A Professional Learning Community for Developing Trauma-Informed Practices using Participatory Action Methods: Inquiry Outline

The following are my current thoughts and planned outline for my dissertation. The outline generally follows the dissertation by a fellow student who graduated last year (Montgomery Di Marco, 2020). It has been adapted to match my population and expected dissertation. A separate document is being uploaded that includes a list of all references reviewed during the Fall 2020 semester of Ecology of Ideas.

Thesis Statement: Teachers who serve students with emotional and behavioral disabilities would benefit from being co-researchers and self-developing a learning community to implement a trauma-informed set of services. Following a 12-week participatory action group, they will be taking information learned back to the classrooms, schools, and community to help make a safer environment for their students.

  1. Frontmatter

    1. Abstract
    2. Acknowledgements
    3. Dedication
  2. Chapter 1: Introduction

    1. Statement of the Problem
      1. There is limited implementation of trauma-informed classroom practices within schools
      2. Students with emotional and behavioral disabilities are a higher risk for having adverse childhood experiences
      3. PLCs can follow a participatory action research model and that can be effective model for creating change within a school setting.
    2. The Research Study
      1. Teachers who serve students with EBD will be offered the opportunity to participate in a process as co-researchers to uncover the facets of trauma and resilience.
      2. I expect to solicit teachers from the three school districts that make up the Tri-Cities area of Washington. Each district provides services K-12 for students through specialized self-contained classrooms. A local counseling center regionally supports these districts for some of their students with the most extreme needs.
    3. Paradigms in research
      1. Participatory action as a paradigm (Baum et al., 2006).
      2. Transformation as a paradigm (Donna, 2009).
    4. Transformation and Participatory Action Research
    5. Ethics Consideration
    6. Scope and Delimitations
      1. Discussion and Implications
      2. Purpose of the Research
    7. Discussion on Praxis
      1. Our Relationship to the Participatory Ontology
      2. Personal Significance
      3. Academic Significance
      4. Social Significance
    8. Chapters Breakdown
  3. Chapter 2: Discussion of Relevant Literature

    1. School wide services to address needs and school reform
      1. Context and position of school reform
        1. There were three historical phases in the last century that school reform has gone through. These include the excellence movement, the restructuring movement, and No Child Left Behind (DuFour et al., 2008).
        2. These reform models have failed to deliver due to unrealistic expectations, the complexity of the task, misplaced focus, a lack of perseverance, and a failure to attend to and appreciate the change process. They argue that professional learning communities are a more focused method for creating school reform (DuFour et al., 2008).
        3. This movement goes alongside fields such as organizational development, leadership practices, school improvement, teacher preparation, professional development effective schools, and change processes all have been additive to professional learning communities as a change creating process (DuFour et al., 2008).
      2. Professional learning communities (PLC)
        1. Parts of a Good PLC include looking at structural conditions, supportive relational conditions, shared values and vision, intentional collective learning, peers supporting peers, shared and supportive leadership (Hord, 2015)
        2. Seminal discussion regarding PLCs and use as a continuous program to address reform in schools (Hord, 1997)
        3. PLCs focus on ensuring that all students learn, a cultural of collaboration, and focus on results (DuFour, 2004). There are a number of other articles that also describe the structure and connection with what a PLC is (Webster-Wright, 2009; Hord, 2009).
        4. There has traditionally been less focus on SPED teachers within the PLC system (Blanton & Perez, 2011). SPED teachers have a need to participate in learner-centered professional development.
      3. Social emotional learning (SEL)
        1. There are a number of reasons to implement SEL. These include general improvements and increased teacher satisfaction, efficacy, and lower job stress (Collie et al., 2012; Taylor et al., 2017).
        2. There is a high level of research base (Allbright et al., 2019).
        3. There are guides to implementation (Elias et al., 1997).
      4. Multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS) and positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS)
        1. MTSS and PBIS are connected, where PBIS is consistent with the core principles of MSTT (Benner et al., 2013).
        2. PBIS is an effective intervention (Horner et al., 2010)
        3. Implementation of PBIS and SEL can be challenging for teachers (Schonert-Reichl, 2017)
        4. There is a handbook for implementation of PBIS (Sailor et al., 2008)
      5. Trauma-informed school systems (TISS)
        1. There are a number of papers which describe and enumerate best practices for TISS (Dombo & Sabatino, 2019; Berardi et al., 2019; Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Department of Health & Human Services. The United States, 2014; Pickens & Tschopp, 2017; Cavanaugh, 2016)
        2. There is an understanding of the impact that trauma has on kids (Baker et al., 2015; Gonzalez et al., 2016; Woodbridge et al., 2015).
        3. TISS can help to mitigate those effects (Porche et al., 2016; Perfect et al., 2016).
        4. We can help teachers become more invested (Baweja et al., 2015), and find a ways to implement a program (Chafouleas et al., 2015; Dorado et al., 2016; Phifer & Hull, 2016; Perry & Daniels, 2016)
        5. There is also a local example for my own state (Wolpow et al., 2016).
        6. Trauma-informed systems are not just inside of schools (Harris & Fallot, 2001; Bloom & Sreedhar, 2008)
    2. Trauma
      1. Definition of trauma
        1. “Individual trauma results from an **event**, series of events, or set of circumstances that is **experienced** by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse **effects** on the individual's functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being” (p. 7) (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, 2012)
        2. There are a number of terms that can be used to understand trauma. These include toxic stress (Shonkoff et al., 2012; Franke, 2014), chronic stress (Evans & Kim, 2012)
      2. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
        1. Seminal paper around trauma and ACES (Felitti et al., 1998)
        2. ACEs has made an impact on K-12 educational systems (Burke et al., 2011; Verbitsky-Savitz et al., 2016)
      3. Impacts of trauma on workers (vicarious/secondary trauma)
        1. Compassion fatigue is a way of describing secondary trauma and connects to concept of secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD (Valent, 2013)
        2. First used in nursing (Joinson, 1992)
        3. It has been adapted to connect to educators and a model for understanding teacher burnout (Hoffman et al., 2007)
        4. Special education teachers have their own understanding and connection with compassion fatigue (Andrews & Brown, 2015)
      4. Population of students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD)
        1. There is a specific definition for EBD (Gresham et al., 1999; 2007)
        2. They have high rate of trauma in comparison with their general education peers (Bethell et al., 2017)
        3. They experience difficulties related to learning (Trout et al., 2006; Lambros et al., 1998)
        4. Teachers who work with EBD have special requirements (Prather-Jones, 2010)
        5. There are shortages of special education teachers (Boe, 2016; Cancio et al., 2013; McLeskey et al., 2016)
      5. Teachers who work with students with EBD
      6. Conclusions
  4. Chapter 3: Method

    1. Methodology
      1. History and definition of PAR
        1. PAR is a rigorous system for conducting research that includes the accumulation of knowledge and rigor in contextual determinacy (academic plus popular knowledge, cooptation and disciplinary convergence) (Borda, 2008).
        2. PAR has a rich history in its creation and in the varied types styles of implementation that it includes (Skolimowski, 1994; Shor & Freire, 1987).
      2. Situation of PAR within the research
        1. PAR connects with other qualitative methodologies. (Creswell et al., 2007)
        2. Discussion about sampling practices within PAR (Guetterman, 2015).
        3. Participants referred to as co-researchers (Alcoff, 1991).
        4. The use of PAR in a school setting.
          1. PAR in practice and acts as a partnership for social justice practice in education (Kemmis & Wilkinson, 1998; Marshall et al., 1998)
          2. PAR connection to transformative research and evaluation model (Mertens, 2009). It can specifically connect to previous research regarding resilience (Donna, 2009).
          3. PAR has been used as a modality for teacher professional development (Saunders & Somekh, 2013; Altrichter & Posch, 2013).
          4. PAR can be connected to complexity and an ecological perspective (Sumara & Davis, 2013).
        5. Attrition can be a challenge of using a PAR (Hughes, 2003)
        6. PAR includes a high degree of participation, democracy in group decision making is required, defining what is the community, and the need to create a safe space are all important aspects of PAR (Bergold & Thomas, 2012)
    2. Research Strategy and Method
    3. Ontology
      1. The ontology of PAR its a participatory reality or a subjective-objective reality. The co-researchers co-create reality (Lincoln et al., 2011).
    4. Change in schools practice and vision
      1. Connection with transformation, complex thinking, and transdisciplinarity
    5. Epistemology
      1. Participatory research looks at a co-created set of findings between the research facilitator and the co-researchers who are participating in the process (Lincoln et al., 2011).
    6. Axiology
      1. "Practical knowing how to flourish with a balance of autonomy, co-operation, and hierarchy." (p. 111) The voices present in the study (Lincoln et al., 2011).
    7. Action Component of PAR
      1. The activities planned for this research project are to create changes within each of the teacher’s classrooms, but also to promote change within their schools and possibly make recommendations for broader change.
    8. Rationale for Choosing PAR
      1. Connection with PEER-EBD (Tsai et al., 2013; Walker et al., 2013)
      2. Desire to increase trauma informed status in schools.
    9. Consistency
    10. Research Procedures
      1. Collection and review of agendas, field notes taken, photos of flipcharts
    11. Participant Selection
      1. Teachers who work in BESST (Richland), Bridges (Pasco), Tier II (Kennewick), LCC Children' Day Program (regional).
      2. Potentially include school psychs and other professionals who connect in those classrooms
    12. Recruitment Criteria
      1. Teachers who work with special education self-contained classrooms for students with EBD.
    13. Group Gatherings
      1. Bi-weekly meeting over six months (e.g. 12 meetings).
    14. Topics
      1. Understand how trauma impacts students
      2. Limiting retraumatization within the classroom
      3. Methods for increasing resiliency factors for students
      4. Engaging in self-care and burnout prevention to reduce the impact of secondary trauma
      5. Evaluate and implementing ideas for promoting systematic changes within a classroom and school-wide
      6. Develop a tool or recommendation for how other school staff could create similar growth in other schools
    15. Activities and agendas
      1. I will end up providing a description of some (or all of the activities to be completed)
      2. I will provide an example of an agenda used for
    16. Action Component
      1. The action component of this study will be related to the planning to take back information and new way of thinking about trauma-informed classroom to their schools or the greater community.
    17. Data Gathering and Analysis
    18. Role of the Researcher
    19. Delimitations and Limitations
    20. Identifying and Dealing with Validity Threats
    21. Protection of Human Co-researchers
      1. I will be applying for working vulnerable populations approval for this dissertation through the university. This section will enumerate the protections in place and processes followed.
  5. Chapter 4: Research Findings

    1. Introduction
    2. Participatory action research and its Impact
    3. Becoming a Group
    4. Obstacles
    5. List of various emergent themes
  6. Chapter 5: Moving Forward; Recommendations and Conclusion

    1. Introduction
    2. Hoped for outcomes
    3. Specific outcomes
  7. Final

    1. Conclusion
    2. References
    3. List of appendixes


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Author Note

The following essay was originally posted as an outline for TSD 6526 - Ecology of Ideas as a part of my Ph.D. Studies in Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies.