. Teacher and student outcomes will be assessed post-implementation (after 8 weeks) and at three-month follow-up.

Control Condition: The comparison condition in this study is the Teacher Anxiety Training (TAT), a three-hour didactic training on student anxiety that the researchers use in their ongoing school-based studies with school clinicians and nurses. The TAT will be modified for teachers and include information on the signs, causes, consequences, and effective interventions for student anxiety.

Key Measures: The primary teacher outcomes include changes in teacher knowledge of student anxiety and changes in teacher use of anxiety reduction strategies for youth with anxiety. These outcomes will be assessed using a variety of measures including researcher-developed measures of teachers' knowledge of anxiety reduction strategies and a classroom observational measure of teachers' use of skills taught in the program as well as the Teacher Behavior Scale. Additional key teacher outcomes include usability, teacher fidelity of implementing anxiety reduction strategies, and teacher training satisfaction. Measures to assess these outcomes will include exit interviews, the Conjoint Meeting Fidelity and Quality Measure, and researcher-developed measures to assess teachers' satisfaction with the TAPES/TAT and teachers' use of TAPES skills. Key student outcomes will assess anxiety (e.g., Spence Children's Anxiety Scale, School Anxiety Scale) and a broad range of educational outcomes (e.g., attendance, academic performance, school connectedness).

Data Analytic Strategy: Analyses addressing feasibility and acceptability will be primarily descriptive in nature. For the randomized controlled trial, mixed effects models that take into account the nesting of students within teachers will be used to examine the impact of TAPES as compared to TAT on teacher knowledge and skills and student anxiety and educational outcomes.

Related Projects: A Modular CBT for Reducing Anxiety and Improving Educational Outcomes (R324A120405); Enhancing the Capacity of School Nurses to Reduce Excessive Anxiety in Children (R305A140694)