Objectives: This study explored teacher commitment to model philosophy and teacher burnout (i.e., Emotional Exhaustion [EE], Depersonalization [DP], and Personal Accomplishment [PA]) across three preschool classroom models for children with ASD: TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children); LEAP (Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and their Parents); and Business As Usual (BAU). Additionally, this study examined effects of these variables on the fidelity of implementation of these programs.
Methods: This study was conducted in conjunction with and support from a larger multi-site (FL, NC, CO, MN) treatment comparison project. 53 teachers (17 TEACCH, 15 LEAP, and 21 BAU) completed the Teacher Philosophy Questionnaire-Adapted Version, a Demographic Form, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey. Additionally, fidelity of classroom implementation was assessed with empirically validated fidelity measures.
Results: LEAP teachers were significantly more committed to LEAP philosophy and practice relative to the TEACCH and BAU teachers, F(2, 50) = 9.16, p<.001, η2 = .27. TEACCH teachers were not significantly more committed to TEACCH philosophy and BAU teachers reported similar levels of commitment to both TEACCH and LEAP. Additionally, results provided support for a quadratic relationship between teacher commitment and EE experienced in the middle of the school year, R2 = 0.66, adjusted R2 = 0.44, F(14, 38) = 2.09, p < .05. The individual regression coefficient for the quadratic variable (β = 0.37), t(38) = 2.28, p < .05 accounted for 8% of the variance in the EE variable. Results did not indicate any significant relationships with the fidelity construct.
Conclusions: This study suggests that LEAP teachers may have significantly higher levels of commitment to their own classroom model philosophy relative to TEACCH and BAU teachers. Additionally, commitment to the underlying philosophical tenets and practices of TEACCH and LEAP may serve as a buffer to some aspects of experienced levels of burnout during the school year.
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