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IES Contract

Title: Powerskills Game Lab: Improving High School Career Readiness Competencies
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Brewster, Scott Awardee: Hats & Ladders, Inc.
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (06/18/2020 – 06/30/2022) Award Amount: $900,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: 91990020C0083

Project Website:

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: This project will fully develop and evaluate Powerskills Game Lab, a game-based intervention for high school students to develop career readiness abilities in communication and adjacent intrapersonal and interpersonal domains. Employers have singled out proficiency in career readiness skills, such as communication, as both critical and hard to find. High schools are looking to integrate more robust career readiness instruction into the core curriculum and through counseling courses; however, the field lacks innovative and user-friendly tools.

Project Activities: During Phase I in 2019, the team developed a web-based prototype with one module on communication to support active listening, accountable talk, and assertiveness; a baseline assessment to measure these skills; and practice games to support students' learning these skills with guided instruction via embedded videos and interactives. At the end of Phase I, results from pilot research with 65 high school students and 4 teachers demonstrated that the prototype functioned as intended and was understandable and easy for most students and educators to use. Results also demonstrated that, from pre-test to post-test, the scores for all students increased on measures for active listening skills, assertiveness, and accountable talk skills.

In Phase II of the project, the developers will create additional career readiness skill modules for topics in the domains of personal and social awareness, clear and effective communication, and work ethic professionalism. The team will also develop videos and games, diagnostic assessments, individualized reports on student progress, and training for teachers to integrate the intervention within classroom practice. After development concludes, researchers will conduct a pilot study to assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the intervention to increase career readiness skills. The researchers will collect data from 600 high school students and 30 classes, with half of the classes randomly assigned to use the intervention over 2 months and the other half to use business-as-usual activities with exposure to the same content. The researchers will use and modify existing scales (measures of assertiveness, active listening, and self-efficacy) and during phase II are developing additional measures for assessing knowledge and application of the target skills (accountable talk, adaptability, initiative). Costs will be calculated based on the actual per student and class wide implementation costs.

Product: The project team will develop Powerskills Game Lab, a game-based intervention for high school students to develop career readiness abilities in communication and adjacent intrapersonal and interpersonal domains. The intervention will include modules on different career readiness topics (clear and effective communication, personal and social awareness, work ethic and professionalism) and will address specific skills, active listening, accountable talk, adaptability, assertiveness, conflict management, cultural awareness, empathy, initiative, integrity, self-management, and self-efficacy. Components of the intervention will include diagnostics for covered skills; practice games with anchored instruction, leveling, feedback and coaching; and scenario-based performance games that combine multiple skills in different real-world contexts. The intervention will be integrated into the existing Hats & Ladders Career Readiness Platform, which includes a student-facing app and educator-facing dashboard. Performance data and other implementation supports will be available through the dashboard.

Related IES Project: Powerskills Game Lab: Improving High School Communication Skills Through Formative Assessment (91990019C0028)