The Evidence Portal

The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program (IY)

About the program

The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program was originally a clinic-based treatment model, and was subsequently revised and adapted to be used by teachers as a preschool and early school-based preventive model.

The ‘Dinosaur School’ curriculum is grounded in cognitive social learning theory and research on conduct problems in children, including associated social, emotional, and cognitive deficits.

The program was designed to promote children's social competence, emotional self-regulation (e.g., engagement with classroom activities, persistence, problem solving, anger control), and school behaviour (e.g., following teacher directions, cooperation). It uses social learning behaviour change methods such as videotape modelling, role play and practice of targeted skills, and reinforcement for targeted behaviours.

The program trains teachers in various child engagement strategies, including:

  • Effective classroom management
  • Promoting prosocial behaviours and emotional literacy
  • Prevention or reduction of conduct problems
  • Increasing parents' involvement in children's education and behaviour planning

The program targets four risk and protective factors:

  • Teacher classroom management skills and classroom environment
  • Teacher-parent involvement
  • Child school readiness (social competence, emotional self-regulation, and absence of behaviour problems)
  • Poverty

The IY ‘Dinosaur School’ is designed to target the first three of these more malleable risk factors and it is hypothesised that the increase of protective factors will prevent problematic behaviour patterns. The fourth area of risk – poverty – is not one that can be easily changed by schools.

Who does it work for?

The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program targets children with social, emotional, or behavioural problems. Children living in poverty are at higher-risk of these problems, which is why the intervention targets high-needs and low-income schools where high percentages of  students live in poverty.

An RCT study was conducted in the USA with a sample of 120 classrooms from Seattle HeadStart programs and 14 elementary schools (Webster-Stratton et al. 2008). The study design randomly assigned culturally diverse HeadStart programs and elementary schools serving low-income populations to intervention or control conditions. 120 classrooms from Seattle area HeadStart programs and 14 elementary schools were involved in the project. These schools were matched on variables such as size, geographic location, and demographics of the children, and matched pairs were randomly assigned to intervention or control conditions.

Parents of all children in the study classrooms were invited to participate in the research project. Of those approached, 86% of HeadStart and 77% of elementary school families signed consent forms indicating their willingness to participate.

On average, students were 5.31 of age and 50% were male. The sample was ethnically diverse:18% Latinx, 18% African American, 20% Asian, 27% Caucasian, 8% African, and 9% other minority. Almost a third (31%) of  children did not speak English as their first language. Teacher demographic variables were comparable across the intervention and control conditions. No significant differences were found for any of the teacher demographic variables. Teachers were Caucasian (65%), African American (16%), Asian (12%) and other (8%). The majority  (95%) were  female. Thirty-nine percent of teachers taught in HeadStart, 30% kindergarten, and 31% 1st grade. Teachers’ level of education was high school (4%), two years of college (13%), Bachelor’s degree (43%), and Master’s degree (40%).

The review did not identify any evidence that the program has been evaluated in Australia or with First Nations communities.

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

School adjustment, Improvement in conduct behaviour, Classroom engagement, Identification of positive feelings, Teacher-parent bonding: Students of teachers who received the The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program showed more indicators of school readiness and fewer conduct problems than students in control classrooms. Results showed both significant improvement and significant differential improvement in emotional self-regulation, social competence and conduct problems compared with the control students’ behaviours.  There were also improvements in children’s conduct problems at home. These results are based on independent observations as well as parent and teacher reports.

When teachers were trained to deliver the IY Dinosaur School curriculum and utilised positive classroom behaviour management strategies, this led to positive and responsive teaching, less harsh or critical discipline, and increased focus on social and emotional teaching, and parent involvement in children’s education.

Teachers who received the The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program were significantly different from control teachers on four of the five TCI variables: harsh/critical; warm/affectionate; inconsistent/permissive; and social/emotional. Intervention teachers used more specific teaching strategies that addressed social and emotional skills than teachers in control classrooms. The effect sizes were moderate to high, indicating that the curriculum and training had robust effects on changing teachers’ classroom management approaches.

No evidence was found that the student gender, age, or grade moderated the effects of the intervention on student outcomes. Students who received intervention had more prosocial solutions to problem situations and an increased positive feeling vocabulary compared with control students. Increasing children’s social problem-solving knowledge and emotional language is promising because it increases the likelihood that children exposed to this curriculum will be more successful in solving problems with peers

No effect:


Negative outcomes:


Is the program effective?

The program had a positive effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Promising research evidence:

  • At least one high-quality RCT/QED study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • Fewer RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects

How is it implemented?

The classroom-based version of the Dinosaur School curriculum uses a format of 30 classroom lessons per year and has preschool and primary grade versions. The content is broken into 7 units:

  • Learning school rules
  • How to be successful in school
  • Emotional literacy, empathy, and perspective taking
  • Interpersonal problem solving
  • Anger management
  • Social skills
  • Communication skills

In the study, teachers followed lesson plans that covered each of these content areas at least 2 times a week. They worked with students in a large group circle for 15-20-minutes, followed by 20 minutes of small group skill practice activities. A certified research staff member co-led all the lessons with the teachers to ensure that each classroom received a full dose of intervention.

The curriculum involves over 300 small group activities which focus on social emotional skills and cover a wide variety of teaching modalities. The program caters to young children by using life-size puppets, “Dinosaur homework” activities, picture cue cards for non-readers, and games to stimulate group discussion, cooperation, and skill-building. In the classroom, teachers are encouraged to promote the skills taught in circle time lessons throughout the day during less structured settings, such as during choice time, in the lunchroom, or on the playground.

Intervention teachers participated in 4 days (28 hours) of training spread out in monthly workshops. The training followed the textbook on how to promote social and emotional competence in young children (Webster-Stratton, 2000). The teacher training program also contained over 100 videotaped vignettes of children demonstrating social skills and conflict management strategies. 

At each assessment period, children, parents, and teachers completed report measures and children and teachers were observed in the classrooms by independent observers (blind to intervention condition) during structured and unstructured times (e.g., playground).

Fidelity was monitored and measured in the following ways:

  • Teacher training was conducted using a standard protocol and was delivered by certified The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program trainers.
  • All training sessions were videotaped and reviewed by the program developer.
  • Detailed manuals were provided for all Dinosaur lessons, complete with activities, role plays, and homework assignments.
  • Protocol checklists were completed by the research co-leader after each session, indicating which lessons, small group activities and vignettes were used.
  • Lessons were observed by certified program supervisors and standardised process, and content evaluations were completed after each of these observations.
  • The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program research co-leaders met for weekly supervision to review protocols and ensure adherence to the curriculum.

Recruitment of schools and students occurred in each of 4 consecutive years (4 cohorts) to ease project burden in each year. By design, schools that served as control participated as intervention in the next year, and by design, each year a new set of schools were matched and randomly assigned to intervention or control. This procedure was repeated over four consecutive years to fill out the sample.

How much does it cost?

Information not provided

What else should I consider?

This study contributes to a growing body of literature evaluating the instruction in social, emotional, and problem-solving techniques in the classroom, showing promise for improving young children’s overall school readiness and reducing conduct problems. Further research is needed to conduct an effectiveness trial where the program is evaluated under ‘real world’ conditions without the research support and careful monitoring that was offered in the current project. It remains to be seen what level of technical support teachers will need to implement the program effectively on their own after receiving the training.

Another limitation of the study is that the study cannot determine whether the child behaviour improvements occurred outside the classroom environment and whether they generalised to the home environment. Further research should include parent report of home-based behaviour change as well.

Where does the evidence come from?

One RCT conducted in the USA with a sample of 120 classrooms from Seattle HeadStarts and 14 elementary schools (Webster‐Stratton et al. 2008).

Further resources

  • Webster-Stratton, C., Jamila Reid, M., and Stoolmiller, M. 2008. Preventing conduct problems and improving school readiness: evaluation of The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Programs in high-risk schools. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(5), 471-488.
Last updated:

17 Feb 2023

Was this content useful?
We will use your rating to help improve the site.
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Please don't include personal or financial information here

We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

Top Return to top of page Top