University of Minnesota Research Study


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Study Name: The Effects of a Competency Based Training Intervention for Direct Support Professionals on Site Level Organizational Outcomes, Learner Outcomes and Service Recipient Outcomes

Short name: “Comprehensive Training Study”

Description and Purpose of the Study:

This study was conducted at the University of Minnesota’s Research and Training Center on Community Living (UMN/RTC). It was funded by the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education grant number Education #H133G080029.

This study was a five-year longitudinal randomized control study that looked at the effects of a site-level (day training and habilitation (DTH) program – included employment- and non-employment services or residential program) intervention on organizations, sites, learners and the people who receive services from these organizations.  The intervention used in this study included a one-year training intervention that utilized on-line training modules from the College of Direct Support (35 lessons organized into 6 modules and delivered over 12 months) delivered to direct support professionals and their supervisors, standardized assessments, supervisor mentoring and on-the-job observations, group discussions about the specific competencies being learned in each module and the provision of technical assistance (organizational readiness assessment, three-day 10 hour implementation assistance) to the organizations participating in the study.

The training delivered to DSPs was aligned with desired outcomes of the people with IDD being served in the organization. These included:


Direct Support Professional : Content Individual with Disability: Outcomes
Professionalism Satisfaction with Staff
Community InclusionPerson Centered Planning Community Inclusion
Individual Rights and ChoiceCivil Rights and Advocacy Choices & Rights
Safety at Home and in the CommunitySupporting Healthy LivesPersonal Care Health & Safety
You’ve Got a Friend Friends & Family
Employment SupportsHome and Community LivingPersonal Care Work, Day, and Home

Data was collected through a variety of means including:

–     Site level survey:

Workforce outcomes, salary, incident reports

–     Supervisor assessment of DSP skills:

6 skill scales focused on specific competency areas

DSPism, inclusion, rights/choice, home/work, safety/health, overall

–     DSP survey:

DSP perception of organization, plans for future work, intent to stay at org, demographics

–     DSP training data:

Information on training completion, time spent, test scores.

–     Individual with disability in person survey:

National Core Indicators – 140 indicators

–     Interviews with agency administrator

–     Focus groups with DSP learners


Who Participated in This Study?

Organizations/Sites – To be included in the study organizations needed to have multiple sites within their organization and DSPs could not work across sites. The sites could not have ever used the specific training program strategies we were using (CDS) and they had to agree to accept and participate fully in our technical assistance which included agreeing to invest staff time to ensure effective implementation and data collection. Initially 15 organizations agreed to participate and gathered baseline data. Of these initial 15 organizations, only 11 fully participated in the implementation of the intervention.

Direct Support Professionals – There were a total of 854 Direct Support Professionals who participated in the study. Of these 53% were in the group that received the intervention; 33% worked in the Twin Cities metropolitan areas, 39% worked in other metropolitan areas in Minnesota and 39% worked in rural areas.  Most of the DSP participants worked in residential services (69%) and 31% worked in DTH.  Of the DSPs who participated, 76% were female and 23% were male; these individuals had an average of 49 months on the job in the organization.

Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities – There were a total of 333 people with IDD who participated in the study. Of this group 64% received residential services and 36% received services from the DTH providers who participated in the study. Demographically 50% were female and 88% were White, non-Hispanic. The group was mixed with regard to their support needs.

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