Special education staff felt lower well-being and effectiveness during the pandemic

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Like other educators during the pandemic, special education staff have shifted to offering support services to their students with disabilities remotely, often with little guidance on appropriate and effective adjustments to their service delivery.

A new study finds that challenges associated with offering some of these services online have led special education staff to report a significantly lower sense of well-being during remote learning than during a typical school year.

“The impromptu rollout of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed how schools provided support for students with disabilities,” said first author Tyler Womack, a graduate student in education at UC Riverside. “While schools were still required to follow federal timelines and mandates for special education services, schools received little guidance on how to effectively transfer their services remotely. We wanted to know how special education services were adapted in different areas such as assessments, interventions, meetings and documentation. »

Womack and Elissa Monteiro, also a doctoral candidate in education at UC Riverside, administered an online survey to 332 special education teachers, school psychologists and related providers across the country. Respondents answered questions about the types of special education services they provide remotely, whether they thought these services were effective, and how remote learning affected their own personal well-being.

“Our research questions explored what special education services were provided during remote learning and whether staff perceived the services provided as effective. Additionally, given the increased pressure on school staff to very quickly deploy and adapt to remote services, we were interested in exploring how remote learning affects the well-being of school staff. special education,” Monteiro said.

Survey responses revealed that while staff have met federally mandated special education timelines, some departments have been more successful than others in transitioning to remote delivery. Remote meetings, for example, have made it easier for parents to participate. But providing interventions such as intellectual or academic advice and assessments was more difficult in a virtual format.

The roles and responsibilities of staff members may also have changed during the pandemic. For example, in a “typical” school year, research shows that school psychologists spend most of their time administering assessments. However, the researchers found that more than half of those surveyed said they had spent more time providing psychological counseling and services remotely during the pandemic, a figure that matches previous studies that found school psychologists spent more time providing mental health and counseling services than doing psychological assessments. .

Researchers found that when staff felt they “belonged” to their school and felt supported by their school, they were more likely to perceive their services as effective. Additionally, when school staff felt more effective in their role and ability to support student outcomes, they were more likely to rate their remote services as effective. For example, most participants responded that they had not received any training on how best to use remote platforms to host special education meetings. Unfortunately, participants rated both their sense of belonging to their school and their effectiveness in their role as much lower during remote learning compared to a typical school year.

The authors recommend that schools assess staff members’ comfort with technology platforms and provide professional development that meets their individual learning needs to improve the effectiveness of remote teaching and service delivery. in the future.

The article, “Special education staff well‐being and the effectiveness of remote services during the COVID‐19 pandemic,” is published in School Psychology and is available here.

Header photo: dolgachov/Getty Pictures

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