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Quest for the Golden Rule

Quest for the Golden Rule

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Quest for the Golden Rule: An effective social skills promotion and bullyingprevention program
Alice Rubin-Vaughan
a
,
*
, Debra Pepler
b
, Steven Brown
c
, Wendy Craig
d
a
Graduate Psychology Department, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3
b
York University and The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1X8
c
Practi-Quest Corp, Canada
d
Queen
’ 
s University, 99 University Avenue, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6 
a r t i c l e i n f o
 Article history:
Received 28 April 2010Received in revised form4 August 2010Accepted 9 August 2010
Keywords:
Bullying preventionProgram evaluationE-learningEducational computer gamingElementary school age
a b s t r a c t
Everyday many students face bullying situations that they are ill equipped to manage. E-learning hasrecently emerged as a potentially effective tool in teaching children social skills, in addition to academicsubject matter. Quest for the Golden Rule is one of the
 
rst bullying prevention e-learning programsavailable, designed by the Practi-Quest Corporation, for children in grades 2
 
 5. The purpose of thecurrent study was to explore data collected as part of standard program quality assurance practices toevaluate the impact of the gaming modules on how much children learned through interacting with themodules. Sample sizes ranged from 226 to 438 depending on the module; with approximately equalnumbers of boys and girls. Following their interactions with each module, children
s knowledge of bullying and their identi
cation of strategies to prevent bullying improved signi
cantly. The majority of children reported that they enjoyed the game and felt con
dent that they could help solve bullyingproblems. Quest for the Golden Rule is an engaging, effective, and ef 
cient means of raising awareness,fostering positive attitudes, and promoting effective problem-solving for bullying prevention in schools.
 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Everyday many students face bullying situations that they are often ill equipped to manage. Bullying has repercussions, not only forchildren
s social and emotional well-being (e.g., Arseneault et al., 2006), but also for academic achievement and school absenteeism (e.g.,Kshirsagar, Agarwal, & Bavdekar, 2007; Nansel et al., 2004; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004). Adults must support children in managing thesesituations, as they often require skills exceeding children
s developmental capacities.Teachers and caregivers alike are charged with the responsibility of educating children in both academic and social domains. AlthoughCanadian children are performing well on the international stage in terms of academics, ranking 3rd, 4th, and 7th out of 57 countries onscience, reading, and mathematics, respectively (Bussiere, Knighton, & Pennock, 2007), the same is not true in terms of children
s socialexperiences at school. Based on responses to the World Health Organization
Health Behaviors in School Aged Children survey, Canadiangirls ranked26th andboys ranked 21stoutof 40countrieson measuresof bullyingand victimization, respectively(Craigetal., 2009).Giventhe discrepancy between students
 academic and social experiences it is clear that we must focus on further supporting children
s socialdevelopment at school.There are several ways in which adults can support children individually and in the context of their peer groups. According to Pepler(2006), adults can provide support to individual children through scaffolding or coaching, which children require to achieve skillsbeyondtheirdevelopmentallevel.Scaffoldingisacriticalelementofbullyingpreventioninitiativesforchildrenwhobully,childrenwhoarevictimized, and children who witness bullying (Pepler, 2006). Scaffolding can be provided in innovative and engaging ways througheducational gaming. The current study provides a preliminary evaluation of a pioneering suite of web-based bullying prevention games,called
 Quest for the Golden Rule: Bullying Prevention Software
. These games are designed to engage children in bullying prevention exercises
*
 Corresponding author. Tel.:
 þ
1 416 678 6661.
E-mail addresses:
 alicev@yorku.ca (A. Rubin-Vaughan), pepler@yorku.ca (D. Pepler), steven@practiquest.com (S. Brown), wendy.craig@queensu.ca (W. Craig).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Computers & Education
0360-1315/$
 
 see front matter
 
 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2010.08.009
 
through computer-based gaming modules, and are based on the principle of scaffolding through the provision of tailored and progressivesupport for each student.Although many students experience bullying and can bene
t from education and support in addressing these challenging socialdynamics,thereisasmallgroupofchildren(10%)whoreportsconsistentlyhighlevelsofbullyingovertimeandwhorequiremoreintensivesupportincludingpracticeandcoachingtolearnessentialsocialskills(Pepler,Jiang,Craig,&Connolly,2008).Becausepublicschoolstendtobe under-resourced, it is often beyond the capacity of classroom teachers to provide the intensive and unique learning opportunities thatsome students require.
 Quest for the Golden Rule
 may provide an alternative means to provide intensive support to students in schoolthrough individualized experiences, an opportunity not typically provided through traditional approaches to bullying prevention.Early prevention and intervention for bullying problems are crucial to support children in developing healthy academic, social, andemotional coping skills (e.g., Mitchell, Ybarra, & Finkelhor, 2007). In a comprehensive review of thirty stringent studies of bullyingprevention programs, Tto
 and Farrington, (2009) demonstrated the effectiveness in reducing bullying and victimization by an average of 20
23%. There is modest evidence to support the effectiveness of bullying prevention programs for elementary school students (e.g., Craig,Pepler, & Shelley, 2004; Smokowski & Kopasz, 2005); however, in their meta-analysis, Tto
 and Farrington, (2009) found that programs forchildrenolderthanelevenweremoreeffective.Becauseoftheimportanceofpreventionandearlyintervention,itisessentialtoincreasetheeffectiveness of bullying programs for young children to support them before early adolescence, which is a developmental period of increased risk for bullying (Pellegrini & Bartini, 2001; Pepler, Jiang, Craig, & Connolly, 2008).
Quest for the Golden Rule
 was designed to incorporate many of the effective characteristics of established bullying prevention programs(asrecommendedbyTto
&Farrington,2009).Inadditiontotheprimaryelements,
Questforthe Golden Rule
providesanenhancedlearningexperience through the use of interactive gaming technology, which is individualized, accessible, and attractive for younger children. Fewcomputer-based bullying prevention programs have been developed for students in elementary school. An objective of the current studywastoprovidepreliminarydataregardingtheeffectivenessofinteractivebullyingpreventionsoftwaredesignedtoincreaseknowledgeandchange attitudes.
2. Why use educational gaming?
Theissueof 
play
maybeparticularlysalientinworkwithchildrenandpre-adolescents.Atthisdevelopmentalstage,theimportanceof play in facilitating learning has long been recognized. Vygotsky (1978) posited that play creates the opportunity for children to experimentwith acting more maturely than their developmental stages, thus creating a
 
zone for proximal development
. Children
s social develop-ment can be fostered through play and experimentation with new social skills. Despite recognition of the importance of play in teachingchildren, there is a dearth of software programs that are acceptable to both children (as being fun and engaging) and adults (as providing
serious
 education) (De Castell & Jenson, 2003).
3. Learning and educational gaming 
Active learning, metacognition, and transfer of knowledge have been identi
ed as crucial components of learning (Huffaker & Calvert,2003; Shih, Feng, & Tsai, 2008). Huffaker and Calvert (2003) reviewed the literature and concluded that e-learning may support the critical componentsoflearningthrough:1.children
smotivationtoengageinthelearningprocess;2.self-directionsuchthatchildrenlearntoplanand monitor their learning; and 3. collaborative activities and entertainment features that encourage the application of learning to situa-tions outside the classroom. Educational gaming programs capitalize on experiential learning by actively engaging students with thecomputer program.Recently, researchers have begun to address the gap in the literature regarding whether elementary and secondary school students farebetter in educational gaming environments versus traditional or combined programs. Much of this research has focused on secondaryschool students with mixed results regarding whether the students learned more from a traditional versus combined curriculum (Annetta,Minogue, Holmes, & Cheng, 2009; Chandra & Lloyd, 2008). Onlyengagement and motivationwere consistently found to be higher with theinclusion of educational gaming experiences. Research on elementary school students
 acquisition of sun safety knowledge revealed thatlearning was heightened, for younger students, bya combination of traditional teacher presentations and computer programs compared totraditional presentations. In comparison, there was no difference between combined and traditional programs for older students (Bulleret al., 2008). Given that the development of language skills is an essential task for early elementary school students, the presentation of learning materials through both traditional and audiovisual and graphic means may augment the learning process (Buller et al., 2008).
4. Bullying prevention through educational gaming 
The detrimental consequences for those involved in bullying, as the child who bullies, the child who is victimized, or children whowitness bullying incidents provide the impetus for the development of bullying prevention programming through educational gaming.Although overall, traditional bullying prevention programs have been found to be effective, there is considerable variability in the results,particularly for younger students (Baldry & Farrington, 2007; Tto
 & Farrington, 2009). Early prevention is critical because of the potentialduring early childhood to build skills at a developmental stage during which students tend to be more accepting of adult-directedcurriculum, more willing to talk to adults about bullying, and have more trust that adults are able to help with bullying problems (Craig,Pepler, & Blais, 2007; Rigby, 2002). Educational gaming may be one new direction to pursue in bolstering the effectiveness of bullyingprevention programs for young children.There are several areas of social skills promotion and bullying prevention that are ripe for education programs geared for youngerchildren. Elementary school students bene
t from learning a variety of skills that are readily reinforced by teachers at school, including:1. empathy, 2. emotional and behavioral regulation (e.g., recognize emotions, stop to regulate emotions through strategies like counting ordeep breathing), 3. coping with feelings of sadness or anxiety, 4. social skills (e.g., joining group of peers, turn taking, getting positiveattention), 5. positive leadership skills
 
 to engage power dynamics positively, 6. alternative problem-solving, and 7. withstanding peer
 A. Rubin-Vaughan et al. / Computers & Education 56 (2011) 166 
175
 167
 
pressure (awareness, stop and think, explore responses to peers) (Vaughan & Pepler, 2007). Skill-building computer games have beendeveloped to achieve both bullying and more general violence prevention goals for elementary and secondary school students.Speci
c educational lessons are required in considering bullying, which represent a unique social problem involving challengingdynamics and a pattern of behavior that signify a power imbalance in the relationship with multiple players in different roles (Olweus,1993). The current review yielded only two published articles with data regarding bullying prevention programs including multimediacomponents. McLaughlin, Laux, and Pescara-Kovach (2006) designed a unique experimental study to explore the impact of addingmultimedia interventions (CD-ROM with relaxation exercises and a quiz show) to the traditional counselor/teacher bullying preventionprogram for grade three children. The
 
ndings suggested that the interventions were effective in signi
cantly reducing bullying andvictimization; however, were inconclusive regarding whether the degree of change was related to the addition of the multimediacomponents (McLaughlin, Laux, & Pescara-Kovach, 2006). Although multimedia programming was used, the format failed to meet therecommendations of  Huffaker and Calvert (2003) in terms of how e-learning may facilitate the educational process. The multimediacomponent was not animated nor was it interactive or self-directed, therefore, it may not have led to increased motivation for students toengage in the learning process.
FearNot!
 (Fun with Empathetic Agents to Reach out Novel Outcomes in Teaching) is a virtual role playing bullying prevention program(Hall, Woods, Hall, & Wolke, 2007). The
 FearNot!
 Program, developed for students aged 8
12, focuses on helping children to developa deeper understandingof bullying issues and coping strategies, through theirability to empathizewith the virtual charactersand act as aninvisible friend to a child who was victimized (Paiva et al., 2005). Students were found to bene
t from this program, such that
 FearNot!
signi
cantly increased the likelihood that students reporting victimization at baseline would escape victimization by the
 
rst follow-upassessment compared to the control group, particularly those who interacted more with the characters (Sapouna et al., in press).Furthermore, greater levels of empathy and story comprehension occurred when animated characters were of the same gender as theparticipant, particularlyfor boys(Paiva et al., 2005; Woods, Hall, Dautenhahn, & Wolke, 2007). Evaluation of the
 FearNot!
program providesevidence for the utility of educational gaming in addressing bullying, though it does not extend our understanding of the contribution of educational gaming over the traditional bullying prevention approach.Based on the immense success of the gaming industry and the clear appeal that gaming holds for children, the use of gaming mayfacilitate engagement with educational content. Children are tech-savvy, with 94% having access to computers with the Internet at home.Furthermore, online games are a favorite pastime for younger children
 
 particularly among grade four students, 89% of whom reportplaying games online (ERIN Research & Wings, 2005). Despite the prominent societal role of technology in education, recreation, andbusiness, and the subsequent opportunity to explore the utility of e-learning for intervening in serious social problems such as bullying,innovation into bullying prevention gaming has been slow to emerge. Although there is a relative dearth of research, emerging evidencefrom social skills promotion and bullying prevention programs using interactive computer software provides support for the potentialeffectivenessofaneducationalgamingapproachinteachingstudentssocialskillsandcopingstrategiestomanagebullyingsituations.Inthepresent study, we expected that
 Quest for the Golden Rule
 would be effective in teaching children bullying prevention messages.
5. Program description: QUEST for the Golden Rule
The current studyprovides a preliminaryevaluationof a newsetof innovative prevention and interventiontoolsdesigned bythe Practi-Quest Corporation (www.practiquest.com), in consultation with leading researchers in the area of bullying from PREVNet (PromotingRelationships and Eliminating Violence Network).
 Quest for the Golden Rule
 uses principles of effective bullying prevention, translated intoa modality of particular interest for children and youth
 –
 interactive, animated web-based games. The games are designed in such a wayasto encourage experiential learning within a virtual and interactive format, facilitated through a safe and private virtual environment free of peer pressure. Children interact individually with animated characters in virtual role-plays, which provide them with the opportunity tolearn and practice social skills and try out different strategies to cope with bullying. Students are unable to move on from a social problem-solving situation until theyare able to provide a prosocial solution, ensuring that children are supported in learning skills that they may belacking.
Quest for the Golden Rule
 provides a solution to the typical problems of providing bullying prevention education within traditionalclassroom settings in which teachers are often overwhelmed, resources are not available to identify students who may need additionalsupport,or teacherslackthe timetoprovide the intensivecoachingand practice requiredbysomestudents. Companionguidesforteachersaccompany the software and include targeted curriculum and follow-up activities. Students are encouraged to participate in additionalactivities athome.Threemoduleshave beendesigned forstudentsin gradestwoto
ve each addressinga differenttopic relatedto bullyingprevention.
5.1. Bark Academy
This module provides an introduction to social justice, safety and fairness in school, introduces bullying and depicts three forms of bullying behavior (social, verbal, and physical). Students are invited to attend Bark Academy, a dog school where bullying manifestsitself in a variety of unfair behaviors, where they help solve cases of bullying by using the concept of 
 The Golden Rule.
 Captain Fairness,a super-dog who helps address bullying and creates fair environments for kids, assists students as they work through the module. In the
rst case, Farid, a much bigger and stronger student, is bullying Kate and Kerri. Upon closer investigation, students learn that Farid isupset at being disrespected and excluded from play by Kerri and Kate. The students must help Kerri and Kate realize they wereparticipating in social bullying and help Farid discover more appropriate ways to respond when he feels left out. In the second case, Jermaine is physically bullying Hershey while a number of bystanders watch and laugh. Jermaine is also verbally bullying Hershey bymaking comments about his weight. The students must help Jermaine and the bystanders understand how they contributed to thebullying situation and explain the importance of following The Golden Rule. The module ends as the bystanders are confronted withtheir roles in the bullying situation. Students are left to question what impact the bystanders have in Hershey
s case and are encouragedto return for part two of Bark Academy to
 
nd out what the bystanders should have done differently. In the
 
nal case, Bobby
 A. Rubin-Vaughan et al. / Computers & Education 56 (2011) 166 
175
168

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