Special Education and Research Consultant, Mater Dei, Camden and Honorary Research Associate in Special Education, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney
Dr. Bree Jimenez is a Special Education Pedagogy and Research Consultant with Mater Dei School in Camden, New South Wales and an Honorary Research Associate in Special Education with the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney.
Her research focuses on mainstream curriculum access and assessment for students with intellectual disabilities, including autism. She has published several research manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, multiple book chapters, academic programs, and several books on strategies to support academics for students with disabilities. She works closely with teachers, executives, school systems and state departments of education both nationally and internationally. Dr. Jimenez presents at national and international conferences and at state department of education and school system professional development for teachers, parents, and service providers of students with intellectual disabilities on the topics of assessment and access to the mainstream curriculum.
Dr. Jimenez received her bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Central Florida, master’s in Curriculum and Supervision from UNC at Charlotte, and her PhD in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has worked in the field of special education for 20 years, as a classroom teacher supporting students in both primary and high school, grant-funded research liaison between a local school system and university, then Lead Research Associate for an U.S. federally funded grant with the department of Special Education and Child Development at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Prior to moving to Australia in January of 2017, she was an assistant professor of special education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Building Teacher Capacity of Research and Evidence Based Practice
A vital component of improving academic student outcomes is high-quality teacher professional development (PD; McLeskey et al., 2014), involving strong focus on learner (e.g., teacher, teacher assistant) development within the classroom and the learning community (McLeskey, 2011). Due to complex support needs of students with disability, it can be challenging for teachers to implement research and evidence-based practice individualised for their learners, yet still implemented with fidelity.
One key quality of learner-centered professional development is the identification of teacher needs that are consistent with their beliefs, values, and knowledge (Polly et al., 2011). Sustainability of teacher-directed learning must include building teacher’s capacity for growth-minded continuous improvement (Shurr et al., 2014).
Research demonstrates that learner-centered PD, often includes the use of coaching and mentoring to support educators as they use evidence-based practice to support their classrooms (Jimenez & Barron, 2019). Allowing teachers to self-identify their own professional learning goals provides opportunity for teacher “buy-in” and increased implementation fidelity of research and evidence-based practice. Research has also shown that teachers who participate in a rigorous ongoing mentoring/coaching program show significant growth in implementation of fidelity, sustainability, and generalization of their identified professional learning goals. As part of the coaching/mentoring cycle, teachers often demonstrate greater approximation of identification of future goals appropriate for their current teaching capacity. Additionally, teachers who are supported to identify and implement their own learning goals demonstrate greater leadership skills to self-monitor (finding evidence-based resources to support learning, self-questioning, and teacher-leadership within their school to support peers).