Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) can experience complex social, emotional, behavioural, and academic needs at school that necessitate the support of prepared and efficacious teachers. Teacher self-efficacy, defined as the extent to which a teacher believes he or she can bring about positive change in a student (Gibson & Dembo, 1984), is associated with a multitude of positive classroom variables and teacher characteristics that may play a role in supporting these students.
Among the many contributors to the development of self-efficacy, causal attributions (i.e. the perceived causes of events or outcomes; Weiner, 1985) are believed to play a role (Bandura 1977). In fact, researchers have found that the attributions teachers made about the difficulties experienced by a student with FASD predicted their self-efficacy in working with these children. Specifically, teachers who reported higher personal control attributions and lower stability attributions reported feeling more efficacious (Atkinson, 2012). These findings supported the development of an attributional retraining (AR) intervention for pre-service teachers.
Current Study: The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to develop, implement, and evaluate an AR intervention (see Haynes et al., 2009) aimed at modifying maladaptive attributions about the challenges experienced by students with FASD, with the goal of preparing pre-service teachers to work with these students by increasing their self-efficacy.
Methods: In this explanatory sequential mixed methods design, quantitative survey data (N=208) and qualitative interview data (N=8) were collected from pre-service teachers at a large Western Canadian university. Data were analyzed separately using inferential statistics and a thematic analysis, and then integrated to generate mixed inferences regarding the effectiveness of the intervention, and considerations for further supporting teachers in this area.
Findings: Quantitative results demonstrated that the AR intervention was successful at increasing pre-service teachers’ attributions of personal control, but no significant corresponding increases in teacher self-efficacy were noted. Qualitative themes derived from participant interviews included evidence of Shifting Thinking, considerations for Preparing for the Future, and ideas for Supporting Students with FASD. Integrated learnings suggest that although the intervention did not significantly increase feelings of self-efficacy, pre-service teachers reported being motivated to learn more about FASD and a desire for experiences that have the potential to contribute to their self-efficacy in the future. Implications for theory, future research, and practice (i.e. teacher training programs) are discussed.Erin Marie Atkinson
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