Lauren W. Collins, SPED Assistant Professor

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Lauren Collins
“There are many effective practices that special education teachers need to know, but by focusing on just a few at first, they can build fluency and add more practices over the course of their career.”
Hometown:

Virginia Beach, VA

Department:

Special Education

Degree:

PhD Special Education, Old Dominion University; MT Special Education, University of Virginia; BA Psychology, University of Virginia

What is your position at the COE?
I teach in the Exceptional Students and Elementary Education (ESEE) program, and I am the Special Education coordinator for the Master of Education Literacy Specialist program. 

What are you areas of research?
My focus is on the research to practice gap in special education, specifically in the field of emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). My work is focused around improving the social, behavioral, and academic outcomes of this population. My areas of interest include the connection between literacy and social and behavioral outcomes for students with EBD, defining evidence-based practices, and identifying effective methods to translate research into practice.

How did you become interested in the field of special education?
When I was an undergraduate, I volunteered at a residential rehabilitation center for veterans with traumatic brain injuries. I quickly became interested in helping individuals with disabilities, so I decided to pursue a career as a special education teacher. I was initially interested in teaching high school, but I ultimately found my niche teaching special education at the elementary level. I found a true passion for teaching students with disabilities to read and for developing supports for students with challenging behaviors.

Has the COE helped to shape or shift your focus? 
The ESEE and MEd SPED Literacy Specialist programs are run in collaboration with other COE programs that are focused on general education teacher preparation. Working with colleagues across these departments has been invaluable. Through this experience, I have gained tremendous insight into the curricular demands and pedagogical approaches in general education, which has greatly informed my teaching and my research.

You recently guest edited a special issue of TEACHING Exceptional Children (TEC). Briefly explain the content.
This issue is focused on supporting new special education teachers. The induction years are particularly challenging in this profession, and there is an incredibly high rate of attrition. The purpose of this issue is to provide a resource that new special education teachers can use to navigate through the beginning years of their career. There are many effective practices that special education teachers need to know, but by focusing on just a few at first, they can build fluency and add more practices over the course of their career. It is our hope that this will be a lasting and “go-to” resource for special education teachers over the course of their careers.

How was the special issue selected for publication in this highly regarded journal?
This special issue of TEC was selected after we submitted a proposal to the editor of the journal. As guest editors, it was our job to work closely with authors so that there would be cohesion across all of the articles. Even though it was a special issue, all of the manuscripts had to be accepted through the traditional blind, peer-review process used by TEC.

I feel very fortunate because this entire process was truly a collaborative effort and an excellent example of mentorship. I was the guest co-editor of the issue with my friend and colleague, Dr. Chris Sweigart. He conceptualized the issue, and we worked together to fine-tune the details and identify the topics we wanted to include. However, Chris and I are both junior scholars and had never guest-edited a special issue before. We were extremely fortunate to work very closely with our mentors, Dr. Tim Landrum and Dr. Bryan Cook, who were instrumental in bringing this idea to fruition. Bryan and Tim worked behind the scenes to teach us the ins and outs of editing a special issue. They supported us through every step of the process and gave us feedback on our editorial work for each manuscript, which made this process an incredibly valuable learning experience.

What’s next?
I look forward to building more relationships with teachers and schools in Hawai‛i. I am excited about continuing my work in identifying evidence-based practices and exploring dissemination in novel ways that are useful for teachers.