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IES Grant

Title: Friendships and the Academic Skills and Behaviors of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: The Importance of Classroom Social Contextual Factors
Center: NCSER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Granger, Kristen Awardee: Virginia Commonwealth University
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2019–07/31/2023) Award Amount: $496,959
Type: Training Award Number: R324B190018
Description:

Mentors: Sutherland, Kevin; Farmer, Thomas

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct a program of research focused on improving outcomes of students with or at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) while participating in mentoring and training activities to develop knowledge and skills related to the friendships and social experiences of socially vulnerable youth, longitudinal social network methods and analyses, and grant management. It is well documented that children with EBD experience difficulties with social skills in addition to other negative behavioral and academic outcomes. What is less understood is what friendships look like for these students, how friendships influence education outcomes, and what malleable classroom factors influence these friendships. This knowledge gap calls for descriptive studies of the peer relationships of students with and at risk for EBD. To address this gap, the PI will conduct a longitudinal study of students with or at risk for EBD in grades K-3 to examine (1) friendship formation, stability, and quality, (2) behavioral and academic outcomes linked to these friendships, and (3) malleable peer and teacher factors that may influence these friendships.

Research Plan: The PI will conduct a longitudinal study with three cohorts of students with or at risk for EBD in grades K-3 who are recruited and screened for EBD as part of a larger ongoing IES-funded efficacy study. In each of the first 3 years of the project, 12 teachers and 3 of each of their students with or at risk for EBD will be recruited to participate (for a total of 108 students across 36 classrooms). Only students from the control group of the larger efficacy study will be recruited. At three time points over the course of the school year, the PI will collect data on students' friendships as well as peer (peer rejection, group norms, and social hierarchy) and teacher (interactions with students, general instructional practices, and social attunement) malleable factors. Data on students' friendships (both reciprocated and unreciprocated), peer rejection, classroom social hierarchy, and peer group norms will be assessed through peer nomination procedures and students with or at risk for EBD will report on the quality of their friendships. Teachers' social attunement will be measured through social cognitive mapping procedures and will indicate how well teachers are able to identify the students' friendship groups in comparison to the students' responses. In addition, observational and survey data collected at two timepoints as part of the larger study will also be used to supplement the data collected by the PI. Specifically, data on teacher-student interactions and teachers' instructional practices will be collected through direct observations, teachers will report on students' social and behavioral functioning, and students' academic achievement will be measured through a direct assessment. The PI will use social network analysis to describe the friendships among students with or at risk for EBD and path models to assess relationships between friendships and educational outcomes and between malleable peer and teacher factors and students' friendships.

Career Plan: Through a career development plan, the PI intends to build (1) content knowledge related to the friendships and social experiences of socially vulnerable youth, (2) knowledge and skills around longitudinal social network methods and analyses, and (3) grant management skills. To accomplish these goals, the PI will receive guidance from mentors and an advisory board of expert researchers as well as participate in a series of trainings on social network methods and analyses, a training on the R software program, and workshops related to grant writing and grant management.


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