SBIR Phase II: Online Game to Assess and Improve Behavioral Readiness and Social Emotional Skills for Students in Kindergarten and First Grades

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1853055
Agency Tracking Number: 1853055
Amount: $749,880.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: EA
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2017
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-04-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-03-31
Small Business Information
4364 S. Alston Avenue, Suite 300, Durham, NC, 27713
DUNS: 085539324
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 James Thomas
 (919) 677-0102
Business Contact
 James Thomas
Phone: (919) 677-0102
Research Institution
This SBIR Phase II project aims to create and test a game-based intelligent tutoring system that both assesses and improves the behavioral readiness and social emotional skills of Kindergarten and 1st grade students. Research has shown that early intervention for children with social skill deficiencies is critical for success in the classroom and success in life. Children from vulnerable, underserved social niches are particularly likely to be 'less ready' for school, including those who experience poverty, family instability, and trauma, each of which disproportionately impact children from racial and ethnic minority groups. The game being developed by this project empowers educators to provide that much needed social emotional learning support for their young students. First, it provides an affordable, feasible, and scaleable means for identifying the social emotional needs of young students as they transition to formal schooling. Second, it enables educators to quickly translate this formative assessment data into personalized, digital intervention that can be applied with K1 students on a much broader scale than is possible with traditional, in-person services. And lastly, because this innovation is game-based and fun, students are more likely to fully engage and fully benefit from the embedded instruction. This project will advance understanding of how an Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) can be used effectively to help educators provide social emotional instruction to all students. Within academic domains such as science and mathematics, many successful ITS implementations have employed learning models where answers to problems and the knowledge being evaluated can be easily represented. However, traditional ITS techniques have not been as effective in domains like social emotional learning, where the connection between what a student does and what the student knows is less well-defined. This project will develop several significant innovations for ITS that apply to social and emotional learning, but may also be useful in other, less well-defined learning domains. These innovations are represented by our adaptive Student Model and Tutorial Manager which collectively enhance student learning via personalization, pacing, and engagement. As more student data is collected, the student model will become increasingly accurate, leading to more intelligent choices from the tutorial manager to better enhance the social tutoring of our innovation and thereby, student learning. In addition to addressing significant societal and market needs, research findings from this SBIR will be published to more broadly inform the efforts of the ITS community. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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