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Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning


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FY Awards

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Dr. Emily J. Doolittle
(202) 245-7833


Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning supports research on social skills, attitudes, and behaviors that support learning, achievement, and progress through the education system.

This program emerged from an early IES investment in a multi-site evaluation of social and character development programs. The primary question for the multi-site evaluation was: can universal school-based programs that aim to promote positive social skills and character improve 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students' social and behavioral competencies and academic achievement relative to typical school practice?

We learned that:

  • Schools randomly assigned to implement a social and character development program reported increases in social and character development practices.
  • Schools randomly assigned to continue their typical practice also reported high levels of social and character development practices.
  • There were no differences between the treatment and control groups in students' social and emotional competence, behavior, academic performance, or perceptions of school climate.

Why didn't these well-designed, evidence-based programs have their intended impacts? Do schools really engage in social-behavioral practices in the absence of formal programs? Research projects in this portfolio explore, develop, test, or evaluate ways to:

  • Teach all students social and behavioral skills to support learning.
  • Provide additional support to students with specific mental health needs.
  • Help teachers create organized, responsive, and nurturing classroom environments.

See the Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Influences on Learning page to learn more about IES initiatives in this area.