Using academic coaching to increase the fidelity of implementation of special education educators teaching direct instruction programs
Bennett, Kathleen Elizabeth
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The majority of students with disabilities have difficulty with reading. By the 4th grade, 69% of students with disabilities read at the “below basic” level (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). Students who struggle with reading require intensive, reading support. One evidence-based, reading intervention approach, Direct Instruction (DI), has been demonstrated in the literature as effective for teaching students with disabilities to read (Gersten, Becker, Heiry, & White, 1984; Schieffer, Marchand-Martella, Martella, Simonsen, & Waldron-Soler, 2002). DI programs follow a prescribed and highly-structured format for the delivery of reading instruction. Research on fidelity of implementation (FOI), however, has shown that when practitioners do not follow carefully structured interventions such as DI programs as prescribed, the effectiveness of the programs can be compromised. In other words, when FOI is not present, variations in the dependent variable cannot be explicitly attributed to independent variable manipulations and conclusions may not be considered valid. One strategy to increase FOI is to provide academic coaching to teachers in the classroom. Research on academic coaching has demonstrated the capacity of directed coaching to change teacher behavior (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). To date, no studies have specifically examined the efficacy of academic coaching on special educators’ capacity to improve their delivery of a structured, evidence-based program such as DI reading. The purpose of the proposed study is to examine the efficacy of academic coaching on the FOI of teachers using DI reading programs. Using a sign-case design methodology, the study examined the relation between individualized, academic coaching and special educators’ fidelity of implementation of DI reading.