The training program THE MIND READERS was designed by the research partners and implemented and evaluated in schools from Germany, Greece, Cyprus and Switzerland between the period 2019 – 2021. You can find information about the above study as well as additional published research here. Moreover, the partner schools have documented their experiences in videos which you can watch here.
THE MIND READERS study
As part of the development the training program THE MIND READERS was tested in two phases at seven partner schools in Germany, Cyprus, Greece and Switzerland. The objectives of this study were
- to assess Theory of Mind and Emotion Understanding of the deaf and hard of hearing children and young people involved and possible associating factors,
- to evaluate the methods, the exercises and the materials of the training program THE MIND READERS, in different educational settings (classroom teaching, individual support, regular and special schools), and
- to assess the effectiveness of the training program.
Data collection and revision phases
Qualitative data were collected during and after the trial phases (evaluation journals). A pre- and post-test design was used to collect the quantitative data (test T1 to T4). In the first trial phase, a control group was tested alongside the intervention group, which became the intervention group in the second trial phase.
Following each trial phase, the training program was revised.
Sample and methods
During the development phase, more than 30 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing teachers worked with the program. A total of 127 deaf and hard of hearing children and adolescents participated in the two trial phases. The group of pupils was heterogeneous in terms of age, own hearing status and that of the parents as well as linguistic background (spoken and/or sign language).
Various qualitative and quantitative methods were used within the framework of a method triangulation.
Self-evaluation by teachers after each exercise: The teachers filled out an evaluation journal after each exercise in which they assessed the exercise content, the instructions, the achievability of the learning objectives and the methods and materials used, as well as making suggestions for changes.
Feedback from the students: The students rated each exercise using smiley faces scales and provided feedback, which the teachers wrote down in the evaluation journals.
Focus group interviews with teachers: At the end of the first trial phase, teachers discussed the overall concept, the practicality and the methods and materials used. Here, the strengths and weaknesses of the training program were evaluated and, among other things, it was checked whether it met the heterogeneous needs of the pupils.
Theory-of-Mind test: The “Theory of Mind Task Test” by Peterson et al. (2005) was translated into the different spoken and sign languages and used to test the five stages of Theory-of-Mind development.
Test of Emotion Understanding: The “Test of Emotion Comprehension” by Pons, Harris and De Rosnay (2004) was adapted into the different spoken and sign languages and used to test the nine components of Emotion Understanding.
Background questionnaire: The background questionnaire was used to collect data from the teachers on socio-economic status, hearing status, language skills and was based on the Heidelberg Competence Inventory (Holtz et al., 1984) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire SDQ (Goodman, 1997).
- Development status before the start of the first trial phase
The pretest on Theory of Mind competencies and Emotion Understanding revealed a wide variation in the competencies of students in all four countries and showed that, on average, they are several years behind in their development compared to hearing peers (for the results of hearing children see e.g. Peterson et al. 2005; Pons, Harris and De Rosnay 2004).
- Evaluation of the content, the exercises and materials
The feedback from teachers and children was taken into account in the first and second revisions. Their experiences have also been incorporated into the instructions for conducting and implementing THE MIND READERS in the Toolbox. The evaluation led to the following findings in particular:
- The modular structure of the training, the small-step structure, its differentiation and flexibility allowed its use among pupils with heterogeneous characteristics and needs. At the same time, teachers need support at the beginning of the training program to be able to orientate themselves well in the training.
- For deaf and hard of hearing children, visualisation and contextualisation of the learning material was considered particularly important. For this reason, pictures were made for most of the stories, which can be used with or without text in the classroom. The concept of thought bubbles proved to be particularly successful and was also a pictorial learning aid for children with low language skills.
- The multilingual methodology of the training program is highly valued by the teachers as suitable for the children’s different linguistic backgrounds. At the same time, teachers suggested that the children’s competences in spoken and/or sign languages can be built up with this training program. After the first trial phase, further sign language videos were added upon teacher request. On the one hand, the videos were used in the lessons. On the other hand, teachers used them as a model for narration and development of their own sign language competences.
- The teachers stated that they were better able to assess the social-cognitive and emotional competences of their students a) after the teacher training and b) after the implementation of the training program and c) that they had become more sensitive to aspects of Theory of Mind and Emotion Understanding in everyday life.
- The following were considered particularly helpful in implementing THE MIND READERS in schools: In-school/out-of-school training for teachers, formation of multiplier teams within a school, creation of boxes with the teaching material that can be used by several teachers, school-wide establishment of a fixed pace (per semester/year) for systematic implementation of the training program in the lesson plan.
Quotes from teachers:
“Storytelling with the help of the characters made a lot of sense, the characters helped the pupils to put themselves in the situation, to develop their own ideas. Attention was focused, communication took place and also language.” (Teacher in focus group interview, March 2021)
“The children loved playing the theatre sequences for the individual feelings. (…) This was taken up by many children in the free play afterwards.” (Teacher in evaluation journal, February 2021)
- Effectiveness of the training program
- The results of the pretest and posttest of the first trial phase show that the intervention group increased their competences in both Theory of Mind and Emotion Understanding more than the control group. This difference, however, was not statistically Detailed analyses reveal that especially students with very low linguistic competences show a significant improvement in the development of Theory of Mind competences compared to the control group. There is also a tendency for children who start the training with low competences in the area of Theory of Mind to achieve particularly large improvements.
The children in the second trial phase were also able to improve their performance in both areas. Since the second trial phase and also the test phases had to be interrupted for a longer period of time due to the school closures during the Covid 19 pandemic, the quantitative data of the second trial phase require careful analysis.
- The qualitative questioning and interviews after both trial phases on the effectiveness showed that children succeed in transferring the newly acquired competences into their everyday life. This was observed both in free play and, for example, in dispute resolution, where the pupils were better able to reflect on their own motives and behaviour and that of others.
- Quotes from teachers:“We have learned what is going on in the minds of our students/children.” (Teacher in focus group interview, March 2021)“A child tells the following situation: ‘I hurt myself and I didn’t want the others to see that I hurt myself. And then I did ProToM: I made a Poker Face!’” (Written feedback from a teacher, January 2020)More detailed information on the accompanying research and the results can be found in our publications.
Quotes from teachers:
“We have learned what is going on in the minds of our students/children”. (Teacher in focus group interview, March 2021)
“A child tells the following situation: ‘I hurt myself and I didn’t want the others to see that I hurt myself. And then I did ProToM: I made a Poker Face!'” (Written feedback from a teacher, January 2020)
More detailed information on the accompanying research and the results can be found in our publications.
Goodman, R. (1997). The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: a research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 28/5, 581-586.
Holtz, K., Eberle, A., Hillig, A. & Marker, K. (1984). Heidelberger Kompetenz-Inventar für geistig Behinderte (HKI). Edition S: Wien.
Jahnke, B. (2008). Emotionswissen und Sozialkompetenz von Kindern im Alter von drei bis zehn Jahren. Empirische Pädagogik, 22/2, 127-144.
Peterson, CC., Wellman, HM. & Liu, D (2005). Steps in theory of mind development for children with autism, deafness or typical development. Child Development, 76, 502–517.
Pons, F., Harris, P. & De Rosnay, M. (2004). Emotion comprehension between 3 and 11 years: Developmental periods and hierarchical organization. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1/2, 127-152.
Experiences from the schools with THE MIND READERS
Special Education United Vocational and Senior High School of Chalkida, Greece
Pädagogisches Zentrum für Hören und Sprache HSM, Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland
Interkantonale Hochschule für Heilpädagogik Zurich, Switzerland
Bildungs- und Beratungszentrum für Hörgeschädigte Stegen, Germany
Ernst-Adolf-Eschke-Schule Berlin, Germany
The videos were created by the school partners involved in the project ProToM.
Publications on the training programme THE MIND READERS
Research literature on Theory of Mind and Emotion Understanding
Here you can find further publications on Theory of Mind and Emotion Understanding: Publication list.