Date of Graduation

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department/Program

Learning and Instruction

First Advisor

Patricia Busk

Second Advisor

Yvonne Bui

Third Advisor

Caryl Hodges

Abstract

A growing number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who display complex learning needs present challenges to educators who struggle to meet their educational needs. Teaching is stressful and additional instructional challenges may increase teacher vulnerability to burnout, leading to a greater likelihood of attrition. Increasing teachers' knowledge of strategies specific to students with ASD within online professional development may create needed support networks increasing self-efficacy and decreasing perceived stress. The purpose of this study was to examine the changes special and general education teachers' perceived self-efficacy and burnout as a result of facilitated discussion and self-reflection embedded in an online learning environment.

This mixed-methods research design explored teachers' perceptions of self-efficacy and burnout as a result of participation in online course designed to address the competencies of the California Added Autism Authorization

Certificate. To address the quantitative portions of the study, the teachers' perceived self-efficacy was assessed at the beginning and end of the course using the Teacher Self-Efficacy Survey, and burnout was measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory - Educator Survey. Data from transcripts of 25 participants' responses in facilitated online discussion and self-reflection assignments served as the basis to investigate qualitative results. A follow-up focus group of seven teacher volunteers provided additional support for perceived differences in self-efficacy, as well as burnout results.

Study results revealed statistically significant differences in teachers' perceived self-efficacy from beginning to end of a 16-week course. Differences in teachers' perception of burnout where not found to be statistically significant based on analysis of results from survey data from Maslach Burnout Inventory - Educator Survey.

Qualitative analysis revealed four themes from this study, preparedness, confidence to implement strategies, community of support, and stress, in addition to core ideas from the focus-group discussion. Analysis of focus-group data gave the researcher a rich understanding of how special education and general education teachers expressed perceptions of the process of online facilitated discussion and self-reflection influenced changes in self-efficacy and burnout.

Study implications include the importance of professional discourse opportunities embedded in online professional development for teachers' to improve implementation of evidence-based intervention practices with students with ASD and learning challenges.

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