By Cassandra McCallum

The School of Education invites you to attend an Ed.D. Dissertation Defense by Jeffrey West on “Improving Engagement in Emotionally Impaired Students Through Increased Opportunity to Respond.”

Date: March 30, 2023
Time: 8 p.m.
Location: This will be a virtual dissertation defense via Zoom. Those interested in attending should contact Eleanor_abrams@uml.edu to request access to the Zoom link.

Dissertation Chair: Eleanor Abrams, Ph.D., Professor, School of Education, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Dissertation Committee:

  • John William McKenna, PhD., Associate Professor of Special Education, School of Education, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Frank Vicente, Ed.D., Scholar in Practice, School of Education, Director of Special Education, Lowell Public Schools

Students with Emotional Impairment (EI) often have among the worst outcomes of any category of students receiving services for learning disabilities. They earn less credits, are less likely to graduate, are more likely to drop out, and less likely to pursue education beyond high school than almost any other of the categories identified under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). This may be related to a lack of engagement with academics in the classroom. Engagement has been identified as a key component to academic success in school. With most EI students spending much of their day in general education classroom settings it becomes important that ways are found to improve their academic engagement in these settings. The use of Evidence Based Practices (EBP) like Opportunity to Respond (OTR) have been shown to increase student engagement. General Middle School currently places all students taking science in the 8th grade in inclusive, general education, science classrooms, including those with emotional impairment. This qualitative study sought to answer if increased use of OTR using pre-planned OTR protocols would result in increased academic engagement on the part of 8th grade EI students in the inclusive 8th grade science classroom. It also sought to determine if facilitation of OTR using “Response Cards” would increase academic engagement. It further looked at how prepared the 8th grade science teachers of these students at GMS were to use EBPs and teach EI students specifically. Increased use of planned OTR was not found to increase overall academic engagement in the study participants, however there was an increase in academic engagement during the use of OTR, especially when response cards were used. There was also indication that the teachers of 8th grade science at GMS are not adequately prepared through preservice training or ongoing professional development for working with this specific population of students. Recommendations for use of OTR, changes to professional development, and areas for further study are included.