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IES Grant

Title: Exploring Special Educator Burnout and, in Turn, the Impact of Burnout on Special Educators' Treatment Integrity in Behavior Support Plans: Project Burn and Turn
Center: NCSER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Garwood, Justin Awardee: University of Vermont
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/31/2020 - 08/30/2024) Award Amount: $499,452
Type: Training Award Number: R324B200002

Mentors: Vannest, Kimberly; Giangreco, Michael

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct a program of research to better understand the risk factors for special educator burnout and its relation to teachers' fidelity of implementing behavior interventions to students with and at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders (EBDs). At the same time, the PI will participate in mentoring and training activities to develop expertise in teachers serving students with EBD, multilevel structural equation modeling and mixed methods research, and grant writing. Due to their intensive behavior needs, students with EBD present some of the greatest challenges to special educators and demonstrate some of the poorest in-school and post-school outcomes. Although research has documented high levels of burnout among special educators, an examination of malleable factors that influence teacher burnout and the specific aspects of burnout related to fidelity of implementing behavior interventions is needed to inform future interventions. To address this the PI will explore the relationship between several potential malleable factors (e.g., behavior management efficacy, role stressors, cohesion with paraprofessionals, teacher-student relationships) and burnout as well as the relationship between burnout and educators' implementation of behavior support plans (BSPs) and students' behavior outcomes.

Research Plan: The PI will conduct an exploratory project to address the following overarching research question: what factors are associated with special educator burnout and could be targeted in interventions designed to prevent or reduce burnout and improve educator and student outcomes? The following secondary research questions will be addressed in a series of mixed-methods studies in Years 1-3 of the project and will inform analysis of the overall research question in Year 4. (1) To what extent does school density, role conflict, and role ambiguity relate to burnout? (2) To what extent does educator-student relationship quality relate to burnout and fidelity of implementing BSPs? (3) To what extent does self-efficacy relate to burnout and fidelity of implementing BSPs? (4) To what extent does cohesion with paraprofessional support staff relate to burnout? To investigate these questions, the PI will collect survey, observation, focus group, and interview data from a sample of special educators in each of Years 1-3 of the project. The PI will use structural equation modeling to analyze quantitative data and the constant comparative method to code qualitative data.

Career Plan: Through a career development plan, the PI will develop expertise around (1) preventing or reducing special educator burnout and improving their fidelity of implementing behavior interventions for students with and at risk for EBD, (2) multilevel structural equation modeling and mixed-methods research, and (3) developing competitive grant proposals. The PI will achieve these goals through monthly mentorship meetings, yearly consultations with experts in the field, coursework and workshops on mixed methods and advanced statistics and research design, and grant-writing workshops.