01 SES 13 C, Teachers' Early Start: Professional Development Perspectives
The research presents the findings of a study conducted on the “acceptability”, by the teachers of Italian preschools, of the Group-based Early Start Denver Model (G-ESDM), an evidence-based inclusive educational model for children with autism spectrum disorder (Vivanti, et al., 2017). This study is part of a research project on the implementation of the G-ESDM in Italian preschools.
The issue of evidence-based practices supporting special education for students with autism spectrum disorder has been broadly discussed internationally (Odom, 2010; Wong, 2015; Vivanti, 2017; Hsiao, Petersen, 2018; ASDEU, 2018) and in Italy this debate is still open today (Pontis, 2015; Cottini, Morganti, 2015; Vivanti, Salomone, 2016) with contrasting positions between two opposing schools of thought:
- those who do not support the evidence-based approach in special education (Goussot, 2012, Bouchard, 2016). The concern is that evidence-based practice could be interpreted as an application of intervention techniques stemming from the field of medicine, psychology and neuropsychiatry. For the Italian context, this would mean a return to an idea where parents, teachers, educators and pedagogists rely solely on experts and act as observers and listeners to the reasons for the decisions taken;
- those supporting an evidence-based approach in special education (Bonaiuti, 2014; Vivanet, 2014; Cottini, Morganti, 2015). The need is to propose and build inclusive educational practices supported by scientific research data. Using within the educational field models and knowledge based on scientific evidence means, on the one hand, reducing the gap between research and practices, on the other hand, encouraging teachers to make informed decisions.
The synthesis of these tendencies could be traced in those that Calvani and Vivanet (2014, p.134) define “challenging knowledge” [authors’ tr.], or “the intent - of evidence-based education - to make the knowledge expendable on the operational field, translating into indications and actions that make clear how to achieve a concrete improvement. The educator is interested in what knowledge has to say on the level of actual intervention; in short, this meaning refers to "how we should work to improve the effectiveness of teaching interventions” [authors’ tr.].
The heterogeneity of the autism spectrum disorder, its several degrees of severity and the increasing number of children with autism spectrum disorder attending the Italian school (ISTAT, 2018), led the Italian Ministry to declare, in Law n. 134, that the carrying out of research activities aimed at identifying and implementing best educational practices based on scientific evidence is one of the national priorities.
On these bases, implementation science represents the natural landing place for those involved in educational research and autism spectrum disorder. Implementation science, in fact, as reported by the National Implementation Research Network, “is the study of factors that influence the full and effective use of innovations in practice. The goal is not to answer factual questions about what is, but rather to determine what is required (NIRN, 2015)”.
Today, among the educational evidence-based models for children with autism spectrum disorder and implemented in preschools, the G-ESDM emerges - developed by Giacomo Vivanti, Ed Duncan, Geraldine Dawson and Sally J. Rogers in 2017 and experimented at laTrobe University (Australia). This model seems to combine Italian national needs on different levels: it is an evidence-based practice; it is designed for inclusive contexts; it is already used in preschools. Furthermore, the values and practices of the model seem to support the hypothesis of a possible implementation of G-ESDM in the Italian preschools.
The six-stage implementation model “Active Implementation Framework” (Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, Friedman, & Wallace, 2005), guided the research. Each stage provides a systematic process and is essential in order to use the evidence-based research products in different contexts. The first stage of the model is the “exploration” and its aim is to identify potential elements that promote or hinder the implementation process. There are several areas that are investigated at this stage: acceptability, assess needs; examine innovation, examine implementation, assess fit. We present the study on acceptability, understood as “how the intended individual recipients - both targeted individuals and those involved in implementing programs- react to the intervention” (Bowen, et al., 2009, p.453). In order to analyze acceptability, the operationalization of the construct was carried out. It has led to the identification of four indicators - perceived appropriateness of values; perceived appropriateness of practices; perceived positive or negative effects on organization; perceived positive or negative effects on the professional role. For each indicator, measurable statements were formulated using the Likert scale (0-4, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”). The 30 statements made were collected in a questionnaire, also containing a section on the collection of personal data and information on previous training. The questionnaire was administered as a pre-test to 23 teachers after a lesson on the G-ESDM. Data were collected and analyzed using descriptive statistics.
It is possible to affirm that overall the degree of acceptability of the G-ESDM is high, but we must consider the differences within the four indicators. The sample responded positively on the G-ESDM values and declared that are in line with the way inclusion is viewed in Italy. For the indicator “effects on organization”: from 4% to 8% of the sample declared that the principles of the G-ESDM are partly in contrast with those of the school where they work, and that the G-ESDM would not support the school to increase its degree of inclusiveness. Regarding the “professional role” interesting positions emerge: there is a general agreement on professional growth and adequacy of the roles proposed by the method; a slight disagreement (between 4% and 8%) emerges regarding the activities performed by the individual roles. In particular, 48% of the sample believe that the way educational objectives are structured are distant from the procedures used in the school. Several disagreements emerge with the statements on “perceived appropriateness of practices”. The most interesting are related to: adaptation of spaces (8% disagreement); use of the curriculum checklist (13% disagreement); use of the fidelity tool (13% disagreement). The data seem to support the research hypothesis that the degree of acceptability of G-ESDM is high. However, these data are not exhaustive giving rise to the need to correlate the data on the acceptability to the other elements examined in the exploration phase (assess needs; examine innovation, examine implementation, assess fit) and to carry out a qualitative study aimed at understanding why teachers agree or disagree with what was stated in the questionnaire. The correlation of the data will allow the planning of the second stage of the research which comprises the initial implementation.
ASDEU, (2018). Executive summary, 12 september 2018. Bonaiuti, G., Calvani, A., Micheletta, S., Vivanet, G. (2014). Evidence Based Education: un’opportunità epistemologica per i nuovi professionisti della formazione. Giornale italiano della ricerca educativa, 13, 231-244. Bouchard, J.M., (2016). Partenariato tra famiglia e operatori: il punto della situazione. In Goussot, A., (a cura di). Autismo e competenze dei genitori. Metodi e percorsi di empowerment. Rimini: Maggioli Editore Calvani, A., Vivanet, G. (2014). Evidence Based Education e modelli di valutazione formativa per le scuole. Journal of Educational, Cultural and Psychological Studies (ECPS Journal), 1(9), 127-146 Cottini, L., Morganti, A., (2015). Evidence-based education e pedagogia speciale. Principi e modelli per l’inclusione. Roma: Carocci editore. Fixsen, D.L., Naoom, S.F., Blase, K.A., Friedman, R.M. (2005). Implementation research: a synthesis of the literature. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida. Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network. Goussot, A., (2012). Autismo: una sfida per la pedagogia speciale. Epistemologia, metodi e approcci educativi. Fano: Aras Edizioni Hsiao, Y.J., Sorensen Petersen, S. (2018). Evidence-Based Practices Provided in Teacher Education and In-Service Training Programs for Special Education Teachers of Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Teacher Education and Special Education, 1-16. ISTAT, (2018). L’integrazione degli alunni con disabilità nelle scuole primarie e secondarie di primo grado. 16 marzo, 2018, 1-29 Odom, S.L., Collet-Klingenberg, L., Rogers, S.J., Hatton, D.D., (2010). Evidence-Based Practices in Interventions for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 54:4, 275-282 Pontis, M., (2015). Autismo e bisogni educativi speciali: approcci proattivi basati sull'evidenza per un'inclusione efficace. Milano: Franco Angeli. Vivanti, G., Duncan, E., Dawson, G., Rogers, S.J., (2017). Implementing the Group-Based Early Start Denver Model for Preschoolers with Autism. Springer, Cham Vivanti, G., Kasari, C., Green, J., Mandell, D., Maye, M., Hudry, K., (2017). Implementing and Evaluating Early Intervention for Children with Autism: Where are the Gaps and What Should We Do? Autism Research, International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 11(1), 16-23. Vivanti, G., Salomone, E., (2016). L'apprendimento nell'autismo: dalle nuove conoscenze scientifiche alle strategie di intervento. Trento: Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson. Wong, C., Odom, S.L., Hume, K.A., Cox, A.W., Fettig, A., Kucharczyk, S., Brock, M.E., Plavnick, J.B., Fleury, V.P., Schultz, T.R., (2015). Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 1951-1966.
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