The Middle Years Development Instrument

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area, Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region, North Slave Region, South Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, aboriginal youth, educational development, children's health, decision making

Principal Investigator: Schonert-Reichl, Kimberly (2)
Licence Number: 16510
Organization: Human Early Learning Partnership, SPPH, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Licensed Year(s): 2020 2019
Issued: Mar 12, 2019

Objective(s): To conduct a self-report questionnaire that gives students a voice by answering questions about their feelings and experiences both inside and outside of school using a holistic, strengths-based approach to measure five dimensions of child development strongly linked to social and emotional well-being, health, academic achievement and overall success throughout the school years and later in life.

Project Description: The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) is a self-report questionnaire that gives students a voice by answering questions about their feelings and experiences both inside and outside of school. The MDI uses a holistic, strengths-based approach to measure five dimensions of child development strongly linked to social and emotional well-being, health, academic achievement and overall success throughout the school years and later in life. These measures of child development offer essential data to school administrators, educators, policy makers, and community members for decision-making aimed at creating conditions in which children can thrive and flourish.

As a collaborative project, the MDI is done in partnership with school districts and independent and Aboriginal schools through the Government of the Northwest Territories who sign an Information Sharing Agreement. Students are invited to be a part of the MDI project through their school districts or their independent/Aboriginal schools.

Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) provides school districts with a Principal Package that assists with streamlining and standardizing the communication of important information about the MDI project to principals and teachers. School and survey administrator participation in the MDI is completely voluntary.

For schools that choose to participate, parent/guardian informed passive consent letter are circulated in advance of completing the MDI through the school’s existing protocol for distributing parent/guardian information letters, delivered electronically via email to parents/guardians and/or printed and sent home with students. In an effort to reach Aboriginal families, the research team ask school districts to insert a word of welcome or thanks in the language of the Nation whose territory they live and work in to the English parent/guardian consent letter.

The Government of the Northwest Territories signs an Information Sharing Agreement (ISA) with University of British Columbia’s University-Industry Liaison Office to govern the sharing of data. Student identification information from the school district (for participating schools) is securely shared with HELP and is uploaded onto the e-MDI system (online system used to administer the MDI). HELP has the responsibility to keep personal information confidential and secure in accordance with any conditions set by the School Districts/independent and Aboriginal schools and the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), and provincial schools acts, as well as substantially similar legislation across Canada, and will require approved researchers and partner organizations to do so as well. All data for this project are collected, used and/or disclosed in accordance with Canadian privacy laws, and held in accordance with high security standards.

Survey administrators (classroom teacher, principal, or other school staff member) are provided with an MDI Administration guide, MDI Instructional survey and additional training materials (e.g. webinars, videos, online portal) to prepare them for administering the survey. The MDI is administered by select trained survey administrators to Grade 4 and 7 students during class time in the winter months. The survey takes 45 to 90 minutes (one to two class periods) to administer. The MDI survey is administered and completed online through the e-MDI secure online data collection platform.

During the appointed class time students are given login information (user names and passwords) by their survey administrator. Students have the option to skip questions or stop doing the survey at any time. They are instructed to ask the survey administrator for clarification if they do not understand a question. After students complete their surveys and log out, their passwords are no longer valid. Unless a student chooses to withdraw from the survey, their responses are saved on e-MDI system.

Data is received, prepared and reported all according to approved ethics procedures outlined in the MDI Project by the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board and the signed Information Sharing Agreement between the Government of the Northwest Territories and UBC. HELP prepares summary MDI reports which include maps and visuals to make the information easy to understand in the form of a) school report and b) school district and community reports. In disseminating findings, no information will be released at an individual level, results will solely be reported and disseminated at aggregate levels.

The MDI has great potential in improving the lives of students in the Northwest Territories by allowing educators and parents/guardians, policy makers and researchers to have much needed information about the psychological and social worlds of children during middle childhood. HELP prepares summary MDI reports. These include maps and visuals to make the information easy to understand in the form of a school report and school district and community reports.

Systematic evaluations of community impact have shown that educators and other community stakeholders are using MDI data to inform program planning and development including after-school scheduling, and raising awareness about issues facing children in their middle years such as anxiety, bullying, and lack of sleep, and hence providing justification for services such as school breakfast and lunch programs. The MDI has helped raise awareness about the importance of positive adult relationships in schools, families, and communities. The MDI research has led to increased focus on creating programs and practices that not only decrease problems but focus on promoting positive dimensions of well-being, such as empathy, optimism, self-esteem, and happiness. This aligns with a paradigm shift happening in psychology – not only reducing risks but creating the conditions for the development of positive well-being.

MDI reports are shared directly with the MDI Lead Contact in the Government of the Northwest Territories through the MDI e-system. Through this e-system, reports can then be shared with participating school district contacts. School district contacts can share these publicly at the discretion of the school district and school staff.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 12, 2019 to December 31, 2019.