Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education

Committee Chair

Simmons, Thomas J.

Author's Keywords

Workforce development; Direct support professionals; Adult learning; Competencies


Mental health facilities--Employees--Rating of; Medical personnel--Rating of


There is a growing shortage of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. This shortage is at a crisis now and will continue to become more of a crisis unless changes are made. This is a crisis for many community employers and even more of a crisis for the people with disabilities who are faced with constant turnover and the discontinuity created by the withdrawal, gaps in services, and introduction of new people who are likely to leave the position during the first year of employment (Larson & Hewitt, 2005). High turnover, vacancy rates and inadequate staff development are extremely costly to agencies. More important and less easily measured are the hardships these factors create for people who are the intended service recipients. The recruitment and retention of qualified DSPs is of critical concern due to the increasing demand. This staffing demand is partly fueled by aging caregivers and the increased lifespan of persons with disabilities. At the very time that demand for staffing is increasing, so is staff turnover. This research was designed to assess and compare Direct Support Professionals' (DSPs) and DSP supervisors' perceptions of what DSPs know about and how they value a set of fifteen competencies. This set of competencies is called the Community Support Skill Standards (CSSS), developed for the DSPs (Taylor, Bradley & Warren 1996). The CSSS has become the accepted standards in the field, having gained adoption by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). Further, this research was designed to determine if age, gender, ethnicity, training, and years of experience predict DSPs' knowledge or value of the competencies. One hundred nine DSPs and ninety supervisors completed a scalar survey instrument. The DSPs consistently rated their knowledge and value of the competencies higher than did supervisors. Both DSPs and supervisors rated value for the competencies higher than knowledge of the competencies. The largest differences between the knowledge perception between DSPs and supervisors were the competencies of (a) Vocational, Education, and Career Support, (b) Education, Training, and Self-development, and (c) Facilitation of Services. Regarding the value placed on the fifteen competencies, DSPs and supervisors reported the strongest differences of (a) Facilitation of Services, (b) Vocational, Education, and Career Support, and (c) Participant Empowerment. A linear relationship exists between total DSP knowledge and value scores and certain demographic data, most notably, education, which predicts less knowledge and less value the higher the education level.