PAAC-PAATS Professional Development Instructional Design Philosophy

Project ACCESS Autism Credential (PAAC) and Project ACCESS Autism Team Support (PAATS) professional development program features are based upon research supported best practice for professional development. In their book entitled Student Achievement Through Staff Development, Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers offer insights into instructional design features that result in the highest levels of classroom application of knowledge and skills gained through time spent developing individual professional practice repertoires.

What does this mean? Well everybody is familiar with "sit and get" PD strategies, namely presentation and lecture style PD. Data shows that this style of PD does not often result in real gains in classroom application of skills and knowledge that are the content of such sessions. If a presenter includes a demonstration or includes rich media exemplars, participants know more and are able to do more, but again, frequently new knowledge and skills do not materially carry forward to classroom application. If the PD design includes practice in training, participants have even higher levels of skill acquisition and knowledge gains, and it will make some impact on classroom application, but this impact is small. In order to achieve the highest level of classroom application, there are three important ingredients identified by research. These three ingredients are:

  1. administrator support,
  2. effective data feedback loops that enable reflective practice, and
  3. in-the-classroom coaching.

Table showing PD ingredients and their value in promoting classroom application (adapted from Joyce and Showers).

  Typical Training Outcomes
Training Components Knowledge of Content Skill Implementation Classroom Application
Lecture/Presentation 10% 5% 0%
Plus Demonstration in Training 30% 20% 0%
Plus Practice in Training 60% 60% 5%
Plus Coaching, Admin Support, Data Feedback 95% 95% 95%

These three ingredients are the cornerstones of PAAC/PAATS programming. Let's consider what each of these entail in practice.

Classroom coaching involves leveraging a teacher's authentic classroom issues, developing a strategy for intervention that uses evidence-based practices (we refer these as EBPs*, which are typically combined in multicomponent packages), executing that strategy using fidelity checklists, measuring outcomes, and trouble-shooting issues. We model the skills and orientation that we want teachers to use with students, meaning we appreciate a teacher's individual strengths and acknowledge challenges, and individualize instruction based on this information. Key to the success of the program is coaching in the actual classroom and this feature (among others) will require administrator support.

What is administrator support? Well certainly there is the mechanical and logistical components of support: being allowed some time to work with a coach may mean that additional help is needed for a few minutes to cover the teacher's regular duties. From time to time we may recommend an inexpensive book or tool that is not required, but might be helpful. Teachers will participate in Zoom meetings, and seminar events with national speakers a couple of time and this may require some funds. Just as importantly, we will enlist the support of building principals to check-in, offer moral support, encourage teachers, and reinforce their progress toward goals. This may sound like something many do as a normal part of their job, but we will help by providing some prompts when we identify that folks need to be encouraged and appreciated. Lastly, we hope that administrators will show an interest in what our teachers are learning. Some concepts in behavior analysis occasionally appear to be counter-intuitive. We will offer a quick tutorial for administrators that will provide a birds-eye view of behavior concepts so that there is a community understanding of how the strategies work.

Data collection is an integral component of the special education world. We will coach teachers through the process of using different data collection strategies including free software tools to make it easier, how to interpret data, and how to use data to monitor progress and troubleshoot when no progress is observed.

*You can find a list of evidence-based strategies to use with students with autism at the National Professional Development Center on ASD. This matrix aligns specific EBPs with age ranges for which research has shown the practice to be effective and the corresponding behavior domains for which the practice is effective.