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Intervention Summary

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Open Circle

Open Circle, a curriculum-based program for youth in kindergarten through grade 5, is designed to strengthen students' social and emotional learning (SEL) skills related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, interpersonal relationships, and problem solving and to foster safe, caring, and highly engaging classroom and school communities. Open Circle aims to increase students' prosocial behaviors (e.g., including one another, cooperating, speaking up, calming down, expressing anger appropriately), reduce students' problem behaviors (e.g., disrupting class time, teasing, bullying, fighting), and facilitate students' adjustment to middle school.

Over the course of each school year, teachers deliver Open Circle to students in homeroom class during 15- to 20-minute sessions that occur twice weekly. In each session, teachers introduce a lesson from the Open Circle curriculum or address a timely issue related to the classroom, school, community, or world. Sessions include group discussions along with role-playing and games. The curriculum is grade differentiated and includes 34 core lessons per grade, 38 supplementary lessons, and resources on SEL topics (e.g., literature connections, homework suggestions, parent newsletters). Teachers, along with specialists and support staff, infuse the school day with SEL-related approaches (e.g., cooperation, inclusion, listening) to reinforce the core curriculum.

Before implementing Open Circle, teachers must receive training, which includes the principles of positive relationships, social and emotional development, the modeling of prosocial behavior, dialogue facilitation, and the infusion of SEL into academics and schoolwide.

Descriptive Information

Areas of Interest Mental health promotion
Outcomes Review Date: January 2012
1: Social skills
2: Problem behaviors
3: Middle school adjustment
4: Physical fighting
Outcome Categories Alcohol
Drugs
Education
Family/relationships
Mental health
Social functioning
Violence
Ages 6-12 (Childhood)
Genders Male
Female
Races/Ethnicities Asian
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino
White
Race/ethnicity unspecified
Settings School
Geographic Locations Urban
Suburban
Implementation History Since its inception in 1987, Open Circle has reached an estimated 500,000 students and trained over 9,000 teachers at more than 450 schools in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
NIH Funding/CER Studies Partially/fully funded by National Institutes of Health: No
Evaluated in comparative effectiveness research studies: No
Adaptations A vocabulary resource sheet and the first and midyear parent newsletters are available in Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. All parent newsletters and vocabulary posters are available in Spanish.
Adverse Effects No adverse effects, concerns, or unintended consequences were identified by the developer.
IOM Prevention Categories Universal

Quality of Research
Review Date: January 2012

Documents Reviewed

The documents below were reviewed for Quality of Research. The research point of contact can provide information regarding the studies reviewed and the availability of additional materials, including those from more recent studies that may have been conducted.

Study 1

Hennessey, B. A. (2007). Promoting social competence in school-aged children: The effects of the Open Circle Program. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 349-360.

Study 2

Taylor, C. A., Liang, B., Tracy, A. J., Williams, L. M., & Seigle, P. (2002). Gender differences in middle school adjustment, physical fighting, and social skills: Evaluation of a social competency program. Journal of Primary Prevention, 23(2), 259-272.

Supplementary Materials

Diperna, J. C., & Volpe, R. J. (2005). Self-report on the Social Skills Rating System: Analysis of reliability and validity for an elementary sample. Psychology in the Schools, 42(4), 345-354.

Elias, M. J., Ubriaco, M., Reese, A. M., Gara, M. A., Rothbaum, P. A., & Haviland, M. (1992). A measure of adaptation to problematic academic and interpersonal tasks of middle school. Journal of School Psychology, 30, 41-57.

Gresham, F. M., & Elliot, S. N. (1990). Social Skills Questionnaire. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.

Middle School Adjustment Questionnaire

Outcomes

Outcome 1: Social skills
Description of Measures Social skills were assessed using the following measures:

  • The teacher version of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), a 57-item questionnaire that assesses social skills, problem behaviors that may interfere with the acquisition of or performance of social skills, and academic competence. The teacher version of this measure includes subscales for cooperation, assertion, and self-control. Using a 3-point scale ranging from 0 (never) to 2 (very often), the teacher rates each item to indicate the frequency with which each student performs the social skill described. Examples of items include "how often" the student "follows your directions," "volunteers to help peers with classroom tasks," "produces correct schoolwork," and "controls temper in conflict situations with peers." Teachers completed the SSRS for each student in their homeroom class.
  • The 34-item student version of the SSRS, which contains subscales for cooperation, assertion, self-control, and empathy. Using a 3-point scale ranging from 0 (never) to 2 (very often), the student rates each item to indicate the frequency with which he or she performs the social skill described. Examples of items include "I tell others when I am upset with them," "I accept people who are different," "I disagree with adults without arguing or fighting," and "I use my free time in a good way." After the intervention, research staff administered the questionnaire to students in their homeroom class, reading the instructions aloud.
Key Findings A study was conducted with 4th graders from four classrooms in two urban elementary schools and four classrooms in two suburban elementary schools. In each school setting, students in two classrooms were assigned to the intervention group, which received Open Circle, and students in two classrooms were assigned to a wait-list control group. Teachers completed the SSRS in the fall, after observing students for 1 month in homeroom class, and again in the spring, after the implementation of Open Circle. At the spring assessment, students in the intervention group performed social skills more frequently than students in the control group (p < .001).

A second study was conducted with 6th graders, who were asked whether they had received Open Circle in any school years from kindergarten through grade 5. Students who recalled receiving it for 2 or more years were assigned to the treatment group, and those who recalled receiving it for 1 year or who reported that they did not receive the intervention were assigned to the comparison group. Findings from this study included the following:

  • Girls in the treatment group exhibited a higher level of assertiveness relative to girls in the comparison group (p < .05).
  • Boys in the treatment group reported higher self-control relative to boys in the comparison group (p < .05).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1, Study 2
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 2.7 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 2: Problem behaviors
Description of Measures Problem behaviors were assessed using the teacher version of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), a 57-item questionnaire that assesses social skills, problem behaviors that may interfere with the acquisition of or performance of social skills, and academic competence. The teacher version of this measure includes subscales for cooperation, assertion, and self-control. Using a 3-point scale ranging from 0 (never) to 2 (very often), the teacher rates each item to indicate the frequency with which each student performs the problem behavior described. Examples of items include "how often" the student "threatens or bullies others," "is easily embarrassed," "appears lonely," and "fidgets or moves excessively." Teachers completed the SSRS for each student in their homeroom class.
Key Findings A study was conducted with 4th graders from four classrooms in two urban elementary schools and four classrooms in two suburban elementary schools. In each school setting, students in two classrooms were assigned to the intervention group, which received Open Circle, and students in two classrooms were assigned to a wait-list control group. Teachers completed the SSRS in the fall, after observing students for 1 month in homeroom class, and again in the spring, after the implementation of Open Circle. At the spring assessment, students in the intervention group performed problem behaviors less frequently than students in the control group (p < .001).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 2.7 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 3: Middle school adjustment
Description of Measures Middle school adjustment was assessed using the following:

  • Teacher's responses to the following question: "How would you describe each student's overall adjustment to middle school?" The response categories were "poor," "fair," "good," and "excellent."
  • The Middle School Adjustment Questionnaire, an adapted version of the Survey of Adaptation Tasks--Middle School (SAT-MS). The questionnaire used 19 of the SAT-MS's original 28 items to assess issues related to middle school adjustment, such as peer relationships, substance abuse, and conflicts with authority and older students. Research staff administered the questionnaire to the students in their homeroom class, reading the instructions aloud. Selecting a response of "no problem," "small problem," "medium problem," or "large problem," each student indicated the extent to which each item described something that was a problem for him or her. Examples of items include "being treated more like a child," "drinking beer, wine, or liquor," "forgetting your locker combination," and "having an argument with a teacher."
Key Findings A study was conducted with 6th graders, who were asked whether they had received Open Circle in any school years from kindergarten through grade 5. Students who recalled receiving it for 2 or more years were assigned to the treatment group, and those who recalled receiving it for 1 year or who reported that they did not receive the intervention were assigned to the comparison group. Findings from this study included the following:

  • Girls in the treatment group exhibited better middle school adjustment relative to girls in the comparison group (p < .05).
  • Girls in the treatment group reported fewer problems related to middle school adjustment relative to girls in the comparison group (p < .05).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 2
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 2.1 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 4: Physical fighting
Description of Measures Physical fighting was assessed using 1 item from the Middle School Adjustment Questionnaire, an adapted version of the Survey of Adaptation Tasks--Middle School (SAT-MS). The questionnaire used 19 of the SAT-MS's original 28 items to assess issues related to middle school adjustment, such as peer relationships, substance abuse, and conflicts with authority and older students. Research staff administered the questionnaire to the students in their homeroom class, reading the instructions aloud. Selecting a response of "no problem," "small problem," "medium problem," or "large problem," each student indicated the extent to which each item described something that was a problem for him or her. The single item used for assessing this outcome was "getting into fights."
Key Findings A study was conducted with 6th graders, who were asked whether they had received Open Circle in any school years from kindergarten through grade 5. Students who recalled receiving it for 2 or more years were assigned to the treatment group, and those who recalled receiving it for 1 year or who reported that they did not receive the intervention were assigned to the comparison group. More boys in the treatment group reported having "no problem" with physical fighting relative to boys in the comparison group (p < .05).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 2
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 2.0 (0.0-4.0 scale)

Study Populations

The following populations were identified in the studies reviewed for Quality of Research.

Study Age Gender Race/Ethnicity
Study 1 6-12 (Childhood) 55.8% Male
44.2% Female
68.8% White
16.2% Black or African American
11% Hispanic or Latino
2.6% Race/ethnicity unspecified
1.3% Asian
Study 2 6-12 (Childhood) 50.5% Female
49.5% Male
79.1% White
7.9% Race/ethnicity unspecified
5.1% Asian
4% Black or African American
4% Hispanic or Latino

Quality of Research Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the Quality of Research for an intervention's reported results using six criteria:

  1. Reliability of measures
  2. Validity of measures
  3. Intervention fidelity
  4. Missing data and attrition
  5. Potential confounding variables
  6. Appropriateness of analysis

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Quality of Research.

Outcome Reliability
of Measures
Validity
of Measures
Fidelity Missing
Data/Attrition
Confounding
Variables
Data
Analysis
Overall
Rating
1: Social skills 3.3 3.7 1.0 3.5 1.8 3.0 2.7
2: Problem behaviors 3.5 3.8 1.0 3.5 1.8 2.8 2.7
3: Middle school adjustment 1.9 1.5 1.0 3.5 1.8 2.8 2.1
4: Physical fighting 1.5 1.5 1.0 3.5 1.8 2.8 2.0

Study Strengths

The SSRS is a widely used measure of social skills and has been shown by multiple independent investigators to be psychometrically sound. Middle school adjustment was assessed using an adapted version of the SAT-MS, which was shown to have adequate internal consistency. Both studies reported low levels of attrition (between 3% and 6%) and compared the outcomes of students who received Open Circle with those who may or may not have received the intervention. The middle school teachers who rated the students in one study were not involved in the delivery of the intervention, which eliminated a potential confound.

Study Weaknesses

No information was provided for the validity of the adapted version of the SAT-MS. The teacher assessment of students' middle school adjustment and the student assessment of physical fighting were each derived from a single item for which no psychometric properties were provided. No specific assessment of program fidelity was used to determine the extent to which Open Circle was implemented; for instance, it was not known whether teachers implemented the curriculum as expected (i.e., twice weekly) and with fidelity. There is no mention of whether or not there were missing data. Neither study used random assignment, and one study only conducted posttest data collection and thus could not assess group equivalence on the outcome measures before implementation of the intervention. Instead of using records of student participation in Open Circle, one study used students' self-reports of whether they had received the intervention. In one study, the same teachers who conducted the intervention also rated the student outcomes. In the other study, contamination was possible because the students in the intervention and comparison groups attended the same school. The analyses did not account for the nesting of children within a classroom and its effect on teacher ratings.

Readiness for Dissemination
Review Date: January 2012

Materials Reviewed

The materials below were reviewed for Readiness for Dissemination. The implementation point of contact can provide information regarding implementation of the intervention and the availability of additional, updated, or new materials.

DVDs:

  • Open Circle: Dealing With Teasing [Training DVD]
  • Open Circle: Getting to the Heart of Learning [Introductory DVD]
  • Open Circle: Getting to the Heart of Learning [Training DVD]
  • Open Circle: Including Others, Setting Norms, Good Listener [Training DVD]

Open Circle. (2010). Core program for grade-level teachers: Training evaluation. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Open Circle basics survey. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Open Circle skills class assessment. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Open Circle skills class summary sheet for student self-assessment. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Open Circle skills student self-assessment. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Teacher survey tools and student self-evaluation tools: Grade 2. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Teacher survey tools and student self-evaluation tools: Grade 3. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Teacher survey tools and student self-evaluation tools: Grade 4. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Open Circle. (2010). Teacher survey tools and student self-evaluation tools: Grade 5. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Program Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/opencircle

Program Twitter feed, http://www.twitter.com/OpenCircleOrg

Program Web site, http://www.open-circle.org

Seigle, P., Lange, L., & Macklem, G. (2011). Open Circle curriculum: Grade five. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Seigle, P., Lange, L., & Macklem, G. (2011). Open Circle curriculum: Grade four. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Seigle, P., Lange, L., & Macklem, G. (2011). Open Circle curriculum: Grade one. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Seigle, P., Lange, L., & Macklem, G. (2011). Open Circle curriculum: Grade three. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Seigle, P., Lange, L., & Macklem, G. (2011). Open Circle curriculum: Grade two. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Seigle, P., Lange, L., & Macklem, G. (2011). Open Circle curriculum: Kindergarten. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women.

Wellesley Centers for Women. (2010). Open Circle: Trainer's manual 2010-2011. Wellesley, MA: Author.

Wellesley Centers for Women. (2010, Spring). Open Circle: Newsline. Wellesley, MA: Author.

Wellesley Centers for Women. (2010, Fall). Open Circle: Newsline. Wellesley, MA: Author.

Wellesley Centers for Women. (2011). Open Circle: Coach training manual. Wellesley, MA: Author.

Wellesley Centers for Women. (2011, Spring). Open Circle: Newsline. Wellesley, MA: Author.

Other implementation materials:

  • A Unique Whole School Approach
  • About Open Circle
  • Keeping Open Circle Fresh Across Grade-Levels
  • Key Open Circle Vocabulary
  • MA Curriculum Framework Links
  • Open Circle and PBIS
  • Open Circle Brochure [Promotional materials]
  • Open Circle Literature Series
  • Open Circle Programming
  • Preventing Bullying
  • Reinforce Open Circle School-wide

Other quality assurance materials:

  • Best Practices for Open Circle
  • Open Circle Assessment Tools
  • Open Circle Climate Survey
  • Open Circle Evaluation Tool
  • Sustaining Open Circle

Other training and support materials:

  • Core Program for Grade-Level Teachers: Training Agenda Days 1, 2, 3, & 4
  • Core Program for Grade-Level Teachers: Training Description and Registration Form
  • Open Circle Catalog of Programs, June 2011-May 2012

Readiness for Dissemination Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the intervention's Readiness for Dissemination using three criteria:

  1. Availability of implementation materials
  2. Availability of training and support resources
  3. Availability of quality assurance procedures

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Readiness for Dissemination.

Implementation
Materials
Training and Support
Resources
Quality Assurance
Procedures
Overall
Rating
3.8 3.9 3.3 3.6

Dissemination Strengths

The program Web site, introductory video, brochure, and other printed materials clearly describe the core program, target audience, expected outcomes, and implementation requirements. An implementation model provides a suggested timeline for implementation, including how to integrate Open Circle programming and workshops. Detailed, grade-differentiated manuals directly support implementation and include supplementary materials. Information on training is readily accessible, including a description of appropriate attendees, schedules, and fees. On-site coaching is built into the training model and strengthens implementation fidelity. Multiple measures, including instructions for their use, are available to track program outcomes.

Dissemination Weaknesses

Although the core materials are appropriate for classroom use, the implementation model suggests that other Open Circle programming may be necessary for schoolwide implementation. The program lacks guidance on how to interpret assessment results and use the resulting data to improve program delivery.

Costs

The cost information below was provided by the developer. Although this cost information may have been updated by the developer since the time of review, it may not reflect the current costs or availability of items (including newly developed or discontinued items). The implementation point of contact can provide current information and discuss implementation requirements.

Item Description Cost Required by Developer
4-day, off-site training (includes 2 on-site coaching visits and grade-differentiated Open Circle curriculum) $725-$950 per participant, depending on coach (peer or developer), plus travel expenses for coaching visits with sites farther than 60 miles from the developer Yes (one training option is required)
4-day, on-site training (includes 2 on-site coaching visits and grade-differentiated Open Circle curriculum) $15,750-$22,500 for 30 participants, depending on coach (peer or developer), plus travel expenses for training and coaching visits with sites farther than 60 miles from the developer Yes (one training option is required)
Additional copies of grade-differentiated Open Circle curriculum (for prior training participants) $75 each No
Phone or email consultation Free No
Quality assurance tools Free No

Additional Information

Open Circle provides additional training programs for school climate/behavior leadership teams, administrators, school counselors, specialists, paraprofessionals, and parents to help schools achieve whole-school implementation.

Replications

Selected citations are presented below. An asterisk indicates that the document was reviewed for Quality of Research.

Black, B. (1995). The Reach Out to Schools: Social Competency Program assessment summary. Unpublished manuscript, Stone Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.

Elias, M. J., Ubriaco, M., Reese, A. M., Gara, M. A., Rothbaum, P. A., & Haviland, P. (1992). A measure of adaptation to problematic academic and interpersonal tasks of middle school. Journal of School Psychology, 30, 41-57.

* Hennessey, B. A. (2007). Promoting social competence in school-aged children: The effects of the Open Circle Program. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 349-360.

Krasnow, P. J., Seigle, P., & Kelly, R. (1994). The project report 1990-1993: The social competency program of the Reach Out to Schools Project (Stone Center Working Paper). Wellesley, MA: Stone Center, Wellesley College.

* Taylor, C. A., Liang, B., Tracy, A. J., Williams, L. M., & Seigle, P. (2002). Gender differences in middle school adjustment, physical fighting, and social skills: Evaluation of a social competency program. Journal of Primary Prevention, 23(2), 259-272.

Timko, M., & Taylor, C. (1999). Application of Open Circle skills in a middle school environment: A qualitative assessment of the carryover of Reach Out to Schools Social Competency Program into middle school. Unpublished manuscript, Stone Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.

Contact Information

To learn more about implementation or research, contact:
Nova Biro
(781) 283-2982
nbiro@wellesley.edu

Consider these Questions to Ask (PDF, 54KB) as you explore the possible use of this intervention.

Web Site(s):