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icon of glasses and a book Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning


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FY Awards

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The Social Skills Improvement System Classwide Intervention Program: Social, Behavioral, and Academic Outcomes in Elementary School

Year: 2009
Name of Institution:
Pennsylvania State University
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
DiPerna, James
Award Amount: $2,412,860
Award Period: 4 years
Award Number: R305A090438


Co-Principal Investigator: Pui-Wa Lei

Purpose: Helping children to get along with others, care about themselves, and actively participate in learning are critical to success in school. The Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) is a comprehensive program to improve social skills and reduce problem behaviors from preschool to early adolescence. The Classwide Intervention Program (SSIS-CIP) is the universal component of this program. It was developed to help students learn the 10 social skills that teachers have identified as most critical to academic success (Elliot and Gresham, 2007). In this study, the research team will evaluate the effects of the SSIS-CIP program on students' social skills, behaviors, and academic achievement in the lower elementary grades.

Project Activities: The SSIS-CIP consists of a 12-week structured curriculum to teach social skills and behaviors to support learning in the classroom. In this study, first- and second-grade teachers are randomly assigned within schools to deliver SSIS-CIP or to continue with typical practice for a 2-year period, after which these teachers will also implement the program. Students are assessed three times per year (pre- and post-intervention, and at the end of the school year) and followed longitudinally to third and fourth grade to determine whether the SSIS-CIP program (a) increases students' understanding and use of critical social skills, (b) reduces problem behaviors that interfere with learning, (c) increases the amount of time that students are engaged in learning in the classroom, and (d) improves academic outcomes. The research team will also investigate whether the effects of the program differ depending upon the grade-level of implementation (first versus second grade) and if there are benefits of sustained exposure to the program across successive grade levels (first and second grade) relative to a single year of exposure (first or second grade only).

Products: The expected products of this study include published reports on the effects of SSIS-CIP, a widely used yet untested program, on the social skills, behavior, and academic achievement of students in first through fourth grade. In addition, this study will yield practical information concerning the relative benefits of introducing this program in the first versus second grade or at single or multiple grade levels.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will be carried out in elementary schools in Pennsylvania.

Population: Study participants are four cohorts of first- and second-grade students (approximately 2,000 students in total) and their teachers. Intervention: The SSIS-CIP consists of a 12-week structured curriculum designed to teach students 10 important social skills to support learning in the classroom. The 10 skills are taught individually in units of three 2025 minute lessons: (1) listening to others, (2) following directions, (3) following classroom rules, (4) ignoring peer distractions, (5) asking for help, (6) taking turns in conversations, (7) cooperating with others, (8) controlling anger during conflicts, (9) acting responsibly, and (10) showing kindness to others. Each three-lesson unit includes teacher lesson plans, video vignettes, student workbook activities, progress monitoring, and communication with parents to support learning. Each lesson follows a six-phase instructional model: (1) coaching, (2) modeling, (3) role playing, (4) practice and rehearsal, (5) feedback from teachers, and (6) generalization of skills through practice in other settings such as the lunch room or at home. In the participating schools, classrooms currently hold a 20-minute class meeting at the start of the school day during which teachers and students greet each other, share news, and discuss the schedule for the day. Teachers who implement the intervention will replace their typical class meeting structure with the SSIS-CIP curriculum for three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) for 12 weeks.

Research Design and Methods: In the first and second years, SSIS-CIP will be implemented by teachers in second-grade classrooms randomly assigned within schools to the treatment condition. In the second and third years, SSIS-CIP will be implemented in first-grade classrooms randomly assigned to the treatment condition in these same schools. This phased implementation will allow the research team to investigate the effects of exposure to the intervention in second grade only and first grade only. In the third and fourth years, second grade teachers in the comparison group will implement the intervention, resulting in all second-grade teachers in the school implementing the SSIS-CIP program. This will allow the team to determine the effects of exposure to the program in a single grade level versus exposure across two consecutive grade levels. In the fourth year, first-grade control teachers will also implement the SSIS-CIP intervention. Students will be assessed before the program is implemented, immediately following the 12-week implementation period, and again at the end of the school year. Students will also be followed longitudinally with assessments occurring twice in the third grade and once in fourth grade.

Control Condition: Teachers assigned to the comparison group will continue with the typical classroom meeting routine currently in place in the participating schools. During this meeting at the start of the school day, teachers and students greet each other, share news, and discuss the schedule for the day. This is a time when teachers often discuss behavioral expectations or recent behavioral concerns with their students.

Key Measures: The measures used in this efficacy study will assess proximal (social skills and behavior), mediating (engagement), and distal (academic performance) outcomes. Students' social skills will be measured using the Social Skills Rating System-Teacher Version Short Form (SSRS-TSF) and behavior will be measured using the Behavioral Observation of Young Students (BOYS). The Motivation, Engagement, and Study Skills subscales of the Academic Competence Evaluation Scales-Teacher Form (ACES-T) will be used to measure the mediating outcome of student engagement. Academic achievement will be measured in three ways: (1) AIMSweb will be used to assess the development of reading fluency, reading comprehension and mathematics skills; (2) the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) will be used to measure end-of-year achievement in reading, math, and science; and (3) the School Archival Record Search (SARS) will provide data on attendance, grade retention, special education referrals, and number of negative narrative comments and disciplinary actions for individual students. The researchers will also measure perceived acceptability and social validity of SSIS-CIP for teachers and parents using the Intervention Rating Profile (IRP) and for students using the Children's Intervention Rating Profile (CIRP). The team will measure intervention fidelity using the Teacher Self-Report: SSIS-CIP Integrity Observation Form, classroom observations, collection of permanent products (e.g., student unit workbooks), and teacher implementation logs and lesson plans. Self-report (teacher and parent surveys) and direct observation using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) will be used to determine if classroom management strategies, quality of instruction, or parental support for social and academic learning mediate or moderate program effects.

Data Analytic Strategy: The direct and mediated effects of the SSIS-CIP program on social, behavioral, and academic outcomes will be assessed using hierarchical linear modeling. Exploratory repeated measures analyses will be used to investigate individual growth in social skills, behaviors, and academic performance over time, and whether outcomes vary as a function of timing or duration of treatment.