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FY Awards

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Project RESPECT: A Proposal to Develop the Responding in Emotionally Supportive and Positive Ways in Educational Communication Skills Training Program

Year: 2015
Name of Institution:
Pennsylvania State University
Goal: Development and Innovation
Principal Investigator:
Frank, Jennifer
Award Amount: $1,137,152
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2018)
Award Number: R305A150391


Co-Principal Investigators: Deborah Schussler and Mark T. Greenberg

Purpose: In this study, researchers will develop and test a program to enhance middle and high school teachers' capacity for interpersonal communication, conflict management, and social and emotional competencies to create a supportive context for teaching and learning. Interpersonal communication skills are critical to the success of professionals in a variety of settings. These skills are particularly important for teachers, who must learn to interact successfully with a diverse array of students, colleagues, and parents on a daily basis. Teachers with the capacity to provide emotional support and communicate effectively are better prepared to manage student behavior, de-escalate conflict situations, and build more positive relationships with students, colleagues, and parents, resulting in better education outcomes for students.

Project Activities: In Years 1 and 2, the researchers will iteratively develop program content, determine the effectiveness of supplemental components, assess the acceptability and feasibility of program content and materials, and develop valid measures of implementation fidelity. In Year 3, the research team will conduct a randomized pilot study to determine promise of the final version of the program.

Products: The research team will produce a fully developed and manualized program to teach the principles and skills of effective interpersonal communication and conflict management to in-service teachers and enhance their social and emotional competencies. The researchers will produce evidence of the program's acceptability, usability, feasibility, fidelity of implementation and promise for improving targeted teacher and student outcomes. The researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in urban fringe/suburban areas of Pennsylvania.

Sample: Middle and high school teachers and their students will participate. About 20 teachers will participate in Year 1, about 104 in Year 2, and another 100 in Year 3. The researchers will also recruit a convenience sample of about 40 adults from the university community to participate in the development of the virtual role play component.

Intervention: Project RESPECT program content is designed to support teachers' interpersonal communication and conflict management skills to disrupt coercive cycles of interaction that interfere with teaching and learning in the classroom. The content of the curriculum addresses the following core constructs: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, active listening, different forms of communication (e.g., oral, written, nonverbal), assertive communication, and conflict management. The program curriculum is delivered in a three-day workshop during scheduled professional development days or weekend days spread across the academic year. The workshop curriculum is presented through a combination of direct instruction supplemented with Power Points and handouts, case study analysis and reflection, guided discussions, role playing, experiential activities, and analysis of video vignettes. The researchers will also develop and test supplemental components to enhance program content, including self-care training (e.g., mindfulness activities) to help mitigate stress, virtual role play applications to provide opportunities for extended practice and reflection, and monthly group coaching sessions to support practice in a supportive, collaborative environment.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use the Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST) methodological framework to develop the teacher training. In Year 1, they will engage in a six-month planning phase, followed by development of program content with feedback from teachers and students gathered through interviews, focus groups, surveys, and field observations. They will work with teachers to develop all elements of the program (scope and sequence of lessons, activities, Power Points, knowledge assessments, and workbooks) and supplementary components (i.e., self-care activities, virtual role play, and coaching protocol). They will develop the virtual role play using the Paradigm for Dialogue System Evaluation (PARADISE) protocol to design and assess the quality of the artificial intelligence application. In Year 2, the researchers will test the effectiveness of individual components (e.g., the core curriculum, the coaching) using a factorial design. In the final year, the researchers will randomly assign teachers to participate in the professional development or a wait-list control group to determine its promise for changing targeted outcomes. The researchers will evaluate acceptability and usability of the program during each phase.

Control Condition: Teachers randomly assigned to the control group will be placed on a wait-list to receive the professional development after the pilot study is completed.

Key Measures: The researchers will evaluate fidelity and acceptability through interviews with teachers, audio recordings of coaching sessions, the Behavior Intervention Rating Scale, and the Children's Intervention Rating Profile. The researchers will develop valid measures of intervention fidelity. The researchers will measure both teacher and student outcomes. Teachers' will complete self-report measures including the Teacher Efficacy Scale, Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale, the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale-Short Form, and the Tacit Knowledge Inventory for Teachers. The researchers will conduct observations using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS-Secondary Version). The researchers will collect school records of office discipline referrals. The researchers will measure student outcomes using the Academic Competence Evaluation Scales (ACES), Psychological Sense of School Membership, the Behavioral Observation in School Settings (BOSS), and school records of grades and statewide achievement test scores.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will analyze data from teacher interviews, narrative feedback in teacher logs, focus group data, and field notes by developing descriptive codes, parsimonious categories, and the iterative formulation of an organizational scheme for the entire set of categories. They will use axial coding to analyze findings related to specific lessons and convergence and divergence across user groups. They will use descriptive statistics to analyze quantitative data derived from teacher ratings. The researchers will evaluate intervention effectiveness and the value added of supplemental components using paired t-tests and analysis of covariance.