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IES Grant

Title: Testing the Efficacy of Zoo U for Improving Children's Social and Emotional Outcomes
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Willoughby, Michael Awardee: RTI International
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2018 - 06/30/2023) Award Amount: $3,299,956
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A180050
Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: DeRosier, Melissa

Purpose: Purpose: The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of Zoo U, an individualized computer game, developed with IES funding (An Interactive Social Tutoring System to Improve and Measure Social Goals for Students Related to Academic and Other School-Related Outcomes Phase I; Phase II), designed to teach elementary school students social and emotional skills in six key skill areas: impulse control, communication, cooperation, social initiation, empathy, and emotion regulation. Students with these skills have been shown to have enhanced well-being, more positive and fewer negative social behaviors and interactions, increased student engagement, and improved test scores and grades. Given the importance of social and emotional learning for student outcomes, it is important to test the efficacy of Zoo U.

Project Activities: Zoo U is an individualized computer game designed to teach social and emotional skills. Students navigate social situations in the game in a virtual school for future zoo keepers. Researchers will conduct a multisite cluster randomized-controlled trial during Years 1-5 of the grant. Within each participating school, all classrooms within each grade will be grouped (blocked) and randomly assigned to the Zoo U (treatment) or Counting Kingdom (control) conditions. In Year 5, the research team will complete data analyses and will disseminate the findings of the study.

Products: The research team will produce evidence of the efficacy of Zoo U for second through fourth grade students and peer-reviewed publications. In addition, the team will present their findings at national scientific conferences, annual meetings for practitioners, and education technology conferences, and will disseminate reports and research briefs through social media and through their organizations' webpages and blogs.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participating elementary schools are located in suburban and rural areas of North Carolina and Washington State.

Sample: In Year 1, 3 classrooms will participate, with approximately 14 students participating per classroom (42 students). In Years 2-4, 13 classrooms will participate each year, with approximately 14 students participating from each classroom (182 students each year). In Year 5, 3 classrooms will participate, with approximately 14 students participating per classroom (42 students). Based on the demographic characteristics of participating schools, students will represent a wide range of ethnicities and a large proportion is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Intervention: Zoo U is an individualized computer game designed to teach social and emotional skills. Students navigate social situations in the game in a virtual school for future zoo keepers. As children progress through the program, they receive personalized feedback about their actions and choices. While playing Zoo U, children complete 30 skill-building scenes arranged into six units with five scenes of increasing difficulty within each unit. Progress through the Zoo U intervention is built on a mastery model for which children must meet a preset performance criterion for a scene to advance.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct a multisite cluster randomized-controlled trial across Years 1-5 of the grant. Each year, within each participating school, researchers will group (block) all classrooms within each grade and randomly assign classrooms to the Zoo U (treatment) or Counting Kingdom (control) conditions. All students will interact with the program they are assigned to for 25 minutes/week for 10 weeks. Prior to randomly assigning students to condition, all students will complete pre-tests, and parents and teachers will submit online assessments of the students. At the end of the 10 week session, the research team will administer post-tests and follow-up assessments to students, parents, and teachers.

Control Condition: Students randomized to the control condition will play Counting Kingdom, an individualized computer game designed to improve students' math skills, but not students' social and emotional skills.

Key Measures: Key measures of students' social and emotional skills and related behavioral outcomes include the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) questionnaire, which parents and teachers will complete, and the SELweb assessment, which students will complete. The SSIS will also measure students' academic performance. The research team will also collect information about the classroom climate using the Delaware School Climate Survey, which students will complete. In addition, researchers will review school attendance and disciplinary referrals using administrative records.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will evaluate study goals using linear mixed models. The multisite cluster randomized design conforms to a two-level (or hierarchical) linear mixed model where treatment is a classroom-level predictor and outcomes are measured at the student level.

Related IES Projects: An Interactive Social Tutoring System to Improve and Measure Social Goals for Students Related to Academic and Other School-Related Outcomes (SBIR Phase I; EDIES10P0114) An Interactive Social Tutoring System to Improve and Measure Social Goals for Students Related to Academic and Other School-Related Outcomes (SBIR Phase II; EDIES11C0039)

Project Website: https://zoou.centervention.com/


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