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IES Grant

Title: A Randomized Pilot Study of Brief Intervention Group Support (BIGS): A Tier 2 Intervention for Students with Social-Emotional and Behavioral (SEB) Concerns
Center: NCSER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Demaray, Michelle Awardee: Northern Illinois University
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (07/01/2023 – 06/30/2025) Award Amount: $798,806
Type: Development and Innovation, Pilot Only Award Number: R324A230183

Co-Principal Investigators: Malecki, Christine; DiPerna, James

Purpose: This purpose of this project is to conduct a pilot study to test the potential efficacy of Brief Intervention Group Support (BIGS), a broad Tier 2 intervention for students with elevated social, emotional, and behavioral (SEB) concerns at risk for emotional and behavioral disabilities. Within a multi-tiered systems of support framework, Tier 2 interventions are provided to at-risk students who need additional intervention, beyond Tier 1 instruction. However, many such interventions are for specific student challenges, which is not an efficient model when problems are complex and schools have limited resources. BIGS was developed as a feasible and efficient way to address a wider range of student SEB needs. Although BIGS received initial positive feedback from stakeholders, its promise for improving student outcomes has not been tested. As such, this project aims to (a) evaluate the promise of the fully developed BIGS intervention for improving the social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes of students at risk for disabilities and (b) examine key aspects of BIGS implementation including feasibility, social validity, fidelity, and costs.

Project Activities: The research team will conduct a randomized controlled trial with fourth and fifth grade students with elevated SEB concerns to pilot test the effect of BIGS on student short- and long-term social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes. The study will also assess fidelity, feasibility, social validity, and costs of BIGS implementation.

Products: The products of this project will include knowledge of whether BIGS has the potential to yield meaningful, positive outcomes for students with elevated SEB concerns. The project will also result in peer-reviewed publications and presentations as well as additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The project will take place in elementary schools in an urban public school district in Illinois with student populations that are ethnically, culturally, socioeconomically, and linguistically diverse.

Sample: Approximately 320 fourth and fifth grade students with elevated SEB concerns at risk for emotional and behavioral disabilities across 10 elementary schools will participate in this study. Within each school, two support staff (such as a s school psychologist or counselor) will be trained as intervention facilitators.

Intervention: BIGS is a Tier 2 intervention for students with elevated SEB concerns designed to be implemented in small groups by trained school support staff. BIGS takes place across 12 sessions (one per week), with each session lasting approximately 30-45 minutes and featuring an evidence-based, six-phase instructional approach (Tell, Show, Do, Practice, Monitor Progress, and Generalize). Across the sessions, students learn three foundational behavior routines (stress management, social support empowerment, and setting goals for improving social-emotional and behavioral skills).

Research Design and Methods: Using a randomized controlled trial design, fourth and fifth grade students identified with SEB concerns will be randomly assigned, within grade level, to either the BIGS condition or a business-as-usual (BAU) comparison condition. Intervention facilitators in each school will complete a 2-day training. Measures of student outcomes will be collected pre- and post-intervention and reflect multiple stakeholder perspectives. Analyses of the collected data will test the promise of the intervention for improving social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes and examine key aspects of implementation, including fidelity, feasibility, social validity, and costs.

Control Condition: Students in the BAU comparison condition will participate in each school's existing Tier 2 interventions and supports for students with elevated SEB concerns.

Key Measures: The Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) Social-Emotional Learning Brief + Mental Health Scales will be used to identify students who are eligible to participate in theBIGS project. Social emotional learning outcomes will be measured through teacher and student report on the SSIS SEL Edition Rating Scales, SSIS Problem Behavior Scales, and Health and Stress Experiences Report. Teachers alsowill report on academic competence using selected subscales from the Academic Competence Evaluation Scales. Students will complete aBIGS knowledge and use inventory and report perceived social support with selected subscales ofthe Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale. At the end of theschool year, teachers will report on student educational status (including grade promotion, eligibility for special education services, and plans for future SEB services). Data will also be collected on the intervention's fidelity (direct observation and facilitator implementation logs), feasibility (implementation logs, end-of program questionnaires, and focus groups), and social validity (student questionnaire).

Data Analytic Strategy: To evaluate the promise of BIGS, regression models will be used to estimate the treatment effect on each of the student outcome variables while controlling for covariates (including demographic variables, grade level, school characteristics, and other variables that show nonequivalence at baseline). Descriptive analyses of ratings and qualitative coding of open-ended questionnaire responses will be used to understand implementer and student experiences, perspectives, and opinions of the program to examine key aspects of BIGS implementation including fidelity, feasibility, and social validity.

Cost Analysis: All costs (personnel, time, training, and materials) associated with BIGS implementation will be documented. Facilitator time spent in training, session preparation, and session implementation will be collected via online questionnaires, implementation logs, and observations, and then transformed into monetary costs based on district salary data. Costs for BIGS materials and the facilitator training will be determined from project expense records. Project staff time devoted to providing feedback to facilitators will be recorded and transformed into monetary costs as well. Costs per school will be calculated to provide schools with insights into the costs and resources necessary for implementing BIGS.