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IES Grant

Title: Collaborative Teacher Network
Center: NCSER Year: 2007
Principal Investigator: Hughes, Marie Tejero Awardee: University of Illinois, Chicago
Program: Professional Development for Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 7/1/2007 to 6/30/2010 Award Amount: $1,207,516
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324B070045
Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: Michelle Parker-Katz

Purpose: Responsibility for teaching students with disabilities is shared by regular and special educators. Most students with disabilities are educated in regular school buildings, and almost half are educated in regular classrooms for most of the school day. However, few regular education teachers feel fully prepared to teach students with disabilities, and special education teachers may not be fully prepared to teach academic content to the level of state achievement standards. The purpose of this project is to develop and conduct an initial evaluation of a professional development program designed to enhance middle school teachers' instruction in content area classes to improve the reading and content area achievement of students with disabilities. This program is based on collaboration between regular and special education teachers, and it focuses on evidence-based content reading strategies designed to enhance students' access to the general education curriculum.

Project Activities: The project will develop, test, and revise professional development materials and processes based on the needs of middle school teachers. During years 2 and 3 the project will implement a pilot of the Collaborative Teacher Network in which novice special education teachers and their partnering general educator colleagues will complete a two-year membership in the network.

Products: The expected outcomes from this study include: (a) Collaborative Teacher Network materials and techniques, (b) initial research findings related to the potential efficacy of Collaborative Teacher Network.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: Responsibility for teaching students with disabilities is shared by regular and special educators. Most students with disabilities are educated in regular school buildings, and almost half are educated in regular classrooms for most of the school day. However, few regular education teachers feel fully prepared to teach students with disabilities, and special education teachers may not be fully prepared to teach academic content to the level of state achievement standards. The purpose of this project is to develop and conduct an initial evaluation of a professional development program designed to enhance middle school teachers' instruction in content area classes to improve the reading and content area achievement of students with disabilities. This program is based on collaboration between regular and special education teachers, and it focuses on evidence-based content reading strategies designed to enhance students' access to the general education curriculum.

Setting: Teachers will be recruited from Chicago Public Schools.

Population: In Year 1 the teacher sample will consist of special and general education teachers instructing students with disabilities. These teachers will provide feedback on the components, materials, and processes of the professional development program. In Years 2 and 3 the pilot sample will consist of 40 randomly selected middle school (grades 6 to 8) novice special education teachers (with less than 4 years of teaching experience) and one of their general education teaching partners (n=40).

Twenty highly-qualified, experienced special education teachers will be recruited to serve as mentors on the basis of nominations from multiple stakeholders. Selection criteria for the mentors will include a current special education teaching credential; at least five years recent teaching experience; recognized expertise in providing instruction to students with disabilities in general education setting; good interpersonal skills; demonstrated commitment to professional growth for teachers.

Middle school students with disabilities who are on the 40 novice special educators' caseloads will be included in the pilot. A matched group of students with disabilities whose special education teacher also has less than four years of experience will serve as a comparison group.

Intervention: The Collaborative Teacher Network model consists of two interactive curricula (one for novice special educators/general educators, and one for mentors). The model (a) focuses on enhancing teachers' knowledge of evidence-based content reading strategies designed to enhance students' access to the general education curriculum; (b) uses students' literacy artifacts as a vehicle for inquiry and planning; (c) establishes and implements processes for special and general education teacher collaborative groups; (d) utilizes an interactive multimedia resource module for on demand use; and (e) evaluates the effects of the program on instruction and students' achievement. Experienced special educators, acting as mentors, are trained to facilitate networking between two novice special educator/general educator pairs, who work at the same school with the same students. The model involves a two-year course of study on information needed for middle school educators to provide access to the general curriculum for all students, including word knowledge, vocabulary development, comprehension, pre-reading and post-reading strategic knowledge and skills; and meeting individual student needs through assessment and modification of comprehension strategies.

Research Design and Methods: Project staff will draft each session (presenter scripts, slides, activities, etc.) and between-session studies (collection of literacy artifacts, online module use, etc.). The materials will be revised on the basis of expert reviews and training trials.

During years 2 and 3 the project will conduct a pilot of the Collaborative Teacher Network involving 16 monthly sessions of two hours each and one summer institute of 4 hours. Novice special education teachers and their general educator partners will communicate regularly between sessions and select student literacy artifacts for discussion during the training sessions. Teachers will also participate in online discussions, access the online module, audiotape their teaching, and conduct classroom action research projects.

Control Condition: The control condition is a matched sample of middle school students whose teachers do not participate in the Collaborative Teacher Network.

Key Measures: During product development, key measures will include reviewer feedback forms, teacher feedback forms, an evaluative questionnaire, focus group interviews, a checklist for fidelity of implementation, and a communication log.

During the pilot phase, key measures will include a survey of teacher content knowledge for teaching reading, a teacher background survey, Praxis III: Classroom Performance Assessments, an observational form on reading instruction, a form containing open-ended questions related to literacy artifacts and discussions during training sessions, logs and field notes of all items posted on the discussion board and listserv, audiotapes of novice teacher think-alouds and classroom teaching, an action research report, and Illinois Standards Achievement Test scores for students with disabilities.

Data Analytic Strategy: Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies will be used to provide preliminary indications of the effects of the Collaborative Teacher Network on teachers' ability to use evidence-based reading strategies, and on student achievement. Analysis will also attempt to identify factors that mediate implementation and effects, and the feasibility of this professional development program. Qualitative data analysis will involve conventional methods for establishing trustworthiness, credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. Quantitative data analysis will include descriptive statistics for all appropriate measures and simple t-tests on pre and post-test measures of teachers' knowledge of reading instruction. Preliminary indications of effects on student academic achievement will be tested using a repeated measures analysis of variance or a hierarchical linear model analysis.


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