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Institute of Education Sciences

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IES Contract

Title: Hall Of Heroes: An Interactive Social Tutoring System To Improve And Measure Social Goals For Students In Preparation For Transition To Middle School
Center: NCER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: DeRosier, Melissa Awardee: 3-C Institute for Social Development
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $899,983
Award Number: EDIES13C0041

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: A growing body of research underscores the need to prepare students socially—as much as academically—to ensure a successful transition to middle school and foster subsequent academic success. Recognition of how social and academic functioning are intertwined has led to the inclusion of social goals in many Individualized Education Plans, Student Support Team strategies, and overall school improvement plans. However, student outcomes are often more modest than desired when social interventions are delivered in formal school settings. The purpose of this project is to develop a social learning game with the ability to match and adapt the intervention to the social skill training needs of individual fifth grade students who are transitioning to middle school.

Project Activities: During Phase I in 2012, key product components (e.g., software engine, user interface, speech capabilities, avatar builder, and performance tracking) were prototyped and researched with 20 fifth grade students and four teachers. The team learned that it was feasible to implement in school settings. In Phase II, the researchers will refine the key components, further design the instructional social problem-solving units, and design teacher support materials. This development work will be performed iteratively, with feedback from students and teachers informing refinements. After development is complete, the team will conduct a pilot study to assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the game for promoting students' social skills and reducing negative behaviors. The researchers will collect data from 250 students in 10 classrooms in 5 schools over 2 months. One of the two classrooms per school will be randomly assigned to use the product to supplement standard classroom instruction while the other half will continue with normal practices. Teacher-ratings and student social skill outcome measures will be collected before and after implementation.

Product: Hall of Heroes will be a web-based game for fifth graders to engage with pedagogical agents (animated life-like characters) to solve tailored social problem solving tasks and build social skills to use in challenging situations. Instructional content will focus on six core Social Skill Units (Cooperation, Communication, Emotion Regulation, Empathy, Impulse Control, and Social Initiation) based on social learning research supporting the critical value of these skills for building and maintaining positive social interactions. Student performance will be continually monitored by the software so that the difficulty of the tasks can be adjusted, providing a scaffold for learning. All student interactions with the software will be tracked to calculate performance indices for each unit, as well as overall social skills levels and learning trends for specific social goals. The game will also include an implementation and reporting dashboard for teachers.