Effective interventions for emotional well-being

This paper, written by Tracey Bywater and Jonathan Sharples from the Institute for Effective Education, summarises a selective review of effective school-based social and emotional learning programmes, and draws lessons for policy and practice regarding choice and implementation. The evidence suggests that among universal and targeted evidence-based interventions, multi-modal/component approaches work in promoting cross-context competence and well-being. However, the scaling up of effective programmes remains difficult, and there are too few analyses of the cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit of effective programmes.

Choosing a programme “that works” is not enough to guarantee success; implementing the programme with fidelity takes time and resources, but is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. A shift from being narrowly focused on “clinical effectiveness” and outcomes to being more inclusive of cost and process evaluations should result in more promising approaches, with a good potential for long-term financial and societal savings.

Source: Effective evidence-based interventions for emotional well-being: lessons for policy and practice (2012), Research Papers in Education, 27(4)

Social-emotional learning for preschool children

This study from the Early Childhood Education Journal looks at the effects of an SEL curriculum on the social and emotional competence of preschool pupils. Participating teachers and pupils were assigned to either a treatment group or a control group. In the treatment group, Strong Start Pre-K was implemented, a programme that covers specific objectives and goals that help to prevent emotional and mental health problems; optional booster lessons are included to reinforce skills. In the control group, Strong Start Pre-K was not implemented.

The study showed a significant decrease in internalising behaviours and more improvement in the pupil–teacher relationship in the treatment group. The results also supported the use of the optional booster lessons.

To learn more about effective approaches to social-emotional learning, see “Social and emotional learning programmes that work”, an article from a recent issue of Better: Evidence-based Education magazine.

Source: Promoting social and emotional learning in preschool students: A study of strong start pre-k (2012), Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(3)

Recent policy developments in school sport

This policy update from the House of Commons library provides a summary of the debate around the type and level of provision of sport and physical education (PE) in schools. The Department for Education has confirmed that PE will remain a compulsory subject after the review of the National Curriculum in England.

Since the Secretary of State for Education’s October 2010 statement, calling for a new direction in school sport, there have been many significant policy changes, and the update provides a useful precis.

The next issue of Better: Evidence-based Education, published in June, takes as its theme “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds” and looks at the evidence that sport and other non-academic activities, such as yoga and programmes to address problem behaviour, can boost children’s physical and mental health and help them to learn.

Source: School Sport (2012), House of Commons Library

Key components of successful coaching

Head Start CARES (Classroom-based Approaches and Resources for Emotion and Social Skill Promotion) is a large-scale, US national research demonstration to test a one-year programme to improve pre-kindergarteners’ (age 4–5) social and emotional readiness for school. To facilitate the delivery of the programme, teachers attended training workshops and worked with coaches throughout the school year. In this report from MDRC, researchers present lessons learned from Head Start CARES about coaching social-emotional curricula in a large and complex early childhood education system. Key findings include:

  • Successful coaches exhibited a combination of skills in three important areas: knowledge of the programme, general coaching and consultation skills, and knowledge of and experience in early childhood development and/or teaching.
  • Incorporating coaching into day-to-day practices requires flexibility and is necessary for implementation success.
  • Site-level administrators must be actively engaged in supporting and supervising coaching as well as general implementation processes.

Source: Coaching as a Key Component in Teachers’ Professional Development: Improving Classroom Practices in Head Start Settings (2012), MDRC

What influences children in Year 9?

The Department for Education has published three new reports on the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education Project (EPPSE). EPPSE has followed around 3,000 children since 1997, when they were 3.

The latest reports look at the factors that influence Year 9 students’ social-behavioural outcomesmaths, English, and science outcomes; and a range of other measures, including enjoyment of school and anxiety.

There are many valuable findings, including, for example, that pupils who had a “positive transition” from primary school were more likely to have higher attainment in maths, English, and science. Time spent on homework was also a relatively strong predictor of better attainment and progress in all three core areas.

Source: EPPSE 3 to 14 final report from the key stage 3 phase: influences on students’ development from age 11 to 14 (2012), Department for Education.

Preventing or reducing socio-emotional problems in adolescents

Which programmes help adolescents struggling with social-emotional problems? Child Trends examined the effectiveness of 37 intervention programmes designed to prevent or treat internalising problems for adolescents (“internalising problems” are defined as problems or disorders of emotion or mood caused by difficulties regulating negative emotion).

Findings showed that programmes are most effective when they build cognitive behavioural skills (such as redirecting negative or self-defeating thoughts), build behavioural coping skills for developing healthy responses to stress, and teach social skills for improving interpersonal relationships and self-efficacy. Therapeutic approaches, such as family therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, and treatment-focused, school-based approaches were also shown to be effective.

Source: Research: What works to prevent or reduce internalizing problems or socio-emotional difficulties in adolescents (2012), National Adolescent and Young Adult Health Information Center