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Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Context for Teaching and Learning


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FY Awards

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Testing the Efficacy of INSIGHTS in Enhancing the Academic Learning Context

Year: 2008
Name of Institution:
New York University
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
McClowry, Sandee
Award Amount: $2,919,913
Award Period: 4 years
Award Number: R305A080512


Purpose: The primary purpose of this group randomized trial was to test the efficacy of INSIGHTS into Children's Temperament, compared to a read aloud program, in enhancing the academic learning context of kindergarten and first grade inner-city classrooms. INISGHTS is designed to help teachers, parents, and children understand temperament-based individual differences in order to enhance classroom learning.  Teachers and parents are taught strategies that match a child's temperament and enhance self-regulation, and children work with puppets to understand how other children and adults might react differently to similar situations.  The intervention is hypothesized to enhance classroom climate, teacher and parent efficacy, and parent involvement in school, which in turn should decrease students' aggressive behaviors and increase their engagement, attention, and relationship quality with the teacher, all leading to improved performance in school.

Project Activities: The research team randomized 22 low performing schools in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to two intervention conditions, INSIGHTS or Read Aloud, on a yearly basis in three cohorts.  For each cohort, INSIGHTS facilitators delivered the teacher and parent programs in 10 two-hour parallel facilitated sessions using a structured curriculum that includes didactic content, professionally produced vignettes (27 for teachers, 25 for parents), handouts, and group activities. During the same 10-week period, children and their classmates were involved in a daily 45-minute classroom component. The facilitator and the teacher used puppets and drama therapy techniques with the children to teach that, based on temperament, various situations are easy for some individuals while others are challenging. At each of five time points spanning the kindergarten and first grade years, the researchers measured student academic achievement and classroom behavior, including aggression, engagement, attentiveness, and the teacher-child relationship.

Key Outcomes:The main findings of this study are as follows:

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study was conducted in New York City.

Sample: Across 22 low performing schools, 491 students were recruited and participated in kindergarten and followed through first grade. Their parents as well as 120 teachers also participated. The majority of the participants were African American.

Intervention: INSIGHTS into Children's Temperament is a structured, facilitated 10-week intervention with teacher, parent, and child components. Teachers and parents learn temperament-based strategies intended to reduce the behavior problems of school-age children, support their competencies, and enhance their ability to self-regulate. In the classroom program, the participating children and their classmates engage puppets in daily dilemmas to enhance empathy and problem-solving skills.

Research Designs and Methods: The research team randomly assigned 22 schools to two intervention conditions, INSIGHTS or Read Aloud, on a yearly basis in three cohorts (six in Year 1, eight in Year 2, and eight in Year 3).  Data was collected at five time points within each cohort. Time 1 data were collected at baseline in the fall of the kindergarten year prior to the 10 weeks of intervention that began in January. Time 2 data were collected following 10 weeks of intervention in the late spring of the kindergarten year. Time 3 data were collected in the fall of 1st grade. Then the 1st grade intervention (again 10 weeks) was implemented and followed by Time 4 data collection. Time 5 occurred at the end of the 1st grade academic year.

Control Condition: The children who participated in the control condition attended a 10-week after-school read aloud program. Reading coaches also conducted two workshops, each two hours long, for teachers and for parents that offered strategies for making reading enjoyable for children.

Key Measures: The research team assessed student academic achievement using the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement Form B, Letter-Word Identification and Applied Problems subtests and the Academic Competence Evaluation Scales (ACES). They measured student-level classroom behavior using the Sutter-Eyberg Student Behavior Inventory (SESBI), which is the teacher version of the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory and the Behavioral Observation of Students in Schools (BOSS). They determined student attentiveness by the Attention Sustained subtest of the Leiter International Performance Scale Revised (Leiter-R). They measured the student -teacher relationship using the Student Teacher Relationship Scale (STRS). The research team also measured classroom climate using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), and the Teacher Attitudes about Parent Involvement (TAPI).

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team used hierarchical linear modeling to determine how children's classroom behaviors changed over time, to identify predictors of change, and to examine the mediating role of change in classroom behaviors on the association between INSIGHTS and achievement over time.

Related IES Projects: Does Early Intervention Benefit Social-Emotional and Academic Development in Middle School? A Follow-up Study of INSIGHTS (R305A160177); Testing the Efficacy of INSIGHTS for Promoting Positive Learning Environments and Academic Achievement in Nebraska: A Replication Study (R305A180290); New INSIGHTS: A Technology-Enhanced Social and Emotional Learning Intervention (91990022C0037); Examining Effects of Social-Emotional Learning on Outcomes Through High School and Beyond: A Follow-up Study of INSIGHTS (R305A220174)

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations:Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Reviewed Publication

O'Connor, E.E., Cappella, E., McCormick, M.P., and McClowry, S.G. (2014). Enhancing Academic Development of Shy Children: A Test of the Efficacy of INSIGHTS. School Psychology Review, 43(3): 239–259. WWC Review.

Select Publications:


McClowry, S.G. (2014). Temperament-Based Elementary Classroom Management.Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

McClowry, S.G. (2016). Using What Works: Elementary School Classroom Management.Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Book chapter

Collins, A., Colwell, N., and McClowry, S.G. (2012). Maintaining Fidelity of the Intervention. In B.M. Melnyk, and D. Morrison-Beedy (Eds.), Designing, Conducting, Analyzing and Funding Intervention Research: A Practical Guide for Success (pp. 215–229). New York: Springer.

McClowry, S.G., and Collins, A. (2012). Temperament-Based Intervention: Reconceptualized From a Response to Intervention Framework. In R. Shiner, and M. Zentner (Eds.), Handbook of Childhood Temperament (pp. 607–627). New York: Guilford Press.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Cappella, E., O'Connor, E.E., McCormick, M., Turbeville, A., Collins, A., and McClowry, S.G. (2015). Classwide Efficacy of INSIGHTS: Observed Teacher Practices and Student Behaviors in Kindergarten and First Grade. The Elementary School Journal, 116(2): 217–241.

Horn, E.P., McCormick, M.P., O'Connor, E.E., McClowry, S.G., and Hogan, F.C. (2021). Trajectories of Teacher-child Relationships across Kindergarten and First Grade: The Influence of Gender and Disruptive Behavior. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 55: 107–118.

Martin, N.K., Schafer, N.J., McClowry, S., Emmer, E.T., Brekelmans, M., Mainhard, T., and Wubbels, T. (2016). Expanding the Definition of Classroom Management: Recurring Themes and New Conceptualizations. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 51(1): 31–41.

McCormick, M.P and Cappella, E. (2015). Conceptualizing Academic Norms in Middle School: A Social Network Perspective. Journal of Early Adolescence, 35, 441–466.

McCormick, M. P., Cappella, E., O'Connor, E., Hill, J. L., and McClowry, S. (2016). Do Effects of Social-Emotional Learning Programs Vary by Level of Parent Participation: Evidence from the Randomized Trial of INSIGHTS. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 9(3): 364–394.

McCormick, M.P., Cappella, E., O'Connor, E.E., and McClowry, S.G. (2013). Parent Involvement, Emotional Support, and Behavior Problems: An Ecological Approach. Elementary School Journal, 114(2): 277–300.

McCormick, M. P., Cappella, E., O'Connor, E. E., and McClowry, S. G. (2015). Context Matters for Social-Emotional Learning: Examining Variation in Program Impact by Dimensions of School Climate. American Journal of Community Psychology, 56(1): 101–119.

McCormick, M.P., Cappella, E., O'Connor, E.E., and McClowry, S.G. (2015). Social-Emotional Learning and Academic Achievement: Using Causal Methods to Explore Classroom-Level Mechanisms. AERA Open, 1(3): 1–26.

McCormick, M.P. and O'Connor, E.E. (2015). Teacher-Child Relationship Quality and Academic Achievement in Elementary School: Does Gender Matter? Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(2): 502–516.

McCormick, M.P., O'Connor, E.E., and Barnes, S.P. (2016). Mother–Child Attachment Styles and Math and Reading Skills in Middle Childhood: The Mediating Role of Children's Exploration and Engagement. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 295–306.

McCormick, M.P., O'Connor, E.E., Cappella, E., and McClowry, S.G. (2015). Getting a Good Start in School: Effects of INSIGHTS on Children with High Maintenance Temperaments. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 30: 128–139.

McCormick, M.P., O'Connor, E.E., Cappella, E., and McClowry, S.G. (2013). Teacher–Child Relationships and Academic Achievement: A Multilevel Propensity Score Model Approach. Journal of School Psychology, 51(5): 611–624.

McCormick, M.P., O'Connor, E.E., and Horn, E.P. (2017). Can Teacher-Child Relationships Alter the Effects of Early Socioeconomic Status on Achievement in Middle Childhood? Journal of School Psychology, 64, 76–92.

McCormick, M.P., Turbeville, A.R., Barnes, S.P., and McClowry, S.G. (2014). Challenging Temperament, Teacher-Child Relationships, and Behavior Problems in Urban Low-Income Children: A Longitudinal Examination. Early Education and Development, 25(8): 1198–1218.

O'Connor, E.E., Cappella, E., McCormick, M.P., and McClowry, S.G. (2014). An Examination of the Efficacy of Insights in Enhancing the Academic and Behavioral Development of Children in Early Grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4): 1156–1169.

Shiner, R.L., Buss, K.A., McClowry, S.G., Putman, S.P., Saudino, K.J., and Zentner, M. (2012). What is Temperament Now? Assessing Progress in Temperament Research in the 25 Years Following Goldsmith et al. (1987). Child Development Perspectives, 6(4): 436–444.