BREATH: A Burnout Intervention for Special Education Teachers

Grants and Contracts Details


BREATHE: A Burnout Intervention for Special Education Teachers of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders 84.324A: Professional Development for Teachers and Related Services Providers Goal 2 (Development and Innovation) Abstract A 2014 report indicates that teacher attrition costs the US $2.2 billion annually (Ingersoll & Perda, 2015). Teacher attrition is not only financially costly to school districts, but also reduces the organizational stability of schools, interferes with improvement efforts, reduces teacher quality and productivity, and has a negative impact on student achievement (McLeskey & Billingsley, 2008). This precarious state of affairs has led more than one authority to advocate for evidence-based human resource responses to teacher attrition (Billingsley & McLeskey, 2004; NCTAF, 2007). There is now a considerable body of research identifying stress and burnout as major contributor to teacher attrition (Awa, Plaumann, & Walter, 2010). As many as 40% of teachers may experience burnout (Jarvis, 2002) and thus are at higher risk for leaving the profession. The annual attrition rate for special educators (13%) is twice that of general educators and the three-year attrition rate is approximately 25% (Cook & Boe, 2007; Nichols, Bicard, Bicard, & Casey, 2008). Furthermore, burnout and dissatisfaction lead an additional 20% of special educators each year to transfer to general education or to another position in special education (Boe, 2014). The purpose of this proposed study is to adapt, refine and test a burnout intervention for special education teachers based on an existing burnout intervention called Burnout Reduction: Enhanced Awareness, Tools, Handouts, and Education (BREATHE) (Salyers et al., 2011) that has been tested with mental health workers. Specifically, we will adapt BREATHE using both qualitative and quantitative methods in an iterative process and begin to validate intervention effectiveness in reducing teacher burnout (primary aim) and improving student educational outcomes (secondary aim). BREATHE is based on recent advances in cognition based approaches and will be revised and adapted for teachers and called BREATHE-EASE (Evidence-based Activities for Stress for Educators). For the developmental activities, we will conduct focus groups with school administrators and classroom teachers about teacher burnout (e.g., how it can be observed; what impact does it have on students), adapt BREATHE based on focus group results, test BREATHE-EASE using a pre-post design, making revisions based on quantitative estimates of pre-post change, teacher feedback (n=20/year in each of Year 2) and workgroup review of materials using a mixed method design. Year 3 will consist of a randomized controlled design of the adapted BREATHE- EASE and include 52 teachers and students. All teachers will be current special education classroom teachers from Indiana and Kentucky. The development activities will include focus groups to collect qualitative information on the integration of the burnout intervention within teacher daily activities and feedback on the BREATHE-EASE intervention, including acceptability, number and duration of sessions, outcomes expected to change as a result of the intervention and intervention impacts on teachers and their activities with and outcomes for students. A workgroup of school administrators and classroom special educators will review materials and feedback. The primary pilot outcome data will be teacher outcomes. We will examine what impact BREATHE-EASE has on teacher report of social supports (e.g., peer supports), task qualities (e.g., job demands), and personal qualities (e.g., stress appraisal) and burnout. We will also assess what impact changes in burnout have on teacher behavior and student engagement, social/emotional/behavioral functioning, and educational outcomes. Teacher satisfaction, intervention acceptability, feasibility and usability, as well as implementation fidelity will be assessed. Focus groups will provide formative evaluation. As a basic strategy, we will utilize multivariate Gaussian linear models to examine whether there are significant group differences in the teacher outcomes over time.
Effective start/end date9/16/206/30/21


  • Ball State University: $30,484.00


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