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IES Grant

Title: Leveraging Restorative Practices and Social Emotional Learning to Enhance Transitioning and Early High School Students' Engagement
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Pas, Elise Awardee: Johns Hopkins University
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2020 - 06/30/2024) Award Amount: $1,399,269
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A200071

Co-Principal Investigator: Bradshaw, Catherine

Purpose: The researchers will develop and pilot test Spiral Up!, a preventive classroom intervention for 9th and 10th graders that integrates social emotional learning and restorative practices in order to build early high school engagement, reduce problem behaviors, and ultimately improve student achievement. The transition into high school can be particularly difficult for students, and these challenges can increase when students do not feel connected to other students and teachers or do not perceive a safe and supportive environment within the school. By building students' and teachers' social-emotional competencies and leveraging restorative practices proactively, Spiral Up! seeks to ease high school transitions and improve student outcomes.

Project Activities: The researchers will iteratively develop the Spiral Up! preventive classroom intervention, including the program's content, group professional development, and coaching materials to support implementation. During this development work, they will analyze the usability and feasibility of Spiral Up! and make adjustments as necessary. Once Spiral Up! is fully developed, they will conduct a pilot studying using a randomized controlled trial to determine the promise of the intervention and will determine the cost of implementing the program.

Products: This project will develop the curriculum provided to students as well as the professional development and coaching supports needed to ensure high fidelity implementation, information about the cost of implementing the intervention, and peer-reviewed publications, presentations, and additional dissemination products (e.g., research briefs) that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The project will be conducted in diverse 9th and 10th grade classrooms in Maryland.

Population/Sample: During the development period, they will work with 9th- and 10th-grade teachers (25 total) at 2 high schools each (4 total schools). During the pilot study, they will work with 80 teachers in 4 high schools, using data from approximately 2,000 students.

Intervention: Spiral Up! will be a year-long, classroom-based program that consists of social-emotional lessons for classroom teachers mapped to preventive restorative practices. The social-emotional lessons aim to build students' core competencies in areas such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. The restorative practices include activities such as content circles, in which the group discusses the social-emotional lesson content; community-building circles to create strong personal connections among students and teachers; teacher use of affective statements, or “I” statements that focus on how the speaker feels; and affective questions, in which students or teachers use in response to an undesired student behavior, to diffuse situations, promote self-reflection, or help to avoid or de-escalate power struggles and aggressive behaviors. These practices aim to build relationships and community to cultivate supportive classroom and school climates. To help support teachers and implementation fidelity, Spiral Up! will also include implementation guides, group training, and coaching materials.

Research Design and Methods: In Phase 1, the researchers will iteratively develop the Spiral Up! curriculum and professional development materials. The researchers estimate that the curriculum will include approximately 20 lessons on intra- and interpersonal competencies (such as self-awareness and social awareness) and plans for integrating the lessons with restorative practices (such as a weekly community-building circle). The professional development components include 1-year teacher implementation plans and a fully articulated coaching process with corresponding fidelity materials. During this rapid development phase, they will conduct student and staff focus groups and interviews and gather feedback through administrator interviews and from contacts between the coach and classroom teachers. In Phase 2, they will further refine the curriculum and determine its usability and feasibility through staff surveys and observational data. Once they have a fully developed version of Spiral Up!, the researchers will move to Phase 3, in which they will pilot test the intervention with an 80-teacher, within-school randomized controlled trial.

Cost Analysis: During the pilot study, the researchers will also conduct a cost analysis of the fully developed intervention using an ingredients method with time and resource logs and implementation data. The cost analysis will consider elements such as labor costs, coach and teacher training expenses, incentives, physical capital requirements (such as space and equipment), and both startup and ongoing costs.

Control Condition: Business-as-usual classrooms will serve as the control condition.

Key Measures: During Phase 1 and 2, the researchers will collect teacher and student survey data and observational data to determine intervention acceptability and adherence; teacher practices; teacher stress, burnout, and efficacy; student engagement; and student behavior. During Phase 3, they will use both surveys and administrative data to determine student attendance and achievement.

Data Analytic Strategy: During the initial development phases, the researchers will use content analysis using open thematic coding and response categorization for focus groups and interview data. They will also use basic descriptive analyses for the student and teacher survey data, examining trends in student and teacher ratings of their advisory classroom climates and triangulating with qualitative data. To examine the results of the pilot study, researchers will conduct multilevel modeling to assess impacts of Spiral Up! on teacher reports of student engagement, classroom practices, efficacy, and burnout and student ratings of student-teacher and peer relationships, school connectedness, academic engagement, behavior, attendance, and achievement.

Related Projects: Double Check: A Cultural Proficiency and Student Engagement Model (R324A110107); Testing the Efficacy of Double Check: A Cultural Proficiency Professional Development Model in Middle Schools (R305A150221); Identifying Predictors of Program Implementation to Inform a Tailored Teacher Coaching Process (R305A130701); A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Combination of Two Preventive Interventions (R305A080326)