Mason Special Education Program Faculty Awarded Virginia Department of Education Traineeship Grants

January 2, 2024

Kelley Regan

Kelley Regan, professor in the Special Education program at George Mason University’s School of Education, was awarded funding from the Virginia Department of Education to support two initiatives for which she is the Principal Investigator (PI). Both projects promise to facilitate a pipeline of well-qualified special education teachers in Virginia.

Pam Baker

Margaret (Peggy) Weiss

Kristen O'Brien

Mason faculty working with Regan as Co-principal Investigators on one of these grant-funded projects, Traineeships for Education of Special Education Personnel (Special Education-General Curriculum K-12), are Pam Baker, Margaret (Peggy) Weiss, and Kristen O’Brien, associate professors in the Special Education program. Baker and Weiss are Co-principal Investigators of the second project titled, Traineeships for Special Education Personnel: A Dynamic Coaching Outreach Program in Special Education: General Curriculum.

In describing these two initiatives, Regan commented, “Although these are two separate awards, they both address the preparation of provisionally licensed special education teachers employed in Virginia serving students who access the general education curriculum. One award provides these teachers with a tuition stipend and the second award focuses on coaching their development as special educators.”

Traineeships for Education of Special Education Personnel (Special Education-General Curriculum K-12)

Regan states that the goal of the Traineeships for Education of Special Education Personnel (Special Education-General Curriculum K-12) initiative is to maintain and expand Mason’s existing Cohort Outreach Program. She explains that the Cohort Outreach Program provides uniquely high-quality special education teacher training for employed teachers by providing convenience and a better link between academia and school realities. If a school division has at least 20 employed individuals who are provisionally licensed and need to complete their Special Education: General Curriculum K-12 five-year, renewable state license, the individuals are provided a 25 percent discount per 3-credit class. The state grant provides provisionally licensed special education teachers in the cohorts with a tuition stipend to complete a 3-credit licensure course during any single semester.

Baker, who serves as Division Director of Special Education and disAbility Research and the Outreach Program Coordinator, noted, “We have had a longstanding partnership with our district partners, delivering over 110 cohorts preparing special educators to teach in Virginia schools. Support from the Virginia Department of Education for our students makes an incredible difference in how accessible our programs continue to be.”

The Co-principal Investigators of the award collaboratively work with division staff and the special education advisors to support the coordination and recruitment of cohort members. The course delivery modes vary, with face-to-face classes held at a school location in which a university instructor teaches on a non-traditional semester schedule, which mirrors that of the school district’s schedule.

Traineeships for Special Education Personnel: A Dynamic Coaching Outreach Program in Special Education: General Curriculum

The context for the second award, Traineeships for Special Education Personnel: A Dynamic Coaching Outreach Program in Special Education: General Curriculum, is the teaching internship course (EDSE 783) for provisionally licensed teachers in the cohorts. The objective of this award, known as DCOP, focuses on using technology to provide provisionally licensed teachers with timely and relevant performance-based feedback while in the classroom. As explained on the website established for this project, the DCOP initiative facilitates a more dynamic coaching experience during the required internship of provisionally licensed teachers enrolled in Mason’s general curriculum (K-12) licensure program.

Weiss provided an overview of the different technologies that have been integrated into this project. “We call it ‘eCoaching’ where we use email, zoom, video capture, and bug-in-ear technology to provide delayed and immediate feedback to our students as they are teaching,” Weiss stated. “It has been a great success! Our newest eCoaches value this model of supervision.”

As the program advancement liaison in the Division of Special Education, O’Brien orients cohort students to their internship, supports the onboarding of university supervisors, and works with the research team to expand the eCoaching model. O’Brien discussed how the format of the eCoaching design works. She stated, “During the 10-week internship, the provisionally licensed teacher receives mentoring, coaching, and supervision from an on-site experienced special education teacher and a university faculty supervisor. In 2023, 48 provisionally licensed teachers completed on-the-job internships. Each semester, ten to fifteen faculty members supervise these internships.”

Regan observed that the financial support provided by this award has allowed the research team to develop a flexible model of eCoaching and a series of professional development modules on eCoaching with built in measures of fidelity. She noted that the team is conducting research to better understand the role of the coach and how eCoaching’s professional development influences their supervisory practice.

Regan believes that the eCoaching design has the potential for more widespread use in the future. “Not all on-the-job internships use eCoaching at this time, but the research team is piloting the model, and we are encouraged by the data outcomes so far,” Regan stated.

According to Regan, the faculty involved in these projects have taught courses in the cohort outreach model and both grant initiatives closely align with their research interests in providing high-quality teacher preparation.

To learn more about Mason’s Special Education program and the degree offerings that are available, please visit the program website.