Katie Rosanbalm and Christina Christopoulos learned first-hand about using children’s fascination with dinosaurs to make good things happen in the classroom. They spent two years using dinosaur puppets and other tools of the Incredible Years Dinosaur Classroom Prevention Program (IY Dina) to help preschoolers develop self-regulation, improve behavior and enhance social competence. Now the researchers have the opportunity to evaluate the program’s effectiveness on a large scale thanks to a $3.4 million, four-year grant awarded to them by the Institute of Education Sciences.
IY Dina was developed by Seattle, Washington-based clinical psychologist Carolyn Webster-Stratton, who also created the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Program that helps teachers develop a positive and consistent environment in which children can learn. The study by Rosanbalm and Christopoulos will be the first to evaluate the effects of the IY Dina program delivered by teachers and the first to look at the outcomes of training teachers simultaneously in both Teacher Classroom Management and IY Dina.
“IY Dina has never been assessed with teachers delivering it, as it is designed to be delivered,” Katie Rosanbalm said. “It has been tested with researchers delivering the program. And this is the first time the two programs have been combined into a single training protocol. We’ll look at teachers learning how to maintain a better classroom climate and also how they perform actually teaching kids these skills.”
The study will involve about 2,160 pre-kindergarten children predominantly from low-income families in North Carolina’s Chatham, Durham, Guilford and Orange counties. Students will be tested to at the beginning and end of their pre-kindergarten year to measure their progress on social/emotional functioning, executive functioning and early literacy/achievement. They will be tested again at the end of their kindergarten year to measure how well they maintain their gains from the program.
Pre-K teachers and teacher’s assistants will be trained together in the combined IY Teacher/Dina protocol so that they can form a strong classroom team. Costs for training and delivering the program in classrooms – including materials such as curricula, puppets and books – will be covered by the grant. This creates a lasting benefit for the schools participating in the study, Rosanbalm says.
“The exciting thing is that the project builds local capacity,” she said. “Once we get the teachers trained and certified, and we have purchased all the equipment, they can do this forever.”
“With the grant, we will also create peer networks led by IY coaches, which will give teachers and teacher assistants the opportunity to learn from each other through video review, role-playing and supportive discussion,” Christopoulos added. “It’s our hope that these peer networks will continue past the life of the grant and will further support local capacity-building of the two programs.”