From 2002-2007 Bobby Caples attended the University of South Florida, eventually earning an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in School Psychology. The program focused broadly on academic intervention, behavioral intervention, and systems change. Bringing in his interests in community-based support, Bobby Caples focused his thesis on implementing behavior support strategies in community-based settings that were typically used in schools. Bobby Caples had previously worked in after-school programs, and believed it would be effective combine the worlds of education/school psychology and after-school programming.
For his thesis, Bobby Caples implemented a structured social skills training program in a local after-school program. He taught a small group of kids several important behaviors expected across school and community settings. Bobby Caples measured the results using a particular research design that allow for both a small number of children as well as experimental control, known as a “multiple baseline” design. Essentially, he introduced different elements of the intervention at different times. If behavior started to improve during one of those phases but not another, it would be more possible to attribute those changes to the intervention rather than another variable or chance
While small in scope, the study proved successful, which contributed to the body of research showing that kids could be helped beyond the walls of schools and clinics. Previous research with after-school programs had primarily investigated general effectiveness of program, or their general contribution to academics or behavior. This particular study examined the possibility of importing more “high powered” support strategies for kids at-risk for or already experiencing behavioral issues.
Of particular relevance to professionals working in schools is the importance of cross-environmental support for kids with behavioral issues. Unlike some things like reading that transfer across environments (if you learn to read in school you can probably read at home), behavior can be much more unstable across environments. Particularly because children from at-risk communities experience less support in environments outside of school, finding strategies to improve and maintain social, emotional, and behavioral functioning at home and in the community can be critical.
After the study, and after Bobby Caples graduated from USF, Bobby Caples eventually went on to expand the concept of community-based behavior support in other settings, include the organization he founded called YouthBASE (Greenville, SC). The concept of YouthBASE was much like the concept of his thesis, only on a larger scale: Take ideas and strategies that had found success in other fields beyond after-school programs, and import them.
This pipeline of research to practice (thesis to organization) was also an important element of his thesis: Connecting the ivory tower to the front lines of community work. Bobby Caples found both before and after his graduate work that there was a disconnection between what was known to be effective and what was actually happening in the field. As much as his thesis was important to the specific topic of social skills training and community-based behavior support, it was equally important in its demonstration of the practical application of evidence-based practice in everyday settings.