Development of the "4R-SUCCESS" Program Aimed at Improving Elementary School-aged Children Social and Scholastic Competence
Co-Principal Investigator: Becky Kochenderfer-Ladd
Purpose: Developmental and educational psychologists have long recognized that children's relations and interactions with peers are important contexts for learning. Peer-mediated learning (PML) activities (e.g., peer collaboration and tutoring) are widely used in U.S. schools to increase student motivation, engagement, and achievement, with nearly 80% of elementary school teachers using peer-mediated learning activities on a regular basis. The extent to which children benefit from PML activities depends in part on their ability to relate to and work constructively with classmates. Some of the most common problems children have in these activities include poor communication; lack of shared goals; inequities in engagement, persistence, and responsibilities; a lack of respect for partners' work style or contributions; conflict; and failure to keep agreements or deliver promised contributions. In addition, even socially competent children may need to learn new skills in order to work effectively with different types of partners. Consequently, the benefits of peer-mediated learning for children's social and academic competence are inconsistent because the activities themselves do not address impediments to their success such as problem behaviors or lack of social competence.
In this study, the research team will develop a program to help prepare children for peer-mediated learning. 4R-SUCCESS (4Rs = Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic, and Relationships; Students Using Collaborative Curricula to Enhance Social-Scholastic Skills) is designed to prepare children to benefit from peer-mediated learning activities by improving children's interpersonal competence and encouraging the creation and maintenance of collaborative learning relationships with peers. 4R-SUCCESS is a coaching curriculum intended to be administered by elementary school teachers to all students in the classroom to enhance social competence and academic success.
Project Activities: In the first two years of the project, the 4R-SUCCESS curriculum will be iteratively developed with 3rd and 5th grade teachers, using data from focus groups and measures of their students' social skills and progress in reading to determine if the specific lesson plans and coaching on collaborative learning skills are operating as intended. In the final project year, the fully developed prototype will be pilot tested with a new set of 2nd through 5th grade teachers to assess feasibility and fidelity of implementation, as well as the promise of the intervention for improving social skills to support peer-mediated learning activities.
Products: The expected products of this study are a fully developed prototype of the 4R-SUCCESS program, including a coaching manual containing the collaborative skills curricula and corresponding instructional procedures and video exemplars; assessment instruments to measure feasibility and fidelity of implementation; training materials for teachers; and published reports.
Setting: The research will take place in five elementary schools, three located in an urban district in Arizona and two located in a rural district in New York.
Population: Twenty-six teachers and approximately 650 students in 2nd through 5th grade classrooms will participate in the development activities and pilot study.
Intervention: The "4R-SUCCESS" (4Rs = Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic, and Relationships; Students Using Collaborative Curricula to Enhance Social-Scholastic Skills) intervention is predicated on the hypothesis that children will derive greater benefit from peer-collaboration in the classroom if they are prepared to work with classmates productively. The program is intended to improve children's social competence and academic learning through a focus on collaborative learning skills. Seven specific collaborative skills will be taught individually by teachers to all students in the classroom: (1) creating shared goals; (2) respecting individual differences; (3) clear and responsive communication; (4) supporting one another and working ethically; (5) engaging in emotion and behavior regulation; (6) dividing tasks equitably; and (7) managing and resolving conflicts constructively. The research team will draw upon cognitive-social learning, or coaching, models to develop the specific curricular and instructional components of the intervention. The class-wide lessons will incorporate direct instruction, modeling (through video exemplars and direct observation), and multiple opportunities for practice of the collaborative skills with feedback from both teachers and peers.
Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, six 3rd and 5th grade teachers and their students from three schools will participate in the development and refinement of the 4R-SUCCESS curriculum. A lesson plan will be written for each collaborative learning skill, and then paired with specific peer-mediated learning activities. Two subsamples of students will be selected, one made up of students who are identified as socially competent and the other made up of students who are experiencing, or at risk for, social difficulties (e.g., aggression) for additional observations and focus groups to inform development activities. At the end of Year 1, seven collaborative skills lessons will be developed, manualized, and linked with positive and negative video exemplars. In Year 2, eight 3rd and 5th grade teachers and their students from two additional schools will participate in activities to develop and refine the teacher training procedures and materials. Teachers and students in these two schools will also implement a prototype of the curriculum to evaluate the feasibility of the intervention and address issues around implementation fidelity. In Year 3, a new group of 12 teachers and their students from the first set of three schools will implement a fully developed prototype of the intervention in 2nd through 5th grade classrooms to address feasibility and fidelity of implementation. The promise of the intervention will be assessed by measuring children's collaborative skill development and reading gains during the year.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: Multiple measures will be used to develop the intervention and to document feasibility and promise. Students will use a researcher-developed scale to rate their classmates on behavioral skills and targeted collaborative skills. Teachers will complete The Child Behavior Scale (CBS) to identify children as prosocial, hyperactive-distractible, aggressive, and asocial or withdrawn. Videotapes and direct observation of peer-mediated learning activities in the classroom will be coded for students' use of specific collaborative learning skills. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) will be used to assess children's reading skills.
Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive statistics will be used to describe the sample characteristics. Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) and Repeated Measures MANOVA will be used to determine if the program is working as intended for different groups of children as defined by social competence, sex, grade, and ethnicity.
Publications from this project:
Ladd, G.W., Kochenderfer-Ladd, B.K., Visconti, K.J., and Ettekal, I. (2012). Classroom Peer Relations and Children's Social and Scholastic Development: Risk Factors and Resources. In A.M. Ryan and G.W. Ladd (Eds.), Peer relationships and adjustment to school. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing