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IES Grant

Title: Efficacy Study of Adventures Aboard the S.S.GRIN: Social, Emotional, and Academic Skills
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Li, Linlin Awardee: WestEd
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Context for Teaching and Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 Years (07/01/2018 - 06/30/2022)  Award Amount: $2,997,518
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A180224

Co-Principal Investigators: Flynn, Kylie; DeRosier, Melissa

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the Adventures Aboard the S.S.GRIN program, an online game with embedded social skills training to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for children experiencing social difficulties. Research indicates that direct social skills instruction can benefit these students, yet most schools are not equipped to provide this type of targeted support. The Adventures program was created through an IES development grant to address this gap.

Project Activities: The research team will randomly assign two cohorts of 3rd grade teachers to provide students with the opportunity to play the Adventures game (treatment) or to continue with their typical practice (control) over a nine-week period during the school year. The researchers will analyze outcomes for all students and for those identified by their teachers as having social skills difficulties. They will pilot measures and study procedures in Year 1 to prepare for the full randomized control trial in Years 2 and 3.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of the efficacy of the Adventures Aboard the S.S. GRIN online game program for all 3rd grade students and for those with social skills challenges. They will also disseminate findings through peer-reviewed publications and other reports shared via project websites, e-newsletters, and social media.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in four primarily urban/suburban school districts in California.

Sample: The sample for this study will include approximately 90 third grade teachers and their students across 36 schools.

Intervention: Adventures Aboard the S.S. GRIN is an online game developed with IES funding that incorporates the content and instructional strategies of a widely-used, efficacious, small-group program (Social Skills Group Intervention - S.S. GRIN). The Adventures program provides schools with a more feasible way to support students experiencing social difficulties like peer rejection, bullying, and social anxiety. The game consists of nine episodes (about 25 minutes each) that use a single-player format and intelligent social tutoring software (ISTS) to provide individualized feedback and a safe environment for practicing newly-learned skills to regulate emotions, control impulses, build friendships, and respect self and others. The ISTS software captures in-game behaviors to assess the student's progress and adapt responses by the ISTS to generate a next step individualized for that student.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use a teacher-level, delayed-treatment, cluster randomized controlled experimental design, where teachers will be randomly assigned to treatment or control groups. Teachers randomly assigned to the treatment group will provide opportunities for all of the students in their classroom to play the Adventures game over a nine-week period during the school year (approximately one episode per week). The researchers will pilot measures and study procedures in five schools in Year 1 to prepare for the full randomized control trial in Years 2 and 3.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition will engage in business-as-usual activities in their classrooms.

Key Measures: Teachers will complete the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)-Mini to identify 3rd grade students with social skills deficits, as well as the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale Second Edition (BERS-2) and the Children's Social Behavior Scale to measure student social and emotional outcomes. The researchers will use the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments to measure student academic performance. They will measure implementation fidelity through weekly electronic implementation logs, the Adventures' analytics, and site visits.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will analyze differential gains between treatment and control groups on measures of student outcomes using two-level hierarchical linear models. They will use structural equation modeling to analyze the impact of potential mediator (students' perceived self-efficacy for social situations) and moderator (implementation) variables.

Cost and Cost-Effectiveness Analyses: Researchers will also use the "ingredients method" to estimate program costs for schools to implement the intervention and use the average cost per student to calculate a cost-effectiveness ratio for the Adventures program.

Related IES Project: Interactive Social Tutoring System for Social Skills Training with Elementary Students (R305A110583)