Teacher Self-Efficacy for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Study of Relationships with Stress, Engagement, and Student Outcomes

Friday, May 12, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
A. M. Love1, J. A. Findley2 and L. A. Ruble2, (1)Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, (2)University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background:  Teacher self-efficacy refers to the belief teachers hold about their ability to affect student learning (Bandura, 1997; Klassen, Tze, Betts, & Gordon, 2011) and has been shown to change teachers’ motivation and work effort (Klassen & Chiu, 2010). Teachers’ sense of their own efficacy (i.e., effectiveness as teachers) varies according to the diverse contexts and learners they face, however, little research has examined efficacy when teaching students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; Ruble, Toland, Birdwhistell, McGrew, & Usher, 2013). White, Smith, Smith, and Stodden (2012) noted that ASD learners have become one of the most challenging groups to teach; therefore, investigating the interpersonal processes involved in teaching children with ASD is an important and relevant area of research. This study seeks to explore the potential associations between self-efficacy and related constructs using multiple measurement techniques and sources (i.e., observational data, self-report, and outside observer). By incorporating objective behavioral measures and not simply self-report, teacher self-efficacy can be considered in relation to student outcomes and achievement.

Objectives:  This study investigated relationships among teacher self-efficacy for teaching students with ASD and linked variables including teacher stress, student outcomes, and teacher engagement.

Methods:  Special education teachers (N = 44) were recruited as part of a larger randomized controlled study examining a consultation intervention with teachers of students with ASD. Data were collected over multiple time points, but this study focused solely on the final responses. Measures included a self-report instrument assessing teacher self-efficacy for teaching students with ASD (ASSET) and a standardized self-report instrument capturing teacher stress, the Index of Teaching Stress (ITS). In addition, blind observers reported on a measure of teacher engagement. Student achievement data was collected using direct videotape observation from an unaware rater using goal attainment scaling. Correlation analyses were used to determine the initial degree of relationships between the variables of interest.

Results: As predicted, scores from the ASSET were positively related to teacher engagement (r = .36, p <.05) and student achievement (r = .39, p <.01). This signals a degree of relationship between teachers who engage positively with their students with ASD and teachers who self-report higher levels of teacher self-efficacy. In addition, ASSET scores were negatively related to scores derived from the measure of teacher stress (r = -.39, p<.01), indicating that teachers who have low self-efficacy for teaching students with ASD also report higher levels of stress.

Conclusions: Teacher self-efficacy was positively related to indicators of good teaching quality (higher engagement and student outcomes) and protective against negative teacher outcomes (stress). Teacher self-beliefs are likely to have significant impact on teachers’ decisions, teaching environment, and interactions with students. The results have potential applications in making professional development decisions, addressing areas of perceived incompetence, and improving teacher practice.