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IES Grant

Title: LEAP Sustainability: Exploring Malleable Factors that Predict Teachers' Initial and Long-Term Fidelity
Center: NCSER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Strain, Phillip Awardee: University of Denver
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (9/1/2017–8/31/2021) Award Amount: $1,399,993
Goal: Exploration Award Number: R324A170152
Description:

Previous Award Number: R324A170067
Previous Institution: University of Colorado, Denver

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore factors (e.g., preschool center policies, staff buy-in, family involvement) that are related to teachers' initial and long-term fidelity of implementation of the LEAP Preschool Model (LEAP), an intensive, inclusive intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). One of the greatest challenges in the field of early intervention is closing the gap between what is known about effective instructional practices for preschool children and the implementation and sustained use of those practices in preschool and beyond. This project aims to capitalize on the wide-scale adoption of LEAP and the existence of programs that have been implementing LEAP for over 25 years to better understand factors that influence teachers' initial and sustained fidelity of LEAP implementation and how fidelity is related to improvements in children's outcomes. The anticipated findings are expected to inform the development of a systems-level intervention to enhance preschool teachers' initial implementation and sustainability of research-based practices used in the LEAP model and other similar models for preschool children with ASD.

Project Activities: The research team will explore relations between a set of malleable factors hypothesized to be related to sustainability (e.g., preschool center policies, staff buy-in, family involvement) and teachers' initial and sustained fidelity of implementation of LEAP and relations between fidelity and outcomes for preschool children with ASD. The study will be conducted in two phases. Phase 1 will involve collecting data on LEAP fidelity and malleable factors hypothesized to predict sustainability and conducting psychometric analyses on the measure of malleable factors. Phase 2 will focus on conducting analyses to determine which malleable factors are associated with teachers' initial and sustained fidelity of implementation of LEAP and whether fidelity of LEAP implementation is associated with child outcomes.

Products: The products of this study will include preliminary evidence of an association between a key set of malleable factors and teachers' initial and sustained fidelity of implementation of the LEAP model and an association between fidelity of LEAP implementation and child outcomes. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

STRUCTURED ABSTRACT

Setting: Data collection will take place in inclusive early childhood special education preschool classrooms in public schools across Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Oregon, New Jersey, Utah and, Texas.

Sample: This study will include 120 preschool classrooms with lead teachers that have been implementing LEAP for at least 1 year and up to 26 years and 30 additional preschool classrooms and lead teachers that will begin LEAP implementation in the first year of the study (for a total of 150 classrooms and teachers). Approximately 430 3-year-old children with ASD will be randomly selected from participating classrooms for inclusion in the study.

Intervention: The research team is examining LEAP, a preschool inclusion model that promotes teachers' use of research-based strategies for children with ASD. The focus is on LEAP as a model because it consists of evidence-based practices that may be present in similar models. Teacher training in LEAP includes 2-week intensive teacher professional development, written presentations, discussions, observations, feedback, evaluation, follow-up training, and on-site support from LEAP staff. LEAP also includes a parent skills training component aimed at teaching parents to use communication skills with their child in naturalistic contexts and decreasing family stress.  

Research Design and Methods: The research will be conducted in two phases. Phase 1 involves collecting data on LEAP fidelity and malleable factors hypothesized to relate to sustainability among classes that are just beginning LEAP implementation as well as those that have implemented LEAP for at least 1 year. Data will primarily be used to examine the factor structure and establish the reliability of the measure of malleable factors across a large and diverse sample of sites in order to prepare for additional analyses using this measure in Phase 2. This measure assesses contextual and practice factors expected to relate to program sustainability, including (1) functional leadership team, (2) staff readiness and buy-in, (3) family involvement, (4) strategies for promoting program-wide implementation, (5) adoption of core LEAP features, (6) procedures for individualization, (7) staff capacity building, (8) monitoring implementation fidelity, and (9) personnel policies and fiscal support. Since there is no similar existing measure, the Phase 1 activities are necessary in order to address the primary research questions in the next phase. In Phase 2, researchers will use data from Phase 1 and collect additional fidelity data and data on the malleable factors related to sustainability to investigate whether these malleable factors are associated with teachers' initial and sustained fidelity of implementation of LEAP. In addition, approximately 430 children with ASD will be randomly selected from a subset of Phase 1 classrooms to provide data across 2 years. These data will be utilized to explore whether fidelity of LEAP implementation is associated with improvements in child outcomes.

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

Key Measures: The LEAP Sustainability Measure (LEAP-SM) will be used to assess malleable factors related to program sustainability. Researchers will interview one administrator and the lead teacher at each site to complete the LEAP-SM. Researchers will use the LEAP Quality Program Indicators (LEAP-QPI) to assess teachers' initial and sustained fidelity of implementing LEAP. Child outcomes will be assessed usingthe Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Social Skills Improvement System and the Preschool Language Scale.

Data Analytic Strategy: In Phase 1, confirmatory factor analysis will be used to test the LEAP-SM reliability and stability of the factor structure over time. Correlational analyses will be conducted in Phase 1 to examine relations among years of implementation, fidelity, and malleable factors. In Phase 2, structural equation modeling, regression analyses, and hierarchical linear modeling will be used to explore the relations among malleable factors, years of implementation, teacher fidelity, and child outcomes.

Related Projects: LEAP - USA (Using Science-Based Approaches) (R324E060068); LEAP–USA Follow-up Project (R324A110246)


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