WWC review of this study

A cluster randomized controlled trial of the Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS®) curriculum.

Humphrey, N., Barlow, A., Wigelsworth, M., Lendrum, A., Pert, K., Joyce, C., Stephens, E., Wo, L., Squires, G., Woods, K., Calam, R., Turner, A. (2016). Journal of School Psychology, 58, 73-89.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: February 2021

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

UK Key Stage 2 Maths

Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Grade: 5 (Year 6 in UK);
1,582 students





UK Key Stage 2 English

Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Grade: 5 (Year 6 in UK);
1,582 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • 23% English language learners

  • Female: 49%
    Male: 51%

  • Suburban, Urban
  • Race
    Other or unknown


The study took place in 45 mainstream primary schools in 10 districts within the Greater Manchester region of the United Kingdom.

Study sample

At the time of outcome measurement, the 45 schools in the analytic sample included 1,582 grade 5 students, with 823 students in the intervention group and 759 students in the comparison group. Among students in the schools, roughly half were male, 70% were White, 12% were Asian, 7% were Black, 17% were identified as students with disabilities, 31% were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and 23% used English as a second language.

Intervention Group

The PATHS® program is a curriculum that aims to promote emotional and social competencies, and reduce aggression and behavior problems in elementary school-age children. The lessons cover five topics: self-control, emotional literacy, social competence, positive peer relations, or interpersonal problem-solving skills. Students in the intervention group received the PATHS® program for a two-year period. PATHS® lessons occurred during normal class time, typically in the period reserved for personal, social, and health education and lasted approximately 30 to 40 minutes. The study team made surface-level changes to the language and examples in the PATHS® program to make it more relevant for a British sample. This was accomplished by altering vocabulary, photographs, cultural references, or names used in lessons (for example, changing the word principal to headteacher, and the word soccer to football).

Comparison Group

Students assigned to the comparison condition received the "business-as-usual" instruction that was available in their schools, including lessons in personal, social, and health education; the whole-school component of UK’s Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) program; circle time; nurture groups; the UK's National Healthy Schools program at the universal level; and the Targeted Mental Health in Schools program.

Support for implementation

Teachers in schools that implemented the PATHS® program received one full day of initial training with a half-day follow-up four months later, designed to familiarize teachers with the PATHS® curriculum. Certified trainers from the Pennsylvania State University delivered the training. Teachers in schools implementing the PATHS® program also received an implementation guidance manual developed by the research team and ongoing technical support and assistance from three members of the research team, who had also been trained by Pennsylvania State University trainers.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Humphrey, N., Hennessey, A., Lendrum, A., Wigelsworth, M., Turner, A., Panayiotou, M., Joyce, C., Pert, K., Stephens, E., Wo, L., Squires, G., Woods, K., Harrison, M., and Calam, R. (2018). The PATHS curriculum for promoting social and emotional well-being among children aged 7-9 years: a cluster RCT. Public Health Research, 6 (10).

  • Humphrey, Neil; Barlow, Alexandra; Wigelsworth, Michael; Lendrum, Ann; Pert, Kirsty; Joyce, Craig; Stephens, Emma; Wo, Lawrence; Squires, Garry; Woods, Kevin; Calam, Rachel; Harrison, Mark; Turner, Alex; Humphrey, Neil. (2015). Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS): Evaluation Report and Executive Summary. Education Endowment Foundation.

  • Panayiotou, Margarita; Humphrey, Neil; Hennessey, Alexandra. (2020). Implementation Matters: Using Complier Average Causal Effect Estimation to Determine the Impact of the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) Curriculum on Children's Quality of Life. Journal of Educational Psychology, v112 n2 p236-253.

  • Humphrey, N., Barlow, A., & Lendrum, A. (2018). Quality matters: Implementation moderates student outcomes in the PATHS Curriculum. Prevention Sciences, 19, 197-208.

  • Hennessey, Alexandra; Humphrey, Neil. (2020). Can Social and Emotional Learning Improve Children's Academic Progress? Findings from a Randomised Controlled Trial of the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) Curriculum. European Journal of Psychology of Education, v35 n4 p751-774.


Your export should download shortly as a zip archive.

This download will include data files for study and findings review data and a data dictionary.

Connect With the WWC

back to top