Research that provides scientific decision making in the selection and use of professional development models has the potential for major impact in both urban and rural areas of the U.S (Pianta, 2006). Access to specialists in ASD is problematic for rural communities, and this difficulty is exacerbated in rural communities that are geographically isolated and impoverished such as those in Appalachian Kentucky. The costs associated with professional development, consultation, and travel far exceed available resources.
The primary goal is twofold: (a) to test the preliminary effectiveness of a web-based teacher coaching or face-to-face teacher coaching intervention on child educational outcomes and (b) to examine teacher use and attitudes towards technology as a possible moderator of child outcome.
Twenty special education teachers were recruited from South Central and Eastern Kentucky Participants were randomized into one of three groups: (a) placebo control, n = 7; (b) face-to-face coaching, n = 7; or (c) web coaching, n = 6. The participants in the two experimental groups will receive a manualized consultation intervention called COMPASS (Ruble & Dalrymple, 2002). Following the consultation phase that occurs at the beginning of the school year, teachers in the experimental groups will receive four coaching sessions. During the coaching phase, video recording will be conducted of the teacher instructing the child with ASD using the teaching plan developed as a result of the consultation. Coaching sessions will consist of a manualized structured interview using a problem solving approach. The two experimental groups differ in that the face-to-face coaching will occur in the classroom whereas the web-based coaching will occur via internet technology using Adobe® Connect™ video conferencing. The placebo control group will receive online autism training only. Child outcomes will be measured at the end of the school year using an observational coding approach and goal attainment scaling conducted by a member of the research team who is blind to group assignment. Between group analysis on child goal attainment will be conducted at Time 1 and Time 2. Web-based participants will complete an attitude towards technology questionnaire adapted from the Computer Attitude Scale (Loyd & Gressard, 1984) and a frequency of computer use questionnaire.
The study is currently underway. Preliminary data will be presented. We do not expect to see any difference between the web-based experimental group and the face-to-face experimental group. We do however predict that any variability between these two groups can be explained by their attitude toward technology and their frequency of use of computers. These variables will act as a moderator of web-based intervention effectiveness.
Preliminary conclusions will be presented. If the results are as predicted, it will be possible to predict which rural teachers are the best targets for intervention.