College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2011 > Helping Adolescents Successfully Transition to Middle School

Helping Adolescents Successfully Transition to Middle School

The Institute of Education Sciences has granted Thomas Farmer an award for his project, “Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success: Project SEALS.”

farmer.jpg(March 2011)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As students begin middle school, they are vulnerable to a range of academic, behavioral, and social problems. Research has shown that such difficulties tend to reflect both person-environment mismatches and the contributions of multiple developmental factors working as a correlated system.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has granted Thomas Farmer, associate professor of special education in the College of Education, an award for his project, “Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success: Project SEALS.” This model builds from person-environment fit and developmental science frameworks to test the effects of an intervention designed to promote positive social-emotional well-being during a time of individual and contextual change.

Pilot randomized control trials and a cluster randomized trial conducted with SEALS in rural schools in nine states suggest that SEALS promotes students’ academic and social-emotional success during early adolescence by increasing teachers’ understanding of social dynamics and their efficacy for working with at-risk students as well as promoting student connection to the schools.

The purpose of this efficacy and replication study is to evaluate the impact of the SEALS model with metropolitan students during the transition to middle school using a cluster randomized trial. The study will be conducted in 28 metropolitan middle schools in North Carolina.

Data collection will involve multiple informants including teacher-, peer-, and self-reports in both intervention and control schools. Constructs will include (1) students’ academic, behavioral, and social adjustment; (2) classroom social networks and perceptions of the school environment; and (3) school record data.

Teachers in intervention schools will be trained in the intervention components immediately prior to the transition to 6th grade for participating students. In the control schools, teachers will continue to use traditional practices to address academic, behavioral, and social issues.

Collaborators on this project are David Lee, associate professor of special education, College of Education; Edward Smith, director of evaluation research, Prevention Research Center, College of Health and Human Development; and Jill Hamm, associate professor of educational psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.