WGBH News and Media Relations


March 7, 2014

WGBH and Tufts University Conduct Innovative Study of the Impact of Educational Media on Combating Bullying

Pilot program takes new approach to analyze effectiveness of interactive Arthurmaterials in promoting pro-social behavior and character development among young students
BOSTON, Mass. (March 7, 2014) –WGBH and Tufts University have released the results of a pilot study that examines the potential impact of interactive educational media on developing pro-social skills among young children to prevent bullying. The study is aimed at analyzing tools and technology to encourage pro-social behavior and character development among the earliest elementary school learners. Preliminary findings showed that 100 percent of teachers reported high levels of engagement among students with the digital media, with nearly half (49 percent) of students engaging in conversations identifying pro-social character attributes.
Funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, WGBH and Tufts collaborated to create an interactive graphic novel (IGN) and a set of classroom activities focused around an episode from the popular children’s series Arthur. The pilot provides preliminary support for the use of these materials as part of a comprehensive curriculum to promote character education and pro-social behavior in children.
“While programs have been implemented in schools across the country to address bullying, many of these are aimed at children after problem behaviors begin to appear. We wanted to stop bullying before it starts by focusing on promoting character education in young children,” said Brigid Sullivan, Vice President for Children's Media and Educational Programming at WGBH. “Children spend more time with digital media today than any other waking activity, so we chose to focus on harnessing the power of technology and educational media to enhance character education beginning at an early age.”
The study paired first and second graders with older “buddies” in fourth and fifth grades to discuss the IGN. It aimed to determine whether the IGN encouraged discussions between the buddies about the character dilemma that Arthur and his friends go through, and if teachers thought of the experience as a valuable teaching asset. It also sought to inform the development of evidence-based tools to enhance and inform youth character education and test whether a curriculum based around a series of interactive graphic novels would impact young children’s character.
Analysis of the conversations showed that the IGN provided an effective medium for promoting dialogue between the buddies, with 100 percent of teachers reporting that the students were very engaged with the IGN. The conversations also revealed that children need support in identifying nuances between joking, teasing or bullying and also what a sincere apology looks like.
Teachers were enthusiastic about the materials, with 94 percent reporting that they were very satisfied with the overall program experience. Individual teachers were surprised by the duration and quality of conversation that occurred between the buddies, and reported unexpected potential benefits for English language learners and students with communicative disorders.
The study was first piloted in June 2013 at the Winter Hill Community Innovation School in Somerville, Mass., a school that serves a population of students from culturally diverse backgrounds incorporating kindergarten, elementary, middle school, Sheltered English Immersion and Special Education programs. At the end of last year, the WGBH and Tufts team expanded pilots to three schools in West Springfield and Hudson. In addition to engaging with the new set of materials, children also completed a survey that was designed to assess eight character virtues and ultimately created a valid, reliable measure of character – the first measure of its kind.
“The initial results of the pilot test are very promising. We believe that as part of a more comprehensive curriculum, a child’s regular active engagement with Arthur-based materials in collaboration with the guidance of an older peers will influence youth character and ultimately youth pro-social behaviors that can help reduce bullying,” said Edmond Bowers, Ph.D., Tufts University.
Moving forward, WGBH and Tufts intend to conduct a larger longitudinal study that will use additional Arthur materials to examine whether using IGNs enhances children’s behavior with regard to bullying and promotes other dimensions of character, and ultimately build a framework for a curriculum that can be used by schools around the country.
About WGBH?
WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur, Curious George and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle and children’s series, reaching nearly 75 million people each month. WGBH also is a major supplier of programming for public radio, and oversees Public Radio International (PRI). As a leader in educational multimedia for the classroom, WGBH partnered with PBS to create PBS LearningMediaTM, an on-demand media service for educators and students. WGBH is also a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to those with hearing or visual impairments. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars. Find more information at www.wgbh.org.
ARTHUR, based on the best-selling books by Marc Brown, is television’s longest-running children’s animated series. Over the past 17 seasons, Arthur has remained one of the highest-rated weekday children's series on PBS among children 4-8. Arthur has won numerous awards, including the George Foster Peabody Award, a BAFTA, and six Daytime Emmys®—four for Outstanding Children's Animated Program. Arthur is produced by WGBH Boston and 9 Story Entertainment. Executive producers are Carol Greenwald (WGBH), Vince Commisso (9 Story), and Marc Brown (Marc Brown Studios). Directed by Greg Bailey. Funding for Arthur is provided by public television viewers. Corporate funding is provided by Chuck E. Cheese's®.


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