Research indicates that positive youth development within classrooms is related to interactions among teachers and students that promote empowerment, skill building, supportiveness, warmth, and a sense of security. Researchers have developed observational tools to measure such teacher-student interactions in general education classrooms. Currently, however, there are no comparable measures for self-contained special education classrooms, which have distinct instructional and social structures. In this study, the investigators will develop the Special Education Classroom Observation Tool (SPECOT) to assess the quality of classroom interactions in special education classrooms. The tool will be modeled on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which is currently used in general education classrooms. The study sample will include full- and part-day classrooms serving youth classified as having emotional disturbance (ED). Researchers will sample 15 ED classrooms from grades three through six. They will conduct ethnographic observations and focus-group interviews with educators in order to understand the unique nature of the social processes within the self-contained ED classroom. Field notes from the observations and interview transcripts will be coded and used to inform the development of the SPECOT.
Following the model of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), investigators are developing the Special Education Classroom Observation Tool (SPECOT) to assess the quality of classroom interactions in special education classrooms.