It is too early in the development of the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum to conduct a formal outcome evaluation. However, we have taken the first step, which is to conduct a process, or implementaion evaluation study. A process evaluation is an essential component in program evaluation, and it is conducted in order to examine how a program is used. In conducting this first step in the evaluation process, we gathered data on when, where, and how lessons were being taught. We were specifically interested in learning whether the delivery of the Curriculum was consistent with its design and intended implementation (what is known as fidelity of implementation) and whether teachers, students, and families were engaged and satisfied with the Curriculum format and content. Although a formal evaluation study is planned, we conducted a preliminary outcome evaluation to examine the Curriculum’s impact on students, teachers, and families. Participating in the study were teachers in schools implementing the Pre-K-Grade 3 Curriculum during the pilot year. The schools ranged in size from 300 to 1400 students. The teachers completed surveys to gather data on the use, scope, and application of lessons, as well as perceived impact and outcomes on students, families, and classroom/school climate. Interviews and classroom observations were also conducted with a subsample of teachers.
Here Is What We Found:
Teachers implemented lessons weekly and tailored lesson scripts, materials, and activities to meet the needs and characteristics of their students and families
- 56% of teachers implemented lessons from the curriculum once per week
- 28% of teachers implemented lessons from the curriculum twice per week.
- 78% of teachers implemented lessons in the afternoon during instructional time
- 74% of teachers tailored lessons by adding materials, activities, or books, or modifying the lesson script
Teachers used a range of instructional and classroom management strategies in order to reinforce lesson concepts and promote social and emotional skills
- 68% of teachers surveyed discussed topics from the curriculum while teaching other subjects
- 48% of teachers created classroom guidelines regarding feelings, communication, and cooperation
- 32% of teachers displayed Mutt-i-grees® posters and materials throughout the classroom
- 32% of teachers used strategies from the Curriculum when classroom conflicts arose
Teachers reported that use of the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum influenced their own teaching style and instructional practices. After implementing the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum...
- 79% of teachers reported being more likely to model how to identify and express emotion
- 77% of teachers reported being more likely to encourage students to identify and label feelings
- 74% of teachers reported being more likely to help students consider how a classmate or dogs might be feeling by paying attention to physical and situational cues
- 65% reported being more likely to discuss and model appropriate and inappropriate ways to express emotion
- 65% of teachers reported being more likely to consider how their own feelings affected students
- 62% of teachers reported being more likely to consider the feelings of their students
Teachers reported that the use of the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum impacted children’s social-emotional skills, particularly empathy, and problem-solving skills. After implementing the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum...
- 74% of teachers reported that children were more likely to try to understand how and why other children feel and think
- 65% of teachers reported that children were more likely to recognize and accurately label their emotions
- 62% of teachers reported that children had exhibited an increased vocabulary of feeling words
- 62% of teachers reported that children were more likely to try and work out problems by talking
Interestingly, more than 90% of teachers surveyed had used other curriculum that targeted social and emotional skills. When asked about the differences between these programs and the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum, teachers commented that children were particularly engaged in the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum because of the spotlight on dogs and inclusion of hands-on activities. Teachers also noted that the Curriculum enabled children to develop compassion not just for people, but for animals too.
More on Evaluation
Additional process evaluation studies to monitor program implementation, as well as more rigorous outcome evaluations are currently underway. Using larger samples of schools, we will gather data on fidelity of implementation, as well as examine the validity of measures we have developed to assess program implementation and impact. Outcome evaluation efforts will focus on examining the impact of the Curriculum on school climate and student behavior as well as student, parent, and teacher knowledge of social and emotional skills and their understanding of dogs’ behavior. In addition, Mutt-i-grees® schools in several states are taking the lead in conducting formal evaluations involving comparison groups. These empirical studies will examine program impact on children’s knowledge of emotions and social competence, as well as their knowledge of, and attitudes toward, shelter dogs and animal shelters. Future empirical studies will examine whether Curriculum impact varies by school and classroom (i.e., mainstream, special education) type, the use of a puppet versus a live dog, the involvement in community service learning, and whether participation in the Curriculum affects school transitions (such as Pre-Kindergarten to Kindergarten and school day to afterschool programming).
What students, parents and educators are saying about the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum:
“The Curriculum makes sense in a desensitizing world.”
- 10th grade male student participating in pilot test of Grades 9-12 Curriculum
“Mutt-i-grees® teaches us that we are special.”
- 1st grade student
“The Curriculum made me feel important”
- 6th grade student
“Bravo to whomever brought the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum to our school. This sounds like an amazing approach to discuss such important and valuable topics. Promoting appreciation for their individual qualities and acceptance of individual diversity is so desperately needed, especially at this age. Being comfortable in one’s own skin and being committed to your principles is difficult at any age.”
- Parent of a 5th grade student
“I liked how easy it was to illustrate the power of communication through body language, using dogs as examples. It was very easy for all the students to understand the objective of the lessons. I also liked the positive and hopeful message about handling adversity. The students were engaged and enjoyed the lessons.”
- School Psychologist
“I liked seeing how thinking about and relating to dogs brought out positive feelings in my students.”
- Teacher, grades 7 & 8
The teachers that implemented the program this year had positive comments to share with our entire staff. One of the teachers commented that it was her favorite thing to teach during the week.”
- 5th grade teacher
“My students were very interested in talking about their experiences with dogs. I especially liked how easy it was to relate human body language with how dogs communicate non-verbally.”
- Teacher, grades 6-8
“By focusing on dogs and learning about and from dogs, children are learning about their own feelings and about other people’s feelings. We are sowing the seeds for a more humane world and helping children.”
- 2nd grade teacher
“I especially liked the emphasis on accepting diversity and the idea of tolerance.”
- Teacher, grades 6-8