Follow-up Study of Education Graduates Reveals Sustained Use of Evidence-Based Practices
Training and sustaining the use of evidence-based strategies by special educators of students on the autism spectrum is a priority for the field because using effective practices with fidelity is related to better outcomes (Durlak & DuPre, 2008). Unfortunately, many special educators who are trained do not stay in the field and the turn over rate is increasing (McLeskey & Billingsley, 2008). Even if they do remain in the field, special educators report using strategies supported by research with equal frequency to those that are not evidence-based (Burns & Ysseldyke, 2009) and survey results of educators working with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) reveal that effective teaching practices are implemented at low levels (Hendricks, 2011; Hess, Morrier, Heflin & Ivey, 2008).
This poster will contain the results of a follow up study of the San Diego State University’s Masters degree program with a specialization in Autism. SDSU also has a mentor program where graduates received training in coaching and effective supervision and serve as mentors for current candidates. Multiple measures were used to determine the following research questions: Do graduates 1) remain in the field and 2) sustain their use of evidence-based practices (National Standards Project, 2009; Odom, Collet-Klingenberg, Rogers & Hatton, 2010).
Multiple measures that were used in this study included: a Qualtics survey sent to program graduates that included questions about current positions and use of evidence-based practices and progress monitoring systems as well as indication of factors that sustain practices. Video samples from a subset of graduates were used to score the fidelity of implementation of evidence-based practices by 2 inter-raters using the checklists from the NPDC on ASD. Interviews were conducted with a subset of graduates to obtain information about the program factors that facilitated the sustained use of evidence-based practices.
Results of a survey sent to 65 graduates reveal that 94% remain in the field 1 to 7 years following graduation and that they report using the 24 evidence-based practices identified by the NPDC on ASD often or very often. Video samples of the educators implementing select evidence-based practices obtained from 19 graduates were scored as being used with fidelity for a mean of 89% (range 78 – 100%) of strategy components. 98% of graduates report that they continue to collect data for student progress monitoring purposes. 100% reported that the program contributed to their capacity to use evidence-based practices and sustain these practices over time. The main program components that graduates stated effected sustained practices included: Support from peers in the cohort; knowledge about research based strategies used with individuals with ASD; opportunity to participate in field experiences & conferences; and opportunity to practice skills with a coach during practicum.
The SDSU Masters Degree/Autism specialization program with an embedded BACB approved course sequence and a mentor program for graduates resulted in the creation of a strong community of practice that supported graduates who sustained their use of evidence-based practices and ongoing progress monitoring when educating learners with ASD.