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IES Grant

Title: Evaluating a Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum for Children At Risk for Emotional or Behavioral Disorders
Center: NCSER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Daunic, Ann Awardee: University of Florida
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2016-6/30/2020) Award Amount: $3,499,958
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A160136

Co-Principal Investigators: Nancy Corbett, Stephen Smith, and James Algina

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to examine the efficacy of the Social-Emotional Learning Foundations (SELF) intervention for improving social-emotional learning, behavior, and school adjustment for children at risk for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD). Students with social-behavioral problems early in their school careers are at high risk of developing long-term pervasive behavioral and academic problems, and early school success depends on successful social-emotional development. Given increasing demands to demonstrate accountability for academic achievement, however, educators maximize academic instruction time, often at the expense of social-emotional learning. Through small group instruction within the general education classroom, SELF integrates social-emotional learning with literacy instruction to support the social-emotional competencies and academic outcomes of children with EBD. SELF has demonstrated feasibility of implementation by early elementary school teachers as well as promise for improving social-emotional competence and school adjustment for students at risk for EBD, but the efficacy of the intervention has not yet been tested.

Project Activities: In Years 1–3 of the study, 60 schools will be recruited into three cohorts (20 schools per cohort). Schools will be randomly assigned to the SELF intervention condition or business-as-usual comparison condition. A total of 360 teachers/classrooms and approximately 1,440 children at risk for EBD will participate. In the fall of each year, teachers will identify students who may be at risk for EBD. Data collection will be completed prior to and immediately after the intervention to examine the efficacy of the intervention as well as variables that may moderate or mediate intervention outcomes.

Products: This project will produce evidence of the efficacy of SELF in improving social-emotional competence and school adjustment for children at risk for EBD in kindergarten and first grade, peer reviewed publications, and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in rural and urban elementary schools in Florida.

Sample: Approximately 360 teachers from 60 schools (approximately 6 classrooms per school) will be recruited for the study. Approximately 1,440 students (4 per participating classroom) in kindergarten (n = 720) and first grade (n = 720) who are screened as at risk for EBD and not identified as developmentally delayed will participate.

Intervention: Social-Emotional Learning Foundations (SELF), an intervention previously developed and tested through IES funding, consists of lessons that focus on age-appropriate critical social-emotional learning competencies: self-awareness (e.g., emotion recognition and identification), social awareness (e.g., perspective taking, respecting others), responsible decision making, self-management, and relationship management. Teachers receive comprehensive professional development in social-emotional learning, critical lesson components, alignment of the curriculum with literacy standards, and training in delivery of the curriculum. Each topic is introduced to the whole class using a storybook selected specifically for social-emotional concepts and related vocabulary appropriate for the respective grade level, with the remaining lessons taught through small-group instruction to the students identified as at risk for EBD. The teacher uses dialogic reading to promote discussion. Target students are encouraged to apply concepts and skills in problem-solving situations and practice using the selected vocabulary. During 20-minute lessons (taught 1–2 times per week), teachers use puppets to model a range of emotions and think aloud about feelings, choices, and consequences. They also encourage target children to relate lesson concepts to their own experiences.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will use a three-cohort cluster randomized trial in which schools serve as the unit of randomization, with classrooms nested within schools. Schools will be assigned to receive the SELF intervention or business-as-usual comparison condition. Data collection will be completed prior to and immediately after the intervention to examine the efficacy of the intervention as well as variables that may moderate (e.g., classroom interaction quality, baseline identification of internalizing vs. externalizing behavior, social emotional language development) or mediate (e.g., social-emotional language, self-regulation, treatment implementation quality) intervention outcomes.

Control Condition: In the control condition, teachers and their students will receive business-as-usual instruction, services, and professional development.

Key Measures: The Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders will be used as a student behavioral screening measure. For outcome measures, social-emotional language development will be assessed with a researcher-developed measure of children's receptive and expressive social-emotional learning vocabulary and the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts, which collects, transcribes, and codes adult-child conversations related to social-emotional learning. Student self-regulation and executive function will be assessed using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Teacher Form and the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders. Social-emotional competence will be measured by a researcher-developed questionnaire to assess how much students know about concepts taught directly in SELF lessons, as well as by the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment and Student Knowledge Questionnaire. School adjustment will be measured by the Clinical Assessment of Behavior Teacher Rating Form as well as academic measures available from the state, including the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading and attendance data. Potential moderators will be measured through the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (measures language proficiency) and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; measures classroom interaction quality). The Direct Observation of Practice Protocol will be used as a measure of intervention fidelity.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use multilevel modeling to evaluate the impact of SELF on students' social-emotional competence and academic outcomes and to explore moderating and mediating effects. The multilevel models will account for the nesting of children in classrooms in schools.

Related IES Project: Development of a Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum for Children At Risk for Emotional or Behavioral Disorders (R324A100020)