Research: AIMS – Arthur Interactive Media Study

About the Study

As part of a three-year longitudinal, mixed method and multi-reporter project funded by the John Templeton Foundation, IARYD has been working in collaboration with the WGBH Educational Foundation, a leader in educational children’s media and the producer of PBS’s Emmy award-winning ARTHUR series, to develop the Arthur Interactive Media (AIM) program. The AIM program is a social, emotional, and character development curriculum involving both digital interactive media and cross-age peer mentoring targeting elementary school students. We have adapted content from ARTHUR episodes and storylines to make them into digital interactive features (comics and games) that promote five specific and interrelated topics: empathy, honesty, forgiveness, generosity, and learning from others (intellectual humility). Cross-age buddy pairs (1st and 4th graders; 2nd and 5th) read, play, and engage with the interactive features, which contain various questions and prompts meant to encourage rich conversations and reflections. The accompanying curriculum centers around these topics and interactive features, and includes sessions such as buddy training as well as relevant activities before and after the sessions of the interactive features.

We are implementing and evaluating the AIM program in elementary schools surrounding the Boston area this school year (2015-2016). Our theory of change posits that the program will enhance students' social-emotional competencies (e.g., empathy) and character virtues (e.g., generosity) as well as their relationships (e.g., peer, teacher, and parent support) and related attitudes and behaviors that reflect an improved classroom/school climate (e.g., reduced bullying). To test whether children’s positive outcomes are a function of the social-emotional and character content in the AIM program, we seek to compare them to children participating in another WGBH Educational Foundation program – the Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Program. This reading program also has media and buddy-pairing components but focuses on promoting oral vocabulary and literacy in young children. In addition, we will compare schools using either program to other schools operating as usual, and we will use child as well as teacher- and parent-reports, along with process evaluation measures constituting ongoing feedback, observations, and interviews, to obtain a comprehensive assessment of children’s development as well as program effectiveness within and across all schools.

Read the press release announcing this new project.

Read a blog entry about the study on the Huffington Post by Dr. Julie Dobrow, Director of Communications and Media Studies at Tufts University.

Read a recent article about the Arthur interactive graphic novel "So Funny I Forgot to Laugh."

The Research Team

Principal Investigators
Lacey J. Hilliard
Richard M. Lerner

Tufts Team Members
Milena Batanova
Akira Gutierrez
Elise Harris
Heidi Johnson
AnneMarie McClain
Kathy Robinson
Danielle Stacey
Jonathan Tirrell
Dan Warren

Advisory Member
Edmond P. Bowers, Clemson University

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