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IES Grant

Title: Effectiveness Study of Tools for Getting Along: Teaching Students to Problem Solve
Center: NCSER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Sumi, W. Carl Awardee: SRI International
Program: Social and Behavioral Outcomes to Support Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (9/1/2016-8/31/2021) Award Amount: $3,942,177
Goal: Effectiveness Award Number: R324A160010
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Michelle Woodbridge; Stephen W. Smith and Ann Daunic (University of Florida)

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to examine the effectiveness of the Tools for Getting Along (TFGA) intervention designed to help upper elementary school teachers (Grades 4-5) establish a positive, cooperative classroom atmosphere and enable students to become more self-reliant, effective, and proactive problem solvers as they encounter social challenges. Prior evaluations of TFGA indicated students who were taught TFGA had a more positive approach to problem solving and a more rational problem-solving style than comparison students. Students with more behavioral needs seemed to benefit the most, including improvements on problem-solving knowledge, behavior regulation, proactive aggression, and self-reported feelings and expression of anger. The purpose of this effectiveness trial is to examine TFGA under a wider range of conditions than in prior research (e.g., more states, diverse districts), under routine conditions in school settings, and with the evaluation conducted by an evaluation team that is independent of the intervention developer.

Project Activities: In Years 1–3 of the study, 60 schools will be recruited into two cohorts (30 schools per cohort). Schools will be randomly assigned to the TFGA intervention condition or business-as-usual comparison condition. Within each school, fourth-grade teachers and their students will participate. TFGA will be implemented over approximately 4- 5 months, and data collection will be completed prior to the intervention, immediately afterwards, and at a 1-year follow up to examine the effectiveness of the intervention as well as key variables that may moderate (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, language, special education status) and/or mediate (e.g., emotional regulation, social problem-solving skills, contextualized executive function) intervention effects and long-term impacts of TFGA.

Products: This project will produce evidence of the effectiveness of the TFGA intervention for improving student behavior and academic performance; data on the factors that mediate and moderate the effects of TFGA on student outcomes; and peer reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in elementary schools across multiple districts in California, Florida, and Illinois.

Sample: A total of 60 elementary schools will participate. Within each school, approximately 240 fourth-grade teachers/classrooms (4 teachers per school) will participate, resulting in approximately 4,800 students (20 students per class).

Intervention: TFGA is a classroom-based, universally delivered, social problem-solving intervention designed to help upper elementary school teachers (Grades 4-5) establish a positive, cooperative classroom atmosphere and enable students to become more self-reliant, effective, and proactive problem solvers as they encounter social challenges. Its 26-lesson instructional focus is a sequence of problem-solving steps useful for understanding and dealing with frustration and anger, as anger is a frequent correlate of disruptive and aggressive behavior and is often preceded by frustration. The lessons help students use the problem-solving steps to recognize and manage anger and learn how to generate, implement, and evaluate solutions to emotionally charged situations and other social problems they may encounter. TFGA is designed to be teacher friendly, self-contained, and easy to implement in routine classroom practice. Lessons incorporate direct instruction, modeling, guided practice, independent practice, and skill generalization. The first 20 lessons are taught for 20-30 minutes twice weekly. After the initial 20-lesson core, 6 booster lessons add review, practice, and opportunities to generalize learned skills through small group activities, student-constructed role-plays, and real-life problem-solving situations. Teachers receive a manual and students receive a workbook consisting of worksheets, Tool Kits, and role-play scripts.

Research Design and Methods: The study will utilize a two-cohort cluster randomized trial in which schools serve as the unit of randomization (30 schools per cohort), with classrooms nested within schools. Schools will be assigned to receive the TGFA intervention or business-as-usual comparison condition, with implementation occurring over a period of approximately 4-5 months. Data collection will be completed prior to the intervention, immediately afterwards, and at a 1-year follow up.

Control Condition: In the control condition, teachers and their students will receive business-as-usual instruction, services, and professional development.

Key Measures: The team will collect data from a variety of approaches (e.g., surveys, observations, records extraction), sources (e.g., school records, teachers, students), and measures, including behavior incidents (e.g., discipline referrals, suspensions) and academic achievement (e.g., state test results) in both the intervention and comparison conditions. Student surveys include the Anger Expression Scale for Children, Social-Problem-Solving Inventory, and Problem-Solving Knowledge Questionnaire. Teacher surveys include the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Clinical Assessment of Behavior, and Social Skills Improvement System. The team will also conduct direct observations of TFGA lessons.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use hierarchical linear modeling analyses with school, teacher, and student levels to examine the effect of the intervention on student outcomes. They will also use hierarchical linear modeling to examine key covariates that may moderate (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, language, special education status) and/or mediate (e.g., emotional regulation, social problem-solving skills, contextualized executive function) intervention effects and long-term impacts of the TFGA curriculum.

Related IES Projects: Universal Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Elementary Students to Reduce Disruptive/Aggressive Behavior (R324B060029)


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