A Mixed Methods Explanation of Special Education Teachers' Implementation of Research-Based Behavior Management Practices
In the United States, almost half of special education teachers will leave the field within five years, citing concerns regarding student behavior as a major contributing factor. The field of applied behavior analysis has provided an effective, research-based behavioral technology for addressing challenging behavior in the classroom, but few special education teachers carry certifications in applied behavior analysis and the implementation of such research-based practices remains inconsistent. The introduction of virtual and hybrid teaching formats in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic provided additional behavior management challenges for special education teachers. This explanatory mixed methods study utilized a survey and follow-up semi-structured interviews to identify barriers and supports that influenced the ability and willingness of special education teachers to implement behavior management practices. Survey data was analyzed using one-way ANOVA and chi-square tests of association and found that years of experience, instructional delivery format, and applied behavior analysis certification were not significantly correlated with the behavior strategies used or barriers and supports experienced by special education teachers. Thematic content analysis of the qualitative data found that aspects of campus and district culture, such as relationships, competing priorities, and intrinsic motivation, were found to influence the implementation of behavior management practices. The results from this study provide areas of examination that district and campus leaders, pre-service teacher preparation programs, and behavioral specialists can utilize to increase the utilization of research-based behavior management practices, decrease challenging behavior, and increase the tenure of special education teachers in the classroom.