Minnesota Partnership for School Connectedness
Co-Principal Investigator: Sandra Christenson
Purpose: The middle school years are associated with declines in academic performance, motivation to achieve, and self-perceptions for many students, making this a critical time to implement strategies that build connections and engage students in learning. The purpose of this project is to develop and pilot test a professional development intervention, the Minnesota Partnership for School Connectedness (MPSC), to enhance middle school teachers' ability to increase students' cognitive, behavioral, affective, and academic engagement in school.
Project Activities: The researchers will collaborate with middle school teachers and other school staff to develop the training program. The program will then be piloted with two cohorts of 6th grade teachers to determine the perceived usefulness, value, and applicability of the intervention. Student engagement will be assessed twice per year as an additional source of information during the iterative development process and to determine the potential utility of the intervention for improving student academic achievement through enhanced engagement in learning.
Products: Products of this project include a professional development program for middle school teachers to enhance their ability to engage students in school and succeed academically. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.
Setting: This study takes place in eight middle schools in Minnesota.
Population: Participants in this project include 24 middle school teachers, 8 principals, and approximately 600 sixth grade students.
Intervention: The MPSC is a professional development program for middle school teachers designed to enhance teachers' ability to increase student engagement in learning. The intervention will include the following four components: (1) a three-day Training Institute in adolescent development and strategies to enhance healthy youth development and student engagement in the classroom; (2) Classroom Implementation of a student engagement plan developed by each teacher individually following his/her participation in the institute and accompanied by observation and coaching from trained research staff; (3) three, one-day teacher Cohort Convenings to provide peer support and learning; and (4) regular communication with principals and teacher presentations to same-grade teacher teams to provide additional supports.
Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the research team will define the content and process for each of the 4 intervention components and meet with advisory board members (experts in the field, local middle school students, and expert middle school teachers) to review the syllabus for the training institute and all accompanying materials. The intervention will then be piloted in 8 middle schools with 2 cohorts of eight 6th grade teachers (one per school) to evaluate the process of implementation. The first cohort will participate in Year 1 and the second cohort will participate in Year 2. The research team will make revisions to the intervention and develop process measures to assess implementation fidelity based on what is learned with the first implementation cohort. In Year 2, the revised intervention will be implemented with a second cohort of 8 teachers and additional revisions made as necessary. In Year 3, final revisions will be made to the intervention. Student engagement will be measured twice for both implementation cohorts to determine if the intervention shows promise for changing student engagement in school.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: Key measures include structured and semi-structured interviews, observations, and surveys to measure teacher and principal perceptions of the intervention's utility, value, and applicability. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System and the Student Engagement Instrument will be used to further inform the development process and to determine if the intervention shows promise for changing key student outcomes. In addition, school record data (e.g., grades, attendance, office discipline referrals) will be examined to further assess the promise of the intervention for enhancing student engagement in school.
Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive statistics and correlational analyses will be used to refine the intervention and assess feasibility, fidelity, and relevance of the curriculum. T-tests and repeated measures analyses will be used to examine changes in student engagement over time.