1. Assisting Teachers in Understanding Assistive Technology: What Recent Research Says
  2. Introducing the Assistive Technology Blog Series
  3. Preparing Pre-Service Educators to Make AT Decisions
  4. 3 Key Questions When Considering Assistive Technology
  5. Data Tools to Inform AT for Reading and Writing
  6. Supporting Online Reading Using Assistive Technology
  7. FOCUS To-Do Increases Time Management Skills in Pre-Service Teachers
  8. Assistive Technology Solutions to Support Math
  9. Behavior and Burnout? Values-Based Practice Using ACTCompanion
Human hands using a mobile app with an interface showing dashboards and texts

Behavior and Burnout? Values-Based Practice Using ACTCompanion

Authors: Brian Grace; info@ciddl.org

The nationwide teacher shortage continues to compound challenges in the landscape for pre-service and in-service teachers.  The constant change can make us think things like “I can’t wait to get to work with limited resources, updated requirements, and … Brian just ripped up the third worksheet I gave him today while yelling profanity.” This feeling is an opportunity for teachers to relate to their students who, like Brian, engage in maladaptive behavior as their environment changes. 

For teachers, the challenging behavior is burnout, dropout, and discontentment rather than overturning desks or throwing that computer from 1996 across the room (hopefully). While a seasoned teacher may be able to identify a solution to assist Brian in completing his worksheet, the effort to address the environment contributing to burnout is a task that seems overwhelming by comparison. Besides swapping war stories with teachers and friends during off-hours while enjoying an adult beverage, what additional supports can we connect teachers with to produce resilience, discernment, and flexibility? In this blog, we introduce an app that can be used as an assistive technology (AT) to support students and students in coping with challenging behaviors.

Introducing ACTcompanion: The Happiness Trap App

ACTcompanion is an application available on AppStore or Google Play that leverages the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to promote psychological and behavioral flexibility. ACT is a form of cognitive behavior therapy that focuses on exploring values, unhooking from feelings and thoughts that result in changes in the environment that bring us further from those values. Berrick Psychology, in collaboration with Dr. Russ Harris, developed the app as a supplemental resource to his best-selling book The Happiness Trap. The app supports the use of ACT exercises, self-monitoring, and debriefing validated by over 850 studies.

Exercises

ACT exercises focus on opening up and exploring what matters using guided visualization, questions, and other experiential activities. The exercises are simple, effective, and interactive (see images below). Sarggison and colleagues (2019) found that completing one exercise per day can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and significantly improve mood.

Self-Monitoring

The ACTometer is designed to display progress and serve as a check-in with the user to evaluate progress. Identifying and tracking progress over time helps teachers notice meaningful changes.

Debriefing

The Debriefing tool with ACTCompanion is an excellent resource for unpacking difficult situations. This resource guides the learner through being present, opening up, and focusing on what matters most in a given situation for when life happens.

Can I use ACTcompanion with my students?

Yes.

The processes within ACT are used in clinical psychology, applied behavior analysis, counseling, education, and coaching. The application is currently being used at the University of Central Florida in an executive function coaching program for post-secondary students with disabilities. Students are provided with the app as an option to increase their goal-oriented behavior and their progress is recorded week-to-week. In addition, the exercises can be used and adapted for group settings with the use of a Bluetooth speaker for guided exercises. 

Application in Teacher Preparation

The ACTcompanion is a great AT tool to increase psychological flexibility and goal-oriented behavior. We’ve covered some neat features of this tool, but we’d like to hear from you. What are some ways you support resilience and flexibility in your teacher candidates? Are there other similar apps or technologies used in your teacher preparation programs? Join the CIDDL community and keep the conversation going!