FTH Research - The Effects of an Experimental Program
The Effects of an Experimental
on the Self-Esteem of Second-Grade Children
as Measured by the Piers-Harris Childrens Self-Concept Scale
by Martha L. Rawls, B.S., M.Ed.
A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Northeast
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Education
NORTHEAST LOUISIANA UNIVERSITY
A Self-Esteem Adventure
A video-based program by Active Parenting Publishers
Think clear. Think bright.
The purpose of this chapter was to determine the effectiveness
of the program Free the Horses: A Self-Esteem Adventure (Popkin
& Greathead, 1991) in strengthening the levels of self-esteem
of second-grade children.
The self-esteem sessions were conducted for 10 weeks at Crowville
Elementary School in Crowville, Louisiana, during the Fall Semester
of 1993. As a gauge to determine the effectiveness of these sessions,
the Piers-Harris Childrens Self-Concept Scale (Piers &
Harris, 1969) was administered three times: once as a pre-test,
once as a post-test immediately following the sessions, and once
as a second post-test two months following the sessions.
The design for the study included a non-treatment group, Group
1, and a treatment group, Group 2. Both groups participated in
the pre-test, post-test, and second post-test, but the treatment
group was the only group to receive the instructional lessons
through the use of the Free the Horses instrument.
Results of the three tests were analyzed for both groups using
t-tests for paired samples. Mean values, mean differences, t-values,
and one-tailed probability was evaluated comparing the pre-test
to the first post-test, the pre-test to the second post-test,
and finally the first post-test to the second post-test.
As a result of this study, the researcher was asked to implement
Free the Horses: A Self-Esteem Adventure in 10 different
public school locations in Franklin and Ouachita Parishes in the
northeast Louisiana area. In addition to the Free the Horses sessions,
the researcher was asked to work with the Northeast Louisiana
University Family Resource Center to develop a self-esteem poster
and video that would be distributed to numerous schools and community
services. At the completion of this study, the researcher plans
to develop self-esteem lessons for second graders that could be
used by juniors and seniors in local high schools who then receive
in-service training in teaching the self-esteem materials to second
Effectiveness of the
Free the Horses: A Self-Esteem
Adventure (Popkin & Greathead,
1991) was found to be a very effective self-esteem building program
by second-grade teachers, parents of students, and participants
in the treatment sessions. Although the testing instrument evaluations
showed only two significant increases in the mean values of cluster
scores, many positive outcomes were reported.
Both second-grade teachers who teach the treatment group reported
noticeable increases in the positive outlook of the children.
They observed gradual changes in the entire groups willingness
to participate and to keep trying when difficult tasks
were assigned. In fact one teacher reported an occasion in which
a child said, I cant do this! According to the
teacher, the entire class immediately recited the following poem
taught in Free the Horses (Popkin & Greathead, 1991):
You can do it.
It may be hard
And it may take time.
But stick with it
And youll be fine (p. 9).
In addition to more determination exhibited by students, both
teachers reported the students as more caring toward each other
and more willing to share as well as help a classmate. One teacher
recalled an incident in which a student accidentally stepped on
another childs hand. To the surprise of the teacher, the
child who stepped on the other childs hand started to cry.
When asked what was wrong, the child said, I hurt her, and
you are not supposed to hurt other people. This act of compassion
came immediately after a session concerning friends and belonging.
Toward the end of the Free the Horses sessions, both
teachers reported several students beginning to participate more
in class discussions. These children seemed to be more willing
to offer information both freely and when called upon by the teacher.
Both teachers attribute this to the class interaction and discussion
included in the self-esteem sessions.
Both of the second-grade teachers at Crowville Elementary School
strongly recommend the implementation of Free the Horses:
A Self-Esteem Adventure for all lower elementary children.
Arrangements have already been made by those teachers to have
the program become a permanent part of their curriculum.
In addition to the teachers, many parents also reported positive
outcomes from the self-esteem sessions. Like the teachers, the
parents observed a more positive attitude. They observed that
their children seemed to work harder and to be less likely to
quit when things were hard. Several parents reported incidents
concerning an increase in determination. One parent shared an
occasion in which her child had a difficult homework assignment
to complete. After many efforts and failures, the mother heard
her child reciting the You Can Do It poem. The mother
noticed that remembering the poem seemed to give her child an
extra burst of energy and determination.
Refusing to say I cant was an important lesson
taught in Free the Horses. Instead of saying I cant,
students were taught to say I will try or I
dont know how, yet, but I will learn. It was this
lesson that one parent saw as very helpful to her daughter. The
child had been asked to sing a solo in church, but the child was
nervous. After telling her mother that she just could not do it,
her mother reminded her of her promise to stop saying I
cant. At this point the child thought for a minute,
then said, I guess I need to try. The mother also
indicated that her daughter did a beautiful job singing the next
In addition to the classroom sessions with the students, information
sheets were given to both teachers and parents. These included
an overview of the activities covered each week as well as suggestions
for follow-up self-esteem activities. Both teachers and parents
stated that this information was helpful not only to keep abreast
of the happenings in the classroom but also to have ideas useful
to reinforce the major concepts covered each week. In fact several
parents stated that they used the information sheets to initiate
discussions concerning the concepts and activities covered in
During the treatment sessions, several of the students shared
times that they had remembered some of the concepts covered in
Free the Horses. Almost all of the children shared an
incident in which they had to use their courage and determination
to keep going. Most of the students recalled the You Can
Do It poem when problems arose. One child shared an incident
in which her brother was calling her names and attempting to make
her feel inferior. She stated that she simply looked straight
at him and recited another poem from Free the Horses
(Popkin & Greathead, 1991):
Feel the sun in my heart just right.
Your words cant hurt,
No matter what you say.
Because in my own mind,
I know that Im okay! (p. 47).
With the use of the puppet, Yes-Yes, the
treatment participants were able to freely interact with the video
used in the Free the Horses program. During each session,
the adventure story would require interaction from the children.
The students were asked to determine how the actors in the video
should handle various problems that arose during the self-esteem
adventure. Through this interaction medium, the classroom children
were required to form plans and make decisions. With the help
of the puppet, the children were able to become actively involved
without fear of criticism or failure. Regardless of their comment,
Yes-Yes, the positive attitude puppet, was thrilled
to have their ideas and comments. This interaction proved to not
only build confidence in the children but to also be an educational
process for decision-making as well as for choices and consequences.
Based on the analysis of the research data and the researchers
knowledge of the school setting and the students, the following
conclusions were made.
According to the pre-test cluster and total self-esteem scores
as measured the Piers-Harris Childrens Self-Concept Scale
(Piers & Harris, 1969), Group 1, the non-treatment class,
had significantly higher scores than Group 2, the treatment class.
The classes were equal in ability levels as shown by GPA and were
also balanced as to equal numbers of males and females in each
class. Despite efforts to balance the classes, the pre-test data
showed that the groups were not similar in their perceptions of
self and the attributes and attitudes possessed. As expected from
the pre-test scores, the non-treatment group maintained higher
self-esteem scores on the first and second post-tests. Explanation
for this occurrence came in a casual remark from one of the second-grade
teachers. In discussing the lesson with the researcher, the teacher
made the comment, You should have chosen the other class
to teachyou have the bad class! The teacher
went on to explain how the treatment group was constantly a discipline
problem. If the teachers perceived the children as bad,
it was very likely that the students perceived themselves as bad.
The related literature fully explained how personal perceptions
of interactions with others taught the children to value or devalue
themselves according to how they believed significant others viewed
them. The appraisal of significant others, the second-grade teachers,
appeared to have some impact on the self-esteem scores of both
the treatment and non-treatment group.
The bad class, the treatment group, made a significant
increase in their behavior cluster scores from the first post-test
to the second post-test. According to the classroom teachers,
the entire class showed a definite behavior improvement after
the self-esteem lessons were completed and fully processed by
the children. The children were reported as more cooperative and
considerate, as well as more aware of others feelings.
A significant increase was also observed in the happiness and
satisfaction cluster level of the treatment class as reported
by both the teachers and the Piers-Harris Childrens Self-Concept
Scale. This increase occurred from the time of the first post-test
until the second post-test was administered. This significant
increase came immediately after a significant decrease, which
occurred between the pre-test and the first post-test happiness
and satisfaction cluster scores. It appears that the children
might have been dissatisfied with themselves following the treatment
sessions, but after fully understanding the self-esteem information
and attempting to incorporate the lessons into their lives, their
self-concept scores increased in the area of happiness and satisfaction.
The self-esteem cluster, physical appearance and attributes, showed
a decrease from the pre-test to the first post-test and also from
the first post-test to the second post-test. The significant levels
(0.08 and 0.07) were slightly above the significant level of 0.05.
A possible explanation for the consistent decrease might be the
lack of emphasis of the children on their outward appearance and
beauty and more emphasis on inner strengths. The self-esteem treatment
sessions focused more on the inner qualities of belonging, learning,
contributing, courage, responsibility, and cooperation.
In addition to the significant gains made by the treatment group,
the non-treatment group also showed an increase in self-esteem
from the pre-test to the second post-test in all six cluster areas
and in the total self-esteem scores. Many factors could account
for the change in the non-treatment class. The high attrition
rate of the treatment class resulted in four students being dropped
from the final analysis. This resulted in a difference in class
sizes and possibly in the overall self-esteem scores as well as
the individual cluster scores.
Another factor which could have influenced the results was the
timing of the testing periods. The pre-test was in early September,
the first post-test was immediately prior to Thanksgiving holidays,
and the second post-test was the week after Christmas break. Having
the testing near holiday times could have caused unusual changes
in the overall results either positively or negatively.
Contamination could have been a factor which influenced the increase
in scores of the non-treatment class. Due to the fact that both
groups were at the same school location, it was very likely that
the non-treatment group received some positive outcomes from the
program. One example of this was seen in the actual classroom
used for the treatment. Self-esteem posters were displayed as
a reinforcement of the lessons. Both groups were exposed to the
posters due to the alternating daily teaching schedule of the
second grade teachers.
Excitement and fun filled the air when the puppet Yes-Yes, the
interactive video, and class activities were used. In fact, several
children in the treatment class commented, We are so luckywe
get to see Yes-Yes (puppet), and the other class doesnt!
It is very likely that comments and stories about the lessons
were told to the non-treatment class at recess time. This could
have resulted in the contamination of the program, thus causing
the non-treatment scores to increase.
Free the Horses: A Self-Esteem
Adventure (Popkin & Greathead,
1991) was shown to be an effective program in producing the feelings
of competence and self-worth in an effort to develop more positive
self-esteem in the treatment group at Crowville Elementary School
in Crowville, Louisiana. Further research is needed to evaluate
the program using children in the first and third grades. Expanded
research, perhaps using students from several schools, is also
a possible direction for further study. A larger group of subjects
would increase the power of the test and the likelihood of receiving
higher levels of significance in the six self-esteem clusters.
Recommendations of directions for future research were detailed
in the following paragraphs.
- As indicated in this research, simply
dividing the classes according to an equal number of males and
females and balanced GPA is not enough. The researcher recommends
that the groups be randomly selected to insure a better balance
between the treatment and non-treatment classes.
- If two established groups must be used
for the research, recommendations are that the groups be from
different schools to prevent the likelihood of contamination
of the study.
- The researcher recommends that further
investigations be conducted for longer time periods and with
lengthened sessions. According to the literature, changing a
persons self-esteem is both very difficult and an extremely
slow process. Therefore, the treatment sessions need to be a
year-long process if possible.
- In addition to the Free the Horses
sessions, the classroom teacher might use the Free the Horses
storybook and cassette of songs for additional reinforcement
of important concepts.
- An additional recommendation is that an
emphasis on self-esteem be a required part of the school curriculum
for all students in order to fully develop the sense of self-worth
This limited research showed the importance of self-esteem curriculum
being added to the normal classroom. Since this program was found
to be successful, the researcher believes that this type of self-esteem
emphasis would be effective in every phase of the school curriculum.
The researcher identified the following implications based on
the results of the study.
- Training is needed for all teachers, school
personnel, and parents as to the importance of developing positive
self-esteem in children and adolescents. This training should
include suggestions as to how to implement the basic components
of self-esteem into everyday activities. In order to make a lasting
effect on a childs self-esteem, both teachers and parents
must model good self-esteem and also reinforce the childs
sense of self-worth and competence.
- Reinforcement of positive attitudes and
behaviors should be incorporated into daily routines. Words of
encouragement, positive attitudes, and even visual reinforcementsuch
as posters and bulletin boardscould help to accomplish
- There are implications that an overlapping
effect occurs with children who are receiving the self-esteem
sessions and those who are not receiving the treatment. Because
of the enthusiasm and positive results of the sessions, the students
receiving the self-esteem program tend to aid in the enhancement
of the self-esteem of the children receiving no treatment sessions.
Therefore, posters and displays as well as word of mouth should
be used to build and reinforce a sense of positive well-being.
The program Free the Horses: A Self-Esteem
Adventure (Popkin & Greathead, 1991) was found to be
successful in building the feelings of competence and self-worth
in the second-grade treatment group at Crowville Elementary School.
The researcher felt that the goals of the program were achieved.
The 10 weeks of self-esteem sessions had a positive effect on
the attitudes and behaviors of the treatment group as indicated
by the testing instrument, the second grade teachers, the parents,
and the individual participants.