Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education: Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane

Today, we’re highlighting Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas. Dr. Lane’s research aims to analyze existing data to determine how internalizing and externalizing behavior patterns, as well as referrals for special education eligibility, may have shifted over time with the pandemic. Moreover, the project will test Recognize. Relax. Record. (RRR), which is an intervention designed to reduce symptoms of anxiety, increase engagement, maximize learning recovery, and improve academic outcomes for students with and at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders. 

*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.___________________________________________________________________________________

National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER):How would you describe your research project in a sentence?  

Headshot of Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane:* We will determine shifts over time in internalizing behavior patterns and we will test an intervention, Recognize. Relax. Record. designed as part of Project ENHANCE (network grant), to meet this charge. 

NCSER: What was the need that inspired you to conduct this research? 

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: Given the educational complexities of the COVID era, many students are expected to exhibit elevated levels of internalizing issues (e.g., anxious feelings), which may impede learning as teachers strive to maximize student engagement to facilitate learning and well-being. It is critical to examine how the prevalence of internalizing symptoms has shifted during the pandemic. Furthermore, in anticipation that prevalence has increased, it is vital teachers have effective and feasible interventions to support these students rather than rely on potentially scarce, resource-intensive external sources. We have the data to determine shifts in internalizing behavior patterns and we have developed and propose to test an intervention, RRR, to meet this charge. 

NCSER: What outcomes do you expect to change with this research? 

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: We will determine shifts in internalizing behavior patterns since the pandemic. In addition, we will conduct a series of studies to determine the efficacy and feasibility of RRR in helping students manage anxious feelings and increasing academic engagement, ultimately facilitating students’ academic and social and emotional well-being during recovery from the pandemic. 

“As a classroom teacher, I wanted to make sure all students–including students with the most severe emotional and behavioral disorders–could be welcomed and included in general education settings in such a way that special and general education teachers felt confident in meeting these students’ multiple needs.”

NCSER: What inspired you to do research in special education?   

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: As a classroom teacher, I wanted to make sure all students–including students with the most severe emotional and behavioral disorders–could be welcomed and included in general education settings in such a way that special and general education teachers felt confident in meeting these students’ multiple needs. Also, I was very concerned that students with internalizing behavior patterns were often overlooked because their behavior challenges did not capture teacher attention. This led to our collective work: designing, implementing, and evaluating Comprehensive, Integrated, Three-tiered (Ci3T) models of prevention to (a) prevent the development of learning and behavior challenges and (b) respond to existing challenges, with an emphasis on systematic screening. 

NCSER: Why is this particular research project important to you?  

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: As a mother and a researcher, detecting and supporting students with internalizing behaviors are key priorities. As we navigate through the pandemic, our team is highly committed to the educators we serve so that they have feasible, effective interventions that support students with internalizing behaviors to engage in instruction and empower all teachers with the tools to meet students’ multiple needs. 

NCSER: How do you think this grant will impact special education?  

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: As part of Project ENGAGE, we will determine how internalizing behavior patterns have shifted since the pandemic and we will empower teachers with practical, effective Tier 2 strategies that can be integrated into academic instruction to help students manage anxious feelings, enhance engagement, and facilitate learning and well-being. The resulting intervention will be able to be used by a range of students and teachers to support students with the tools needed to recognize and manage anxious feelings, while optimizing engagement during instruction. Furthermore, this intervention is designed to support teacher well-being by being a practical, efficient, and effective intervention that can be embedded into daily instructional activities. 

NCSER: How will this project address challenges related to the pandemic?  

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: Project ENGAGE was designed with recovery from the pandemic in mind. Aim 1 addresses the need for schools to understand shifts that have occurred in internalizing behavior patterns. Aim 2 addresses the need for educators to have effective interventions at Tier 2 for students experiencing elevated levels of anxious feelings that impede educational engagement and thus attainment.

NCSER: What are some of the biggest challenges in special education research today? 

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: While there are a host of challenges, one particular concern is the accurate detection of elevated risk for both major categories of behavior disorders of childhood: internalizing and externalizing behaviors. It is critical the field support educators in the (a) selection and installation of systematic screening tools that can effectively and efficiently identify preK-12 students at the first sign of concern and (b) design of practical, effective strategies that can be used by all educators to maximize engagement and support social and emotional well-being. For some school systems, free access tools such as the Student Risk Screening Scale for Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors (SRSS-IE; Drummond, 1994; Lane & Menzies, 2009) are the only option. Further, as we detect students who are experiencing elevated levels of internalizing concerns, it is vital for educators to have access to feasible, evidence-based practices to support these students at initial signs of concern.  

NCSER: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about children and youth with or at risk for disabilities?  

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: It is possible–and feasible–to detect and support students with internalizing and externalizing behaviors at the first sign of concern. Systematic screening is a gift to students, families, and teachers. 

NCSER: What are some of the most exciting news/innovations/stories that give you hope for the future of special education research?  

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: Districts and schools across the United States are increasingly exploring and adopting integrated tiered systems such as Ci3T models of prevention. These integrated systems provide a systematic structure for educators to collaborate and meet students’ multiple needs (academic, behavioral, and social and emotional well-being) in a coherent and wholistic manner. Furthermore, the emphasis on using data, like systematic screening to detect students with both externalizing and internalizing behavioral concerns, provides a basis for educators to provide supports in an equitable and proactive manner. There is also evidence to suggest Ci3T models may facilitate teacher well-being as they promote efficiency, collaboration, and ongoing professional learning to enhance teachers’ sense of efficacy and reduce burnout as they go about their vital work of meeting students’ multiple needs.   

 NCSER: What are some of the future goals for you and your team? 

Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane: Our ultimate goals: 

  1. Accurate detection of students with internalizing and externalizing behaviors at the first sign of concern. 
  2. High-quality, on-demand professional learning resources to support the design, implementation, and evaluation of Ci3T models of prevention to address students’ academic, behavioral, and social and emotional well-being needs in an integrated fashion. 

*Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane’s answers include input from Project ENGAGE Co-Principal Investigators. 

Thank you for reading our conversation with Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane! We hope you’ve enjoyed our NCSER Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education grantee spotlight blog series. Keep following the blog for more exciting news from IES.