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IES Grant

Title: Development of I Control: An Executive Function Based Intervention to Foster Self-Regulation and Improve Social/emotional Outcomes for Middle School Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Center: NCSER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Smith, Stephen Awardee: University of Florida
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5/15/11–8/14/14 Award Amount: $1,487,494
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A110182

Purpose: Students who exhibit significant and chronic behavioral problems and are consequently placed in special education programs for emotional and behavioral disorders are typically the most difficult to teach and manage in the classroom setting. Behavior management strategies, such as contingent reinforcement and behavior reduction procedures, are common classroom practices to address student behavior. However, these practices do not adequately address student self-regulatory skills, which have been shown to play an important role in social-emotional functioning. The research team will develop and pilot test I Control, an intervention for middle school students with emotional and behavioral disorders that targets self-regulatory mechanisms collectively known as executive functioning skills (e.g., inhibition of impulses, maintaining information in working memory). These self-regulatory skills are important for goal setting, emotion regulation, and problem solving, which in turn contribute to students' social competence.

Project Activities: The project involves three phases, including development of the intervention materials and procedures, feasibility testing, and a pilot test of the program to determine its promise for improving educational outcomes. A collaborative implementation team comprised of members of the research team, a special education teacher, and one other school professional (e.g., school psychologist, assistant principal) will be used to continually review, critique, and revise the intervention. This iterative development process includes implementing the I Control lessons in self-contained classrooms for students with emotional and behavioral disorders and refining them based on feedback and observations of lesson delivery. The pilot study will examine the promise of the intervention with regard to the overall impact on student executive functioning skills, student knowledge and application of I Control concepts, academic performance, and teacher- and peer-rated student behavior.

Products: Products from this project include a fully developed version of I Control, data on the feasibility of the intervention with students and teachers in middle school self-contained classrooms, and evidence of the potential impact of I Control on student behavior and academic outcomes. Additionally, there will be published reports and presentations on the project.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The project will take place in middle schools from two counties in north central Florida.

Population: Students in grades 6 to 8 in self-contained classrooms for students with emotional and behavioral disorders, and their teachers, will participate in this project.

Intervention: I Control will include two units of instruction consisting of a total of approximately 36 lessons, each devoted to a specific self-regulatory skill. It is anticipated that each lesson may require several sessions to complete, thus exposure to the curriculum will likely extend throughout the academic year. Teachers, with support from project staff, will conduct I Control lessons at least three times per week for approximately 30–45 minutes per session.

The two units will correspond to "hot" (more affective) and "cool" (more cognitive) executive functioning skills. The "hot" unit, focused on self-awareness training, will include such skills as (a) inhibiting responses, (b) problem identification and labeling, (c) linking goals with motivation, (d) schema clarification, and (e) emotion recognition. The "cool" unit, focused on reflection, will include such skills as (a) metacognitive monitoring and strategy shifting, (b) error correction, and (c) evaluating progress toward specific goals. Lessons will progress from a focus on "hot" to "cool" executive functioning processes. All I Control lessons will foster skills that contribute to the interrelated processes of emotion regulation, goal setting, and problem solving, but each unit will focus on specific executive functioning skills.

Research Design and Methods: A continuous, iterative, mixed-methods research design involving observations and feedback from multiple stakeholders will be used to develop and refine the I Control lessons during the first two years of the project. For the pilot study, 12 classrooms of approximately 8 students each will be randomized to the treatment or comparison condition. The pilot study will test the promise of the program, examining the overall impact on student executive functioning skills, student knowledge and application of I Control concepts, academic performance, and teacher- and peer-rated student behavior.

Control Condition: The comparison condition for the pilot study is a business-as-usual condition. Students in this group will receive the instruction and services that are typically provided in their self-contained classrooms.

Key Measures: Key measures include several outcome measures to assess student executive functioning skills (direct assessments and teacher ratings of skills), curriculum-based assessment of student knowledge and application of I Control concepts, teacher ratings of academic performance, and teacher and peer ratings of student behavior.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative and quantitative (analysis of covariance) analyses will be conducted on the implementation and outcome data to demonstrate feasibility and promise.