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The Impact of Connect Science: A Program Integrating Social and Emotional Learning, Science, and Service-Learning

Fri, March 22, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 330

Integrative Statement

Students need social and emotional skills to meet challenging new science standards (Next Generation Science Standards, 2013). For instance, the standard Engaging in Argument from Evidence requires students to disagree with someone’s ideas while also showing respect. Connect Science is a project-based learning professional development and curriculum that teaches science knowledge and social and civic skills, preparing students to take action through an energy-related service-learning project.Three research questions were addressed: (1) To what extent does Connect Science impact classroom practices? (2) Do students receiving Connect Science show improved student outcomes compared to the control group? (3) Does the relation between Connect Science and student outcomes stem from effective use of Connect Science?

Methods: Fourth grade teachers were assigned randomly to intervention versus control conditions (41 classrooms [20 intervention] and 868 students [423 intervention]). All classrooms were from one district yielding students from diverse backgrounds (33% Caucasian, 35.9% African American, 25.7% Latinx, 5.4% other; 26.2% English Learners, 57.1% economically disadvantaged). T-tests showed no differences between intervention and control groups on these variables.

Intervention: Intervention group teachers received five days of professional development, two coaching sessions, and one reflection session. Teachers received 30 lessons, science materials, and trade books. Teachers implemented lessons over 15-20 weeks. Waitlist control teachers used local curricula to meet the same science standards.

Measures: District data produced demographic information for covariates. Teacher and student surveys were conducted upon completion of Connect Science (or at a comparable time in the control condition).
Classroom Practices - Fidelity of implementation. Intervention adherence was measured using a 12-item teacher-report measure (α = .92).
Student civic engagement, energy attitudes and behaviors, science achievement and social skills. Students reported on their civic skills and efficacy using an 8-item measure (Caswell, Billig, Goodson, Gan, Levin & Unlu, 2011; Center for Youth and Communities, 2011; α = .67), energy attitudes and behaviors using an 8-item scale (Bodzin, Fu, Peffer & Kulo, 2013; α = .65), and science achievement using a 13-item, multiple choice assessment (α = .68). Teachers reported on social skills for six students using the Social Skills Improvement System to assess communication (Gresham & Elliott, 2008) and a 6-item measure of social competence (Child Trends, 2014). (α = .92 and .96).

Results: Regression analyses at the classroom level reveals main effects of Connect Science on classroom practices (RQ1), demonstrating differentiation between conditions (β = .71, p<.001). Further analyses demonstrated main effects of Connect Science on student outcomes (RQ2) including civic engagement (p < .05), energy beliefs and actions (p < .01), and student science achievement (p < .001). (See Table 1.) There were no main effects on social skills (communication, social competence, p > .05). Interaction analyses were conducted using a median split in fidelity of implementation (RQ3). Connect Science related to communication in conditions of high implementation. See Figure 1.

Discussion: Results offer new insights into the ways in which students apply social and emotional skills to academic learning. Findings demonstrate the usefulness of this integrated model for boosting student outcomes.