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IES Grant

Title: Project SELF: Teaching High School Students With Disabilities to Self-Regulate Their Behavior
Center: NCSER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Estrapala, Sara Awardee: University of Missouri, Columbia
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2023 – 06/30/2027) Award Amount: $519,939
Type: Training Award Number: R324B230012

Mentors: Lembke, Erica; Wills, Howard

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct a program of research focused on improving self-regulation for high school students with disabilities and challenging behavior. The PI will also participate in mentoring and training to build skills related to school-based experimental research, iterative intervention development, and grant writing and management. Students with disabilities can experience social, emotional, and behavior problems at significantly higher rates than their peers without disabilities. These problems, such as low academic engagement, disruptive behaviors, and mental health disorders, can intensify in high school and place students at risk for a host a negative in-school and post-school outcomes. Although self-regulation interventions have been used to improve classroom behavior, few have been developed specifically for high school students with disabilities. The current project aims to address this gap by developing and testing the SELF intervention, which will enable students to write behavioral goals, self-monitor their goal-oriented behavior, self-evaluate progress toward reaching their goals, and receive structured feedback from teachers.

Research Plan: Research activities will address the following three aims: (1) develop the SELF intervention, (2) determine its usability and feasibility, and (3) pilot test the intervention to determine its promise for improving student outcomes. During year 1, the PI will develop the first iteration of the intervention using results from a literature review and meta-analysis of intervention research conducted with high school students with challenging behavior, focus groups with high school students and practitioners (general and special education teachers and an administrator), and feedback from an expert panel of researchers. During year 2, the PI will conduct a single-case research design study to assess the intervention's implementation and potential effects on student behavior. The sample will include high school students receiving special education services and demonstrating frequent, persistent challenging behavior in an academic class. The intervention will be implemented by the students' general or special education teachers. After the study, teachers and students will participate in interviews and focus groups to provide feedback on feasibility, usability, and social validity. Findings from this study will inform the second iteration of the intervention to be implemented during the pilot test. Across years 3 and 4, the PI will conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial of the SELF intervention with two cohorts of student-teacher dyads to test its promise for improving students' self-regulation, academic engagement and achievement, and disruptive behavior and to examine the cost of the intervention.

Career Plan: The career plan will enable the PI to complete the research activities and to reach three goals: (1) expand expertise in school-based experimental research, (2) learn about iterative intervention development processes, and (3) enhance large-scale grant writing and management skills. Under the guidance of two experienced mentors and a group of expert consultants, the PI will engage in regular meetings, attend seminars in grant writing, facilitate roundtable discussions with doctoral students, attend group design and single-case design trainings, and attend events for early career researchers.