Helping teachers successfully implement and sustain interventions needed to stop bullying, best implement a new curriculum, improve hand raising or address countless other behavioral and educational issues is the focus of the Neag School of Education’s Project PRIME, which is looking to partner with Connecticut schools and classrooms.
The research study co-directed by Neag School Psychology Assistant Professor Lisa Sanetti, Ph.D., and University of Wisconsin School Psychology Program Director Tom Kratochwill, Ph.D., pairs area teachers with Neag educational psychology graduate students who, acting as consultants, help the teacher develop the best strategies to execute and then maintain the needed intervention or change.
“Teachers are responsible for so many things during the school day that the task of implementing a new program or behavior can be overwhelming,” Sanetti said. “What often happens when a teacher starts an intervention for a student is that it becomes like a New Year’s resolution. The teacher is gung-ho for a week or 10 days, but then they go back to their old routines or behaviors. We provide the tools and support a teacher needs to maintain the change over the long term.”
Funded with a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, PRIME–which stands for Planning Realistic Intervention Implementation and Maintenance by Educators–will begin its third year this fall.
Started in 2009, the first year was spent on developing the needed protocols and materials, and last year on both developing an assessment tool and test-piloting the program. Four Connecticut school districts have so far taken part.
This year, Sanetti hopes to at least double that number, providing teachers with the support and planning assistance needed to be successful starting a new intervention and proactively solve problems to make it easier to keep it going.
“Planning is the key word,” Sanetti explained, “because that’s what we focus on. We help the teacher come up with a detailed, individualized plan designed to help them be successful.
“Is there a best time of day to introduce the change? Where in the room should a conversation take place–at the teacher’s desk? At the student’s desk? How often does the change need to be discussed? Are there any materials or tools like stickers or charts that the teacher and student will need? Thinking about these details in a systematic way before starting the intervention can have big results,” Sanetti continued. “After the intervention is introduced, we provide follow-up support for those teachers who need it.”
The program is based on a health psychology adult behavior change model called the “Health Action Process Approach,” which has been proven to help people make, and stick with, difficult lifestyle changes related to exercise and diet. The approach focuses on creating detailed strategies that help people successfully bridge the intention-behavior gap, indentifying potential problems and solutions before they occur.
“The process focuses not so much on getting people motivated to implement change, but to stay motivated,” Sanetti said. “There are several programs that provide teachers with support and help after a roadblock occurs, but PRIME focuses on avoiding the roadblocks. That’s where the detailed planning comes in. If you know what you may need to do, and where and when you may need to do it, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed and more likely to be successful.”
Teachers who participate in Project PRIME are paid a $10 per week stipend and commit to working with PRIME staff for 14-22 weeks. The first two weeks are spent developing the needed strategies, which are then implemented–with the PRIME consultant guiding and monitoring each step–over 12 weeks. The PRIME consultant follows up with teachers one and two months after to offer further support and collect additional data. At the end of the program, teachers are given a detailed outcome report that analyses both their and their student’s or students’ outcomes.