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IES Grant

Title: Pathways to Success: Developing a Teacher-Led, Teacher-Trained School-to-Jobs Intervention to Improve School Attendance and Academic Achievement
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Oyserman, Daphna Awardee: University of Southern California
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 Years (7/1/2014-6/30/2018) Award Amount: $1,500,000
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A140281

Co-Principal Investigator: Sorensen, Nicholas

Purpose: This development study addressed two challenges: high school failure and the need to transform theory- and evidence-based dropout prevention programs into usable, feasible, scalable school-based programs to reduce risk of school failure. School-to-Jobs (STJ) is an intervention rooted in identity-based motivation theory, which predicts that to do well in school, children need to experience the present as psychologically connected to their future self, and interpret difficulties in school as signaling the importance of school to attaining their future self. In prior research, STJ has been shown to be effective in improving critical predictors of on-time graduation such as attendance, core course performance, and effort in school at the end of 8th grade. These effects sustained into 9th grade, with effects growing over time. In this study, the goal was to develop a new training model for STJ, now called Pathways-to-Success (Pathways), which transitions it from an external-trainer model to a teacher-led, teacher-trained model to facilitate usability, feasibility, and ultimately scalability in schools.

Project Activities: In Year 1, the research team trained teachers using the original STJ training model and gathered feedback to inform revisions that would allow training and implementation to occur without external support. In Year 2, the research team worked with a second cohort of teachers to test the model's usability and feasibility with a hybrid training model. In Year 3, the research team worked with a third cohort of teachers to test the model's usability and feasibility with a fully peer-trained model. The researchers examined natural variations in implementation fidelity as predictors of student outcomes to determine the promise of the teacher-led, teacher-trained Pathways program for improving student achievement.

Key Outcomes: Additional information about key outcomes and study findings will be reported when peer reviewed publications are available.

  • The training model helps teachers train one another to implement Pathways-to-Success, a social-cognitive intervention that fosters school-focused identity-based motivation in 8th grade students. The researchers received an IES grant to test the efficacy of this train-the-trainer model in 2018.
  • It is feasible for teachers to implement Pathways with fidelity in their classrooms.
  • The project team developed a machine-coding algorithm for coding open-ended responses about possible identities, a key aspect of identity-based motivation.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study took place in Chicago.

Sample: The sample consisted of the 8th grade teachers in 10 K–8 schools in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district, a total of 28 teachers, representing 40 8th-grade homerooms and 1,142 students. Students were mostly (87 percent) from low-income families and most students were Latinx (64 percent) or African American (20 percent).

Intervention: Pathways-to-Success focuses on making the future feel close and relevant to school and on changing the meaning children make of their experienced difficulty in school by helping them see these experiences as normative and as signaling task importance rather than task impossibility. Pathways consists of 12 sessions delivered during home room twice-weekly in the beginning of the 8th-grade school year. The proximal goal of Pathways is to create school contexts that facilitate sustained engagement in schoolwork as a means of attaining future-self goals. In each Pathways session, children engage in activities to (1) link images of their future adult self with school success, (2) make school success and strategies (e.g., studying) feel congruent with important social identities (e.g., race-ethnicity, gender, social class), and (3) help students avoid misinterpreting experienced difficulties while working on or thinking about schoolwork or school identities as meaning that a positive school-identity is impossible for them to attain. In its original form, the intervention was implemented by two external trainers (undergraduate students or people with an undergraduate degree living in the city of Detroit).

Research Design and Methods: Through three rapid development cycles — each with a unique cohort of teachers — the research team refined the training, implementation manual, and materials so that they are usable and feasible for homeroom teachers to implement after being trained by fellow teachers. Prior to the first development cycle, the researchers tailored existing materials to a single-teacher (versus two external trainers) model and updated other content using new media. In Year 1, the researchers trained eight teachers in three schools to implement Pathways using the original external-trainer manual and materials. Observed fidelity of implementation and receipt and teacher feedback were used to revise implementation and training manuals for a second development cycle in three new schools. In Year 2, the training was led by the two highest fidelity teachers from Year 1 with support from the PI. In both Years 1 and 2, the researchers assessed fidelity, usability, and feasibility as they revised training and implementation manuals and materials to reduce ambiguity. In Year 3, teachers from four new schools were trained by the four highest fidelity teachers delivering Pathways in Year 2. In addition to assessing fidelity, the researchers assessed students' school-focused identity-based motivation, social-emotional self-regulation, responsible decision making, and academic outcomes (grade point average and risk of course failure) to determine whether fidelity was associated with student outcomes.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there was no control condition.

Key Measures: Students' school-focused identity-based motivation (school-focused possible selves and strategies to attain them, difficulty-as-importance and difficulty-as-impossibility mindset scores) was assessed using researcher-developed measures previously used to assess these constructs. Social-emotional self-regulatory competency and responsible decision-making were assessed using previously validated measures. Academic performance was assessed using grade-point average and course failures.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative data was independently double-coded and inter-rater agreement assessed. The researchers used descriptive analyses to assess fidelity. The researchers used multilevel modeling to test the effect of classroom norms and individual beliefs on students' school-focused identity-based motivation. The researchers used structural equation modeling to see if implementation fidelity predicted student academic risk, social-emotional competency, and responsible decision-making across the three development cycles.

Related IES Projects: Pathways to Success in the Transition to High School: Testing Efficacy for Improving 8th and 9th Grade Academic Outcomes (R305A180308)

Publications and Products

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Horowitz, E., Oyserman, D., Dehghani, M. & Sorensen, N. (2020). Do you need a roadmap or can someone give you directions: When school-focused possible identities change so do academic trajectories. Journal of Adolescence 79, 26–38.

Horowitz, E., Sorensen, N., Yoder, N., & Oyserman, D. (2018). Teachers can do it: Scalable identity-based motivation intervention in the classroom. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 54, 12–28.

Oyserman, D., & Lewis Jr, N.A. (2017). Seeing the destination AND the path: Using identity-based motivation to understand and reduce racial disparities in academic achievement. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), 159–194.