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Promoting Childrens Social and Emotional Competence: Lessons Learned From the Intersection Between T


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Title: Promoting Childrens Social and Emotional Competence: Lessons Learned From the Intersection Between T

Promoting Childrens Social and Emotional
Competence Lessons Learned From the
Intersection Between Theory and Practice
  • Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D.
  • Dept. of Educational Counselling Psych., Sp.
  • University of British Columbia
  • Circles of Influence Conference,
  • Prince George, BC
  • May 10, 2004

My background . . .
  • Classroom teacher
  • Middle School
  • Alternative school for at risk adolescents
  • Child/Adolescent Therapist
  • Orthogenic School-Institution for
    children/adolescents with severe emotional and
    behavioral disturbances
  • Adolescent Psychiatric Unit
  • Graduate student (Univ. of Chicago Univ. of
  • Applied Developmental Psychology
  • Measurement/Research Methodology

  • The social emotional development of children
    and adolescents
  • Empathy, moral development, friendships
  • Adolescent mental health and mental illness
  • The relation of developmental theory to
    classroom/school practice
  • Evidence-based practices
  • Efficacy and implementation
  • Frameworks that inform my research
  • Constructivism
  • Ecological Approach (Brofenbrenner)
  • Risk and Resilience

  • Guiding principles
  • Recent trends in childrens mental health
  • Importance of social-emotional competence
  • Essential ingredients for promoting
    social-emotional competence
  • Examples from recent research
  • Roots of Empathy
  • School participation and significant non-related

Three Guiding Principles
  • Social emotional competence is central to
    childrens success
  • Context matters Create caring spaces/places
  • Relationships are central
  • "Human beings of all ages are happiest and able
    to deploy their talents to best advantage" when
    they experience trusted others as "standing
    behind them." (p.25, Bowlby, 1973)

The Ingredients
Social Emotional Competencies
Caring Contexts
Significant Relationships
Positive Development
Why should we be concerned . . . ?
  • There is a growing concern about childrens
    social and emotional adjustment and mental
  • 15 to 30 of school-age children are at risk
    for successful development and require support
    and assistance (OECD, 1995).
  • 1 in 5 children (20) identified with mental
    health problems (Offord et al., 1991 Romano et
    al., 2001).
  • 75 - 80 of children and youth do not receive
    the services they need (National Advisory Mental
    Health Council, 1990).

Why should we be concerned . . .?
  • Recent increase in the risks that children face
    in our society
  • Social and economic changes have led to increases
    in number of children living in poverty.
  • Loss of support from traditional neighborhoods
    and extended families.
  • Reduced support and contact with positive adult
    role models.

Why should we be concerned . . .?
  • Childhood aggression gaining increasing attention
    as a target for prevention/intervention efforts
    (Institute of Medicine, 1994).
  • Hymel et al. (2002)
  • 10 - 12 of adolescents report being victimized
  • 8 - 10 report bullying peers
  • Pepler Craig (2001)
  • 14 bullies, 5 victims
  • Peers are present in 85 of bullying episodes on
    the playground and in class

A focus on violence prevention has arisen
  • Antisocial/aggressive behaviors are associated
    with both short-term and long-term adjustment
    problems, such as criminality, unemployment, and
    mental health problems.
  • Violence can quickly escalate, and schools that
    do not make explicit efforts to counteract this
    progression may create an environment in which
    violence is normatively acceptable.

Recent Research on Childrens Aggression
  • Examining Community Violence Exposure on
    Childrens Aggression (Guerra et al., 2003)
  • Childrens aggressive behaviors and beliefs that
    aggression is okay increases during the
    elementary school years.
  • Children who are repeatedly exposed to violence
    during childhood habituate to it and experience
    violence as less aversive.
  • Conclusion Viewing violence as normative may
    desensitize children to its true consequences and
    create a context whereby it is accepted as a way
    of life, resulting in an increased readiness to
    behave aggressively.

Why should we be concerned with childrens social
and emotional competence?
  • A comprehensive mission for schools is to
    educate students to be knowledgeable,
    responsible, socially skilled, healthy, caring,
    and contributing citizens. (Greenberg et al.,
  • Academic achievement is not the sole predictor of
    success in life.
  • Social emotional variables are integral rather
    than incidental to learning.

Balancing Educating the Mind with Educating the
  • Recently, Noble Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop
    Desmond Tutu said
  • Educating the mind without educating the heart
    has produced brilliant scientists who used their
    intelligence for evil.

Links Between Social Emotional Competence and
School Success
The Importance of Promoting Childrens Caring
Links to School Success
  • Does Being Good Make the Grade? (Wentzel, 1993)
  • Prosocial behaviours exhibited by students in the
    classroom were found to be better predictors of
    academic achievement than were standardized test
    scores (Wentzel, 1993).

The Social Side of Learning The relation to
academic achievement . . .
  • Changes in academic achievement in Grade 8 could
    be better predicted from knowing childrens
    social competence 5 years earlier than from
    knowing grade 3 academic achievement (Caprara et
    al., 2000).
  • School interventions that increase social and
    emotional competence result in higher achievement
    levels, although the reverse is not true (i.e.,
    academic enrichment does not increase social
    responsibility) (Coie Krebhiel, 1984).

Context for Change
  • Prevention programs that work use a framework
    that involves families, peers, schools, and
    communities as partners to target multiple
  • What is needed is a set of coordinated,
    collaborative strategies and programs in each
    community (Dryfoos, 1997).
  • It is importance to recognize the multiple
    spheres of influence on childrens development.

Spheres of Influence
What are the Essential Ingredients for Promoting
Positive Development in Children?
  • A Developmental Approach
  • Creation of a Caring Context
  • A Strengths-Based Approach
  • Utilization of Evidence-Based Practices

Ingredient 1 A Developmental Approach
  • Recognize the factors that influence childrens
    social emotional development and behaviour.
  • Knowledge of developmental theory
  • The importance of scaffolding knowing where
    children are and where they can be
  • Child centered
  • Consideration of the childs perspective
  • Childrens voices are often left out of decisions

Ingredient 2 Creating Caring Contexts
  • Limited research exists that has examined the
    effectiveness of school-based programs (CASEL,
  • Of those evaluations that exist, many have been
    limited in scope and fraught with methodological
    shortcomings (Durlak Wells, 1997).
  • Very few programs exist that focus specifically
    on the development of childrens emotions -- a
    factor identified as important for reducing
    aggression and promoting prosocial behaviours
    (Arsenio Lemerise, 2001 Izard, 2002).
  • There is a growing awareness of the importance of
    evidence-based practices in schools.

Ingredient 2 Creation of Caring Spaces and
Places for Children
An Infant as a Catalyst for Change? The
Roots of Empathy Program
What is the Roots of Empathy?
  • ROE is a universal primary preventive
    classroom-based social emotional competence
    promotion program (Kindergarten grade 8)
    developed by Mary Gordon.
  • The cornerstone of the program is a class visit
    by an infant, his/her parent(s), and the
    instructor over 9 months.
  • The program was piloted in Toronto in 2
    classrooms in 1996.
  • In the current school year, 20,000 children in
    800 classrooms across 8 provinces in Canada are
    receiving the program. The program is being
    piloted in Japan and is being considered in
    Australia and England.

ROE Program Goals
  • Overall, the ROE program is designed
  • To foster the development of childrens empathy,
    emotional literacy, and social understanding,
  • To foster childrens prosocial qualities (concern
    for others, helpfulness, and cooperation),
  • To reduce levels of childrens aggression,
  • To increase childrens knowledge of human
    development, parenting, and infant safety.

ROE Theoretical Framework
  • View of empathy as multidimensional (Feshbach,
  • Identification of emotions,
  • Understanding emotions,
  • Emotional regulation.
  • Ecological Focus -- creation of a positive social
    milieu that is, a caring community in the

Theoretical Model of Social-Emotional Competence
Why focus on empathy?
  • Definition
  • an individuals emotional responsiveness to the
    emotional experiences of another.
  • Empathy has been identified as the most important
    of all personality characteristics because it
  • stops people from behaving aggressively,
  • leads people to act in prosocial ways (share,
    care, help).

Lesson Themes
  • Meeting the Baby
  • Crying
  • Caring and Planning for the Baby
  • Emotions
  • Sleep
  • Safety
  • Communication
  • Who am I?
  • Goodbye and Good Wishes

Links Between Theory and ROE Curriculum
  • Discussion of emotions (Saarni, 1999)
  • Opportunities to take others perspectives
    (Selman, 1980)
  • Opportunities to understand ones own emotions
    (Harris, 1995)
  • Creation of a caring community (Battistich et
    al., 1996 Noddings, 1992).

Roots of Empathy Mary Gordon
ROE Evaluations-Overview
  • Outcome Evaluations
  • 2000-2001, Primary Grades, 5 schools
  • 2001-2002, Multi-site, Intermediate Grades, 28
  • 2002-2003, Rural/Urban, Intermediate Grades, 20
  • 2003-2004, RCT, K-7, 20 schools
  • Qualitative Evaluations
  • 2000-2001
  • Process in Relation to Child Outcomes by Helen
  • Experiences of ROE Classroom Teachers by April
  • 2001-2002
  • Voices of the Consumers Childrens Perspectives
    on ROE by Denise Buote, Shayna Rusticus, Celina
    Vergel de Dios, Helen Novak-Lauscher

Year One 2000-2001 - Primary Grade Evaluation
  • Participants
  • 132 Primary Grade children
  • ROE Program, n 74 Comparison Group, n 58
  • 61 ESL (majority Chinese)
  • 5 Comparison classrooms were matched with the 5
    ROE program classrooms.

Child Outcome Measures
  • Emotion Knowledge
  • Infant Facial Expression of Emotion Task (Emde et
    al.,1993 Yau, 1999)
  • Understanding of Mixed Emotions (Brown Dunn,
  • Social Understanding
  • Chandler Cartoon Task (Chandler, 1973)
  • The Relationship Questionnaire Interpersonal
    Understanding subscale (Schultz Selman, 2000)

Child Outcome Measures(contd)
  • Social Behaviours (Teacher Reports Child
    Behaviour Scale, Ladd Profilet, 1996)
  • Aggressive Behaviors
  • Proactive Aggression cold blooded
  • Reactive Aggression hot-headed
  • Relational Aggression (indirect) e.g., gossip
  • Prosocial Behaviors
  • Asocial Behaviors
  • Hyperactivity/distractible
  • Anxious/fearful

Findings from 2000-2001 Evaluation (Vancouver,
grades 1-3)
  • ROE children, relative to comparison children,
    demonstrated significant improvements in the
    following areas
  • Increased emotion knowledge
  • Increased social understanding
  • Increased prosocial behaviors with peers
  • Decreased aggression with peers
  • Decreased proactive aggression (e.g., bullying)

Finding of 2000-2001 Evaluation- Proactive
Aggression (Bullying)
Of those children who evidenced some form of
proactive aggression at pre-test 88 of ROE
children decreased 50 of Comparison children
Year One 2000 - 2001 What did we learn?
  • There was preliminary support for the efficacy of
    the Roots of Empathy program.
  • Strengths
  • Quasi-experimental, pre-, posttest, comparison
    group design,
  • Diverse sample
  • Reliable and valid measures utilized across
    multiple domains
  • Limitations
  • Focus on one age group -- question of
  • No evaluation of implementation in relation to
    child outcomes.
  • Potential bias in teachers reports of social
    behaviors (e.g., teachers were not blind to
    intervention status).

Year Two 2001-2002 Multi-site Evaluation
  • Participants
  • 585 children (Vancouver, Toronto) in grades 4 to
  • 14 ROE Program classrooms (n 306) in 14 schools
  • 14 Comparison classrooms (n 279) in 14 schools
  • 53 ESL (majority Chinese)
  • Program and comparison teachers similar on
    demographic characteristics and ratings of
    importance of social/emotional development in the

Child Outcome Measures
  • Emotion Knowledge
  • Infant Facial Expression of Emotion Task
  • Emotion Causes
  • Emotion Strategy Knowledge
  • Empathy-related Responding (Interpersonal
    Reactivity Index Davis, 1983)
  • Perspective-taking,
  • Empathic concern

Child Outcome Measures (contd)
  • Peer Reports (Schonert-Reichl, 1999)
  • Prosocial Behaviors (share, help, cooperate)
  • Prosocial Characteristics (e.g., fair, trust,
  • Antisocial Behaviors (e.g., breaks rules, starts
  • Teacher Reports (CBS Ladd Profilet,1996)
  • Aggressive Behaviors
  • Proactive Aggression
  • Reactive Aggression
  • Relational Aggression
  • Prosocial Behaviors

Infant Facial Expression of Emotion Task
Changes in Causal Explanations
Infant Facial Expression of Emotion Task Changes
in Emotion Strategy Knowledge
Changes in Peer Assessments of Prosocial
Behaviors and Prosocial Characteristics
Changes in Teachers Reports of Social Behaviors
, Of those children who demonstrated some form
of Proactive Aggression at pretest ROE
Children -- 67 decreased Comparison Children,
64 increased
Of those children who demonstrated some form of
Relational Aggression at pretest ROE Children
-- 61 decreased Comparison Children, 67
Year Three 2002-2003, Rural/Urban Evaluation
  • Participants
  • 433 children in grades 4 - 7
  • 10 ROE Program classrooms (n 222) in 10 schools
  • 10 Comparison classrooms (n 211) in 10 schools
  • 30 ESL (majority Chinese)
  • Program and comparison teachers similar on
    demographic characteristics and ratings of
    importance of social/emotional development in the

Child Outcome Measures
  • Emotion Knowledge (Infant Facial Expression of
  • Parenting Efficacy
  • Caring Classroom
  • Classroom Supportiveness
  • Classroom Autonomy
  • Prosocial/Aggressive Behaviours
  • Self-reports
  • Peer-reports
  • Teacher-reports

Changes in Students Beliefs About Their
Parenting Efficacy
Changes in Students Perceptions of a Caring
Classroom Environment
Changes on Peer AssessmentsProsocial Dimensions
Changes on Peer AssessmentsAntisocial/Aggression
Changes on Teachers Reports of Social Behaviors
What have we learned so far?
  • Across the 3 years of research on the efficacy of
    ROE, findings have consistently revealed that
    children who receive ROE in contrast to those who
    do not, show significant improvements in the
    following areas
  • Increased emotional understanding
  • Increased prosocial behaviours
  • Decreased aggression
  • These findings were consistent across grade
    levels, setting, informants, and measures
  • These findings are in direct concordance with the
    ROE program goals.

Ingredient 3 The Need for a Strengths-Based
  • Recent years have witnessed a shift from a focus
    on risk to identifying factors that protect
    individuals and foster positive development.
  • Resiliency -- successful adaptation despite
    adversity, or overcoming the odds.
  • Resiliency Factors
  • Individual characteristics
  • Intelligence
  • Personality (e.g., temperament, empathy, hope)
  • Family and Peers (e.g., social support, cohesion)
  • Schools (e.g., school belonging, significant

A Strengths-Based Approach An Example from
The Benefits of Participation in Extracurricular
  • Positive Peer Relationships (Connor
    Schonert-Reichl, 2001)
  • 6th 7th grade children who participated in
    extracurricular activities, in contrast to those
    who did not participate, reported
  • Higher feelings of belonging to peers
  • Lower feelings of loneliness
  • Higher feelings of intimacy (boys only)
  • Better Mental Health, lower depression (Mahoney
    et al., 2002)

The Benefits of Participation in Extracurricular
  • Higher academic achievement and lower dropout
    (e.g., Cooper et al., 1999)
  • Lower delinquency (e.g., Mahoney, 2000)
  • Better long-term adjustment
  • Adolescents who participated in extracurricular
    activities, in contrast to those who did not
    (Schonert-Reichl Elliott, 2001),
  • more likely to both attend and graduate from
    postsecondary schools,
  • reported higher levels of community/civic
    involvement 10 years after high school graduation

Fostering Resiliency The Role of Significant
Non-Related Adults
  • Previous research has linked significant adults
    to at risk childrens resilience
  • There is very little research that has examined
    this relation in the school context, especially
    elementary school.
  • Almost no research has asked children to describe
    the characteristics of the adults whom children
    identify as significant.

The Hastings Community School Study Research
  • Participation in school-related activities
  • Do children who participate in school-related
    activities differ from those children who do not
    on dimensions of school, socio-emotional, and
    behavioral adjustment?
  • The role of the significant non-related adult
  • Do children identify a significant non-related
    adult, and if so, does it matter?
  • What is the relation between involvement in
    school-related activities and significant adults?

A Study of Resiliency The Hastings Community
School Study
  • Participants
  • 236 students from the 4th-6th grades.
  • 52 female,
  • 48 first language English, 31 Chinese, and 21
  • 98 of children participated in the study

Social-Emotional Dimensions
Behavioral Dimensions
School-Academic Dimensions
e.g., Self-concept, Empathy, Social
Social, Emotional, and Academic Success
  • Participation in school-related activities
  • Significant Non-Related Adults

Activities at Hastings
  • Harry Potter
  • Babysitters course
  • Funky Hip Hop
  • Tae Kwon Do
  • Computer Club
  • Peer Helpers
  • Student Council
  • Swim Club
  • Lights, Camera, Action
  • Piano lessons
  • Beading/Jewelry
  • Ocean Life
  • Yummy treats and sweets
  • Kids First
  • Girls Club
  • Indoor hockey
  • Basketball
  • Gym Jam
  • French tutoring
  • Chess
  • Soccer
  • Skateboarding
  • Origami
  • Clayworks
  • Picture painting

Important Adults from Hastings Community School
  • Make a list of the adults from Hastings Community
    School who are important in your life.
  • Now choose one of the people from above.
  • Person _______________________
  • List all the ways in which this person is
    important in your life.

Results Participation in School Activities
  • Findings revealed that those students who
    reported participating in school activities, were
    higher than nonparticipating students on
  • General self-concept
  • School self-concept
  • Prosocial behaviors (sharing, helping, etc.)
  • Perspective-taking
  • Teacher-rated social competence
  • School Belonging

School Participation and Self Concept
School Participation and Social Competence
School Participation and Reports of School
Results Significant Adults
  • Adults listed as significant
  • Teachers 57
  • Other 43
  • Taking the childs perspective What are the
    characteristics of significant adults in schools?
    (kappa .85)
  • Supportive teaching
  • Nurturant/supportive
  • Positive personality traits
  • Other

Response Categories
  • Supportive teaching 45 27
  • Nurturant/Supportive 69 42
  • Positive personality traits 37 22
  • Other 14 8

Significant Adults and Adjustment
Significant Adults and Social Adjustment
What is the link between involvement in school
activities and significant adults?
  • Number of Significant Adults
  • Participation in School Activities

Activity Participation and Mean Number of
Significant Adults Reported
What Works in Prevention?Weissberg, R. P.,
Kumpfer, K. L., Seligman, M. E. P. (2003).
Prevention that works for children and youth, An
introduction. American Psychologist, 58, 425-432.
  • Uses a research-based risk and protective factor
    framework that involves families, peers, schools,
    and communities as partners to target multiple
  • Is long term, age-specific, and culturally
  • Fosters development of individuals who are
    healthy and fully engaged through teaching them
    to apply social-emotional skills and ethical
    values to daily life.

What Works in Prevention?(contd)
  • Aims to establish policies, institutional
    practices, and environmental supports that
    nurture optimal development.
  • Selects, trains, and supports interpersonally
    skilled staff to implement programming
  • Incorporates and adapts evidence-based
    programming to meet local community needs through
    strategic planning, ongoing evaluation, and
    continuous improvement.

  • It is critical to the future of our society that
    we identify the factors that assist children to
    become competent, caring adults and productive
  • We all share a stake in the development of
    childrens emotional and social competence and in
    identifying the processes that facilitate or
    undermine it.
  • The research supports the need for coordinated
    efforts that attend to the promotion of
    childrens positive academic and social-emotional
    development in schools and communities.

  • Thank You!!
  • Questions