College of Education > News and Publications > 2015 January–March news > RE-AIM project targets alumni feedback to improve program

RE-AIM project targets alumni feedback to improve program

Research has shown that the better the training students receive, the longer they stay in their chosen field. Three professors in Penn State’s College of Education want to hear that themselves from graduates who majored in special education.

Research has shown that the better the training students receive, the longer they stay in their chosen field. Three professors in Penn State’s College of Education want to hear that themselves from graduates who majored in special education.

Associate professors of special education Kathleen McKinnon and Mary Catherine Scheeler along with assistant professor of special education Jenny Frank are launching Project RE-AIM, a survey that will reach out to special education graduates from as many as 10 to 12 years ago.

McKinnon said the project takes an innovative approach by using the RE-AIM framework to capture not only the numbers of graduate responses, but also to allow for questions regarding program effectiveness and adoption of key practices from the program in the teachers’ work. 

“What we hope to gain from that are a number of data that our students are teaching, and then of those respondents, how well our program prepared them on a number of entities as well as just overall,’’ McKinnon said. “One of our questions is if they would recommend our program. We’re really looking to reach out to them to find out if they’ve adopted what we’ve taught them.’’

Selected administrators who employ Penn State special education graduates also will be surveyed, McKinnon said.

The project has five components:

Reach: Describes percentage of people – and their characteristics – from a given population who participate in a program.

Effectiveness: Refers to the positive and negative outcomes of the program.

Adoption: Describes the degree to which the target population adopts key practices.

Implementation: Describes the extent to which participants implement training as intended.

Maintenance: Reflects the degree to which a student continues to implement key practices.

“I think the idea of getting in contact and learning from your graduates is something that is a growing need,’’ McKinnon said. “The accreditation body that we have in the College is going to be requiring that. When the time comes, we may have some data.’’

McKinnon, Scheeler and Frank referred in their proposal to U.S. Department of Education research that revealed that retaining good special educators has been a long-standing problem in the field of special education. There are teacher shortages in 46 states, including Pennsylvania, department research showed.

The RE-AIM framework has the potential to be adapted to other program evaluations in the college with the ability to individualize the key practices per program, McKinnon said. 

The project is being funded by a $3,500 grant from the College of Education.

 Jim Carlson (March 2015)