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IES Grant

Title: Exploring Multi-Level System Factors Facilitating Educator Training and Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs)
Center: NCSER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Stahmer, Aubyn Awardee: University of California, Davis
Program: Systems, Policy, and Finance      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (9/1/2017-8/31/2020) Award Amount: $1,396,830
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A170063

Co-Principal Investigator: Jessica Suhrheinrich (San Diego State University)

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine how system-wide (i.e., region, district, and school) mechanisms such as leadership support, training requirements, structure, collaboration, and prior education affect teachers' use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) and, in turn, how this affects outcomes for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite growing evidence for the positive effects of EBPs for a wide range of treatment targets in children with ASD, these practices are not consistently or effectively used in schools. Although special education programs are mandated to use EBPs to address students' educational goals, there are very few evidence-based methods for selecting, implementing, and sustaining EBPs to support the fulfillment of this mandate. The research that does exist focuses primarily on teacher training, without attention to contextual factors (e.g., implementation climate, culture and leadership, attitudes toward EBPs, resource allocation, and social networks) that may impact teachers' use of EBPs and student outcomes. Using an implementation science framework, this project will prospectively examine relations between system-wide factors and teachers' use of EBPs and student education outcomes. The anticipated results of this project are expected to inform the development of system-wide interventions to improve the school-based implementation of EBPs for students with ASD.

Project Activities: The research team will use focus group, survey, and innovative social network methods to measure system-wide malleable factors (i.e., implementation climate, culture and leadership, attitudes toward EBPs, resource allocation, and social networks) and explore their relations to EBP implementation (i.e., the amount, type, and quality of EBP training and quality of EBP use) and student outcomes (i.e., attendance, placement, and behavior).

Products: The products of this project will include preliminary evidence of an association between a key set of system-wide malleable factors related to EBP implementation and teachers' use of EBPs for students with ASD and student outcomes; peer-reviewed publications; and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will include data collected throughout the state of California. The research team will partner with the California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN), which was established to provide a training and technical assistance network for service providers with a focus on EBPs for ASD. CAPTAIN represents a collaboration of service providers from three state-wide support agencies: Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPA), California Regional Centers, and Family Resource Centers. A majority of members are SELPA personnel who provide for all special education service needs of children in their region of one or more school districts.

Sample: In Phase 1, approximately 280 SELPA personnel will provide data on the annual CAPTAIN survey and a subset of 40 will be selected to participate in focus groups. In Phase 2, survey data will be collected from approximately 85 regional SELPA directors, 170 SELPA program specialists, 265 district special education directors, 265 autism/behavior specialists, 925 school principals, 3,538 special education teachers, and 2,700 paraprofessionals. Administrative data for the population of students with ASD served by participating special education teachers will be examined. In Phase 3, a total of 79 regional- (i.e., SELPA directors and program specialists), district—(i.e., special education directors and autism/behavior specialists), and school-level (i.e., principals, teachers, and paraprofessionals) personnel will participate in social network interviews.

Intervention: There is no intervention.

Research Design and Methods: Mixed methods will be used to gather in-depth information about system-wide malleable factors that relate to positive teacher implementation of EBPs and student outcomes. In Phase 1, retrospective and prospective data from the annual CAPTAIN survey across 3 years will be examined alongside data from focus groups with CAPTAIN cadre members (i.e., members who conduct EBP training and EBP resource support for teachers to increase their fidelity of EBP implementation in the classroom) to identify the types and prevalence of facilitators and barriers to implementing EBPs and to inform measures for Phase 2. In Phase 2, the research team will collect data from personnel at the regional, district, and school levels to assess system-wide malleable factors related to EBP implementation which will be linked to trainer, teacher/paraprofessional, and student outcomes and examined based on moderators, such as district size, SELPA structure, and teachers' experience serving students with ASD. In Phase 3, the research team will use a dynamic social network approach to map EBP-related connectivity across all identified levels of the system for selected CAPTAIN cadre members (i.e., two members from multi-district SELPAs, two from single-district SELPAs, and two from small SELPAs) and their potential collaborators participating the study. The networks will be examined to better understand how collaboration across the system affects outcomes.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Phase 1 measures include the web-based CAPTAIN survey, which is collected annually from all members (including regional-, district-, and school-level personnel) and assesses use of specific practices, training activities, perceptions of district and SELPA support for EBP implementation, collaboration across agencies, and factors influencing adoption of new practices. Phase 2 measures will be collected from regional-, district-, and school-level personnel and will assess the following malleable factors: implementation climate, culture and leadership, attitudes toward EBPs, resource allocation, and social networks. Potential moderators (i.e., SELPA and district size, SELPA structure, poverty level, CAPTAIN participation, educational background of school personnel, and experience working with students with ASD) will be assessed using administrative and CAPTAIN survey data. CAPTAIN trainer (i.e., those with a role as a trainer) outcomes include training quality and dosage, and teacher and paraprofessional outcome measures include behaviors supporting EBP implementation, EBP knowledge, and fidelity of implementing EBPs. Student outcomes related to time in a least restrictive environment, attendance, and behavior will be gathered from administrative records. Phase 3 measures include the Social Dynamics of Intervention tool, which is an approach used to measure the density of social networks among individuals at the regional, district, and school levels who are supporting and implementing EBPs for children with ASD. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with individuals from each district with the densest social networks.

Data Analytic Strategy: In Phase 1, descriptive statistics will be used to summarize data from the annual CAPTAIN survey. Qualitative data from focus groups will be analyzed using an iterative coding and review process informed by grounded theory. Qualitative and quantitative data will be integrated through a series of steps for the purpose of determining convergence in responses, contextualizing survey responses, and better understanding any unanticipated results of the quantitative analysis. To analyze data from Phase 2, researchers will use multilevel modeling. Malleable factors that have a significant independent association with each trainer, teacher, and student outcome will be included in final models and potential moderators will be explored. For Phase 3, researchers will use dynamic network analysis to gauge the amount of social interaction people have with one another, and the degree to which and ways that EBP trainings, resources, and interventions are shared (or not shared) among school staff. Qualitative data from interviews will be coded for themes related to barriers and facilitators to the diffusion and adoption of EBPs.