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IES Grant

Title: SEALS II Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success across the Middle School Years
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Farmer, Thomas Awardee: The College of William and Mary
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 Years (7/1/2014-6/30/2017) Award Amount: $1,497,389
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A160398

Co-Principal Investigators: Jill Hamm (University of North Carolina Chapel Hill) and David Lee (The Pennsylvania State University)

Previous Award: R305A140434

Previous Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University

Purpose: As children become adolescents, they experience a range of academic, behavioral, emotional, and social challenges that if negotiated unsuccessfully may negatively impact their school adjustment and constrain their future educational goals and outcomes. During the middle school years, instructional practices, classroom management approaches, and peer group processes impact whether students remain engaged in school and develop productive roles and relationships that promote their educational attainment. Reflecting person-environment fit and developmental synthesis perspectives, the original Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success (SEALS) professional development model was developed through the work of the IES-funded National Research Center on Rural Education Support as the Rural Early Adolescent Learning Program - REAL. This model is intended to be responsive to the holistic nature of adolescent development and to address the interrelated aspects of the academic, behavioral, and social context of the classroom ecology. The original SEALS model is currently being evaluated for efficacy in 6th grade classrooms in an IES-funded Efficacy and Replication study. Results of these two prior studies indicate that the model has positive impacts for teachers and students in 6th grade classrooms. Building from the original SEALS universal program designed to support students during the transitional year of 6th grade, this study has two aims: to extend the SEALS program to 7th and 8th grades; and to build on the SEALS professional development framework to develop a more targeted intervention consultation model to help teachers address the needs of struggling students and support the management of classrooms with low-levels of instructional engagement and high levels of disruptive behaviors.

Project Activities: In the first two years of the project, researchers will adapt core components of SEALS through focus groups and surveys with key stakeholders to build new content for 7th and 8th grade and test these components with individual teachers and their students. In the final year of the project, they will conduct a random assignment study with teams of 7th and 8th grade teachers assigned to intervention or control to determine impact on key teacher and student outcomes.

Products: The products of this project will include the Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success (SEALS) II program, a professional development and consultation model to support teachers in their efforts to create classroom contexts that promote the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral adjustment of all students in middle school (6th, 7th and 8th grades). The project will also provide evidence of usability, feasibility and fidelity of implementation of the SEALS II program as well as evidence of promise for improving teacher practices that support improved student academic, social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes. The project will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This research will be conducted in middle schools in Virginia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania in a range of communities/districts including large metropolitan, suburban fringe of large metropolitan, and a suburban/rural area.

Sample: The research team will focus on students and teachers in 7th and 8th grades. For development activities, teachers, students, and parents will participate in focus groups (12-16 participants per group) and all consenting teachers from four schools will respond to surveys. Four of these teachers will implement initial SEALS II content as part of these development activities, and an additional classroom-level pilot test will involve eight teachers and their consenting students. For the final team-level pilot test of promise, approximately 32 teachers and 400 students will participate.

Intervention: SEALS II will have five components (modified from the original version to meet the developmental needs of 7th and 8th graders): Academic Engagement Enhancement — strategies to help students be prepared, organized and engaged; Competence Enhancement Behavior Management — structuring activities to support productive academic and social behaviors and using problem situations to teach new behaviors, skills, and competencies; Social Dynamics Management — promoting teachers' awareness of students' social roles and social networks to foster students' productive academic engagement and prosocial behaviors; Early Adolescent Development — information about psychophysiological and neurodevelopmental processes that impact students' learning; and Directed Consultation — professional development on evidence-based strategies that can be incorporated into instructional and classroom management activities. The Directed Consultation framework involves pre-intervention classroom observations and interviews with school professionals (teachers, related services providers, administrators); summer institutes or workshops; online training modules; and team- and individual-level consultation meetings. A new component, the Scouting Report Protocol will be developed to extend beyond universal strategies to provide school professionals with information to guide interventions already available in the school and tailor them to specific concerns.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use a multi-stage iterative design with each stage informing the activities of subsequent stages. In Stage 1, stakeholders' views of classroom context support needs in 7th and 8th grades will be gathered. During Stage 2, the research team will develop and refine individual SEALS II components. In Stage 3, the team will carry out classroom-level piloting, refinement, and manualization of the complete SEALS II model. During Stage 4, researchers will implement a team-level pilot study and finalize the SEALS II model. Research methods will include focus groups in the first two stages. Survey, observational, and school data will be collected in all stages. A randomized control trial will be conducted with randomization by teams within schools in Stage 4.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students receive standard classroom practices in place at the school.

Key Measures: Implementation is measured using the SEALS Observation Scale, the Teacher Observation of the Management of Behavior and Academics (TOMBA), and Social Validity Scales. Student measures include the Psychological Sense of School Membership-Brief (PSSM-B) scale, Social Cognitive Maps-Student and Teacher (SCM-S and SCM-T), Peer Behavioral Assessments, School Valuing, Interpersonal Competence Scale-Teacher (ICS-T), and school record data (end of year academic grades, standardized academic achievement scores on state-level tests, absences, discipline referrals, suspensions, expulsions, and special education status). Teachers will also complete the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale.

Data Analytic Strategy: For the initial development of the SEALS II model, transcripts from focus groups will be analyzed and coded into themes that will then be used to create items for the surveys. Descriptive statistics will be used to analyze the results of the surveys. For the randomized control trial, researchers will use hierarchical linear modeling procedures for cluster randomized controlled trial designs.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Chen, C. C., Hamm, J.V., Farmer, T.W., Lambert, K., and Mehtaji, M. (2015). Exceptionality and Peer Victimization Involvement in Late Childhood: Subtypes, Stability, and Social Marginalization. Remedial and Special Education, 36(5): 312–324.

Dawes, M. (2017). Early Adolescents' Social Goals and School Adjustment. Social Psychology of Education, 20(2), 299–328.

Dawes, M., Chen, C.C., Farmer, T.W., and Hamm, J.V. (2017). Self- and Peer-Identified Victims in Late Childhood: Differences in Perceptions of the School Ecology. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46(11), 2273–2288.

Dawes, M., Chen, C.C., Zumbrunn, S.K., Mehtaji, M., Farmer, T.W., and Hamm, J.V. (2017). Teacher Attunement to Peer-Nominated Aggressors. Aggressive Behavior, 43(3), 263–272.

Farmer, T.W., Chen, C.C., Hamm, J.V., Moates, M.M., Mehtaji, M., Lee, D., and Huneke, M.R. (2016). Supporting Teachers' Management of Middle School Social Dynamics: The Scouting Report Process. Intervention in School and Clinic, 52(2), 67–76.

Farmer, T.W., Dawes, M., Hamm, J.V., Lee, D., Mehtaji, M., Hoffman, A.S., and Brooks, D.S. (2017). Classroom Social Dynamics Management: Why the Invisible Hand of the Teacher Matters for Special Education. Remedial and Special Education, 0741932517718359.

Farmer, T.W., Gatzke-Kopp, L.M., Lee, D.L., Dawes, M., and Talbott, E. (2016). Research and Policy on Disability: Linking Special Education to Developmental Science. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1), 138–145.

Farmer, T.W., Sutherland, K.S., Talbott, E., Brooks, D.., Norwalk, K., and Huneke, M. (2016). Special Educators as Intervention Specialists: Dynamic Systems and the Complexity of Intensifying Intervention for Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 24(3), 173–186.

Farmer, T.W., Talbott, B., Dawes, M., Huber, H.B., Brooks, D.S., and Powers, E. E. (2018). Social Dynamics Management: What Is It and Why Is It Important for Intervention?. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 26(1), 3–10.

Farmer, T.W., Wike, T.L., Alexander, Q.R., Rodkin, P.C., and Mehtaji, M. (2015). Students with Disabilities and Involvement in Peer Victimization: Theory, Research, and Considerations for the Future. Remedial and Special Education, 36(5): 263–274.