Date of Award

Fall 2014

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Michael Gass


This study investigated the ability of adventure education to impact the social skill development of United States urban middle school students. The Project Adventure Inc. RESPECT adventure education program was delivered to students at three Boston Public middle schools over the course of three academic years. Students at two neighboring Boston Public middle schools were used as a comparison group. The RESPECT program was a comprehensive, whole-school program facilitated by school administrators and teachers trained by Project Adventure staff.

Social skill ability was measured by the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) Student Form, which was administered at the beginning and end of each academic year for a total of six measurement occasions. Multilevel modeling was used to analyze the longitudinal data to determine the effect of treatment, school, and gender on students' initial status and estimated rate of change in social skill development.

Results showed no statistically significant difference between experimental and control students' estimated rates of change. However, the shape of estimated growth trajectories was different between groups. Similar results were found regarding the role of school attended on social skill development. Statistically significant differences were found between male and female students' estimated rates of change regardless of treatment status or school. Females began sixth grade with higher social skill ability than males. Males and females declined in a similar fashion until the end of seventh grade, however, males increased more sharply than females from the end of seventh grade to the end of eighth grade.

Results also indicated that regardless of treatment status, school attended, or gender, urban students had a nonlinear estimated social skill growth trajectory during their three middle school years. Specifically, students demonstrated a decline in social skill ability from the beginning of sixth grade to the end of seventh grade followed by an increase in social skill ability from the end of seventh grade to the beginning of eighth grade. The findings of this study are relevant to both school-based adventure education research and the broader area of adolescent social skill development.