Nov 17 2020

Haring Center researchers Kathleen Artman Meeker, Carol Davis, Angel Fettig, and Scott Spaulding have received a four-year, $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs to refine and expand a coaching model that supports early childhood teachers in implementing positive behavior supports in the classroom.

This project aligns and optimizes two Haring Center projects: the Tiered Coaching Model (TCM) and Integrating Behavior Support and Team Technology (ibestt), a web application that supports individualized, long-term behavioral support. Both of these projects use coaching to facilitate the implementation of positive behavior supports, which are essential for students’ wellbeing and success.

“We know the number one request for support and professional development from teachers is around social behavior,” Spaulding said. “The literature is also clear that coaching is considered the most effective way to support teachers’ implementation of practices.” 

With the TCM, teachers participate in the tier of coaching that is best matched to their strengths and the practices they want to develop in their classroom. “The tiered coaching model provides different types and amount of coaching support for teachers depending on their preferences and their use of classroom practices,” Meeker said. “Some teachers may just want a brief check-in, others may want to join a group of other teachers, and some may want individual, sustained time with a coach.”

ibestt is an online tool that guides the implementation of individualized student- and child-behavior supports using a peer-based coaching model for teachers. ibestt allows educators to receive web-based individualized coaching, record and share information in real-time as they work with students, and track student progress over longer periods of time. 

“Coaches and teachers are able to collaborate when developing positive supports for the teachers to implement in the classroom and to monitor data collection,” Davis said. 

By combining ibestt and TCM, this project seeks to build a comprehensive system of coaching supports that recognizes teachers’ strengths, competing demands on time, access to resources, and individual goals. Ultimately, the aim is to allow educators to more easily implement positive behavior supports for their students. 

The team’s first partner site will be the Alderwood Early Childhood Center (AECC), a preschool and special education center serving both typically developing children and those with special needs. AECC’s interim manager, Dr. West Keller, who earned his Ph.D in early childhood special education at the UW, says AECC’s teachers are excited that this partnership gives them the opportunity to both support valuable research and grow as educators.

“Our teachers are really hungry for professional development,” Keller said. “They know that they are lifelong learners and that there’s always something to learn from the latest research.”

The first step for the Haring Center team and AECC is partnership-building. Researchers will collaborate with AECC staff to observe teacher practices and identify resources -- like specialists who could serve as coaches -- to help the center adopt the coaching model in a practical way that serves their goals.

“Our plan is to do a lot of observation and support them as they think about their readiness for taking up this model on their own,” Meeker said. “We want to support the coaches and the program leadership team as they think about using their resources in a way that helps them reach their own program's goals.”

Over the four years of this grant, the research team will expand to work with other partner sites, provide support and training to coaches, and create a learning community with participating coaches.

Story by Gabriela Tedeschi, marketing and communications student aide.

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