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 will extend 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 will provide a safe, private, social learning environment through which students will 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 will develop an interactive social tutoring system (ISTS) intended to complement an existing evidence-based small group social skills training intervention (SSGRIN). To ensure the ISTS for SSGRIN software operates as intended, the research team will engage in a systematic iterative process to create and refine program modules. To assess feasibility of implementation within an educational delivery setting, the ISTS intervention software and provider manual will be tested with the intended school providers of the intervention. In order to gather evidence addressing the promise of this new intervention for generating beneficial outcomes, researchers will conduct a pilot test comparing student outcomes achieved through typical SSGRIN implementation with those achieved when SSGRIN implementation is enhanced through the ISTS.
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. Description of the intervention and evidence of its promise to enhance student outcomes will be shared in peer reviewed publications.
Setting: The study will take place in North Carolina.
Population: The sample includes 186 3rd through 5th grade students who have been identified as experiencing social difficulties. Sixty of these students will participate in development activities, 126 students will participate in the pilot testing for feasibility and promise, and 60 student support staff (e.g., guidance counselors, school psychologists) will also participate in the study.
Intervention: The ISTS for SSGRIN intervention package will include interactive software for students, a provider manual, and web-based professional development and implementation support tools for school providers. Through the ISTS online implementation center (OIC), school providers will be able to access educational resources including online professional training for continuing education credit, resource lists, and implementation tips. The ISTS software will provide a safe, private, social learning environment through which students will 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 will be 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 will be created during the project's first two years. To ensure the ISTS software operates as intended, development will proceed 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 will also be tested with intended school providers. In Year 3, a pilot test will be 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) will be identified by their teachers, and then randomly assigned to either participate in the SSGRIN small group intervention only or to complete weekly ISTS for SSGRIN assignments for enhanced learning and practice opportunities in addition to their participation in the SSGRIN small groups.
Control Condition: Students in the comparison condition will participate in the SSGRIN small group intervention only.
Key Measures: Teacher- and student-report measures will be collected before and after participation in the intervention to assess the following student outcomes: (a) social skill development, (b) positive and negative student behaviors, (c) school engagement, (d) academic performance, and (e) intervention engagement and satisfaction. Data from school providers will be used to examine implementation fidelity, intervention processes, and feasibility, quality, and use of the ISTS. Measures such as the Social Skills Improvement Rating Scale (SSRS) and the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC-2) will be used.
Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive (means, frequencies, correlations) statistics will be calculated to examine evaluation and satisfaction ratings as well as software usage data (e.g., time spent on software, number of user errors). Researchers will use multivariate analyses of variance to examine the magnitude and direction of change as a function of the intervention condition (typical vs. ISTS enhanced).