Interactive Social Tutoring System for Social Skills Training with Elementary Students
Co-Principal Investigator: James Thomas (North Carolina State University)
Purpose: Relatively little is known about how interactive software technology can be used to enhance students' social skills and/or peer relations. This project extended prior work to fully develop an innovative computer-based interactive social tutoring system (ISTS) for elementary students experiencing social-behavioral problems at school. The ISTS software is intended to provide a safe, private, social learning environment through which students can engage in tailored, interactive exercises to learn and practice social skills that parallel those taught through an existing evidence-based small group social skills training intervention (SSGRIN).
Project Activities: Researchers developed an interactive social tutoring system (ISTS) that incorporates strategies and content from an existing evidence-based small group social skills training intervention (SSGRIN). To ensure the ISTS for SSGRIN software operates as intended, the research team engaged in a systematic iterative process to create and refine program modules. In order to gather evidence addressing the promise of this new intervention for generating beneficial outcomes, researchers conducted a pilot test in which children were randomly assigned to complete the ISTS for SSGRIN program at home or to a wait-list control group.
Products: Products include a fully developed interactive software technology to enhance social skills and peer relations for elementary students experiencing social-behavioral problems at school. Descriptions of the intervention and evidence of its promise to enhance student outcomes have been shared in peer reviewed publications.
Setting: The study will take place in North Carolina.
Population: The sample included 149 3rd through 5th grade students (ages 7-12) who were identified as experiencing social difficulties. Thirty-seven of these students participated in development activities, and 112 students participated in the home-based pilot testing for feasibility and promise. In addition, 25 student support staff (e.g., guidance counselors, school psychologists) also participated in the study.
Intervention: The ISTS for SSGRIN intervention package includes interactive software for students, a provider manual, and web-based professional development and implementation support tools for school providers. The ISTS software provides a safe, private, social learning environment through which students can engage in tailored, interactive exercises to learn and practice social skills that parallel those taught through an existing evidence-based small group social skills training intervention (SSGRIN). In addition to enhancing students' social literacy, interactions with the ISTS are tracked by the software so school providers can document a student's progress made towards specific measureable social goals.
Research Design and Methods: The full set of ISTS for SSGRIN intervention materials were created during the project's first two years. To ensure the ISTS software operated as intended, development proceeded through a systematic iterative "development-revision-testing" process for creating and refining modules with 3rd – 5th graders. To assess feasibility of implementation in an educational delivery setting, intervention materials were tested with intended school providers. In Years 3 and 4, two pilot tests were conducted to determine the promise of SSGRIN enhanced with the ISTS. Students in 3rd to 5th grade who are experiencing a broad array of social difficulties (e.g., social withdrawal, peer rejection, bullying) were identified by their teachers, and then randomly assigned to play the ISTS for SSGRIN weekly or to a no treatment, wait list control group.
Control Condition: Students in the comparison condition were given an opportunity to play the ISTS for SSGRIN game after the initial implementation period for the treatment group.
Key Measures: Teacher- and student-report measures were collected before and after participation in the intervention to assess the following student outcomes: (a) social skill development, (b) positive and negative student behaviors, and (e) intervention engagement and satisfaction. Data from school providers were used to examine feasibility and acceptability of the ISTS. Measures such as the Social Skills Improvement Rating Scale (SSRS) and the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC-2) were used.
Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive (means, frequencies, correlations) statistics were calculated to examine evaluation and satisfaction ratings as well as software usage data (e.g., time spent on software, number of user errors). Researchers used multivariate analyses of variance to examine the magnitude and direction of change as a function of condition (treatment vs. control).
Related IES project: Efficacy Study of Adventures Aboard the S.S.GRIN: Social, Emotional, and Academic Skills (R305A180224).
Journal article, monograph, or newsletter
Sanchez, R.P., Bartel, C.M., Brown, E., and DeRosier, M.E. (2014). The Acceptability and Efficacy of an Intelligent Social Tutoring System. Computers and Education, 78: 321–332.
Sanchez, R., Brown, E., Kocher, K., and DeRosier, M. (2017). Improving Children's Mental Health With a Digital Social Skills Development Game: A Randomized Controlled Efficacy Trial of Adventures Aboard the SS GRIN. Games for Health Journal, 6(1), 19–27.