Efficacy of the WINGS After-School Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Program
Co-Principal Investigator: Andrew Mashburn (Portland State University).
Purpose: The goal of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of the WINGS for Kids (WINGS) after-school social and emotional learning (SEL) program. WINGS is a fully developed and highly structured after-school SEL program that has been serving children who experience extraordinarily high levels of social and economic risks for the past 10 years. The program currently operates in four elementary schools, serves 24 children in each grade (K to 5) at each school, is offered for 3 hours per day and 5 days a week during the academic year, achieves daily attendance rates of 95 percent per day, and retains 95 percent of participants from year to year. Non-experimental and case studies have found evidence of the program's promise in improving children's social skills and academic outcomes, but experimental evidence of efficacy has not yet been gathered.
Project Activities: The proposed project will leverage the fact that the program is oversubscribed in order to carry out a three-cohort, block randomized control trial to assess the direct and mediated effects of WINGS on child outcomes, moderated effects of WINGS related to child and site characteristics (i.e., school and cohort), and variation in the impact of WINGS related to children's program attendance, engagement, and implementation fidelity. Assessments for this project include parent interviews, teacher ratings, observations of children in classrooms, direct assessments, and school administrative data. Researchers will also use qualitative methods to describe the family characteristics and home experiences of all children in the study and the after-school experiences of children who are not randomly assigned to WINGS.
Products: Products from the study will include peer-reviewed publications on the evidence of the WINGS after-school SEL program.
Setting: The study will take place in four elementary schools in South Carolina.
Population: Participants include kindergarteners in the study across three cohorts. Over 90 percent of the students are African-American and free or reduced price lunch-eligible.
Intervention: WINGS for Kids (WINGS) is a structured after-school social and emotional learning (SEL) program for children attending low-performing schools in high-risk neighborhoods in South Carolina. At each school, the program is organized in groups or "nests" of 12 students, with 2 nests based on gender per grade. Each nest is assigned a WINGS leader who serves as mentor and teacher for the entire school year. WINGS leaders receive 65 hours of training along with a detailed instructor manual. The curriculum for WINGS is focused on five person-centered SEL competencies chosen to intentionally align with the theory of change proposed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): (1) self-awareness; (2) self-management; (3) responsible decision-making; (4) social awareness; and (5) relationship skills. "Hot WINGS" are the specific social skills activities that define WINGS, and are the activities through which WINGS staff model, teach, and reinforce SEL competencies during the daily after-school program. Leaders are taught to stop negative behavior before it escalates, to avoid the use of punishment, and to provide specific and clear instructions about expectations for behavior. The WINGS program includes software to document and measure each student's social and emotional progress and leaders' use of teachable moments. It also includes a variety of formats for communication with parents, teachers, and school administrators.
Research Design and Methods: In this study, kindergarten children are randomly assigned to WINGS or control within each school, cohort, and gender "nest." The program is oversubscribed in each school and typically has a wait-list of kindergartners each year. Researchers will estimate impacts of WINGS after one year of participation in the program for Cohorts 1, 2, and 3; after two years for Cohorts 1 and 2; and after three years for Cohort 1.
Control Condition: The control group is a no-treatment control condition.
Key Measures: Children's person-centered competencies will be assessed using the Wally Child Social Problem-Solving Detective Game and a Delay of Gratification Task. Children's relationships and behaviors will be measured through observation (the Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System-Child Version) and teacher report (e.g., the Social Skills Improvement System). School outcomes will be assessed through administrative records (e.g., attendance) and district administered Measures of Academic Progress. Academic outcomes will be assessed using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – 4th Edition and the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement. Program fidelity will be assessed at the child-level using measures of WINGS attendance and engagement in WINGS activities, and assessed at the setting-level using standardized observations of the quality of program implementation (the Out-of-School Time Observation Instrument).
Data Analytic Strategy: Results of this mixed methods study will estimate the effects of this after-school SEL program and help identify the pathways and mechanisms that produce the effects. A variety of statistical modeling techniques will estimate main, mediated, and moderated effects of WINGS on child outcomes, including fixed-effects models in an OLS regression framework and random-effects models in a multi-level framework. Qualitative analyses of parent/guardian interviews will involve content coding within four major themes: (1) child relationships and behaviors at home; (2) family characteristics; (3) home environment; and (4) after-school experiences for children in the control group.