Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Interaction Effects of Program Training, Dosage, and Implementation Quality on Targeted Student Outcomes for the RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Interaction Effects of Program Training, Dosage, and Implementation Quality on Targeted Student Outcomes for the RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning

Article excerpt

School programs that aim either to prevent maladaptive behaviors (August, Bloomquist, Lee, Realmuto, & Hektner, 2006; Conduct Problems Research Group, 2011) or to promote positive development among youth (Domitrovich, Cortes, & Greenberg, 2007; Jones, Brown, & Aber, 2011) have been flourishing across the United States. These programs generally fall under the umbrella term, social and emotional learning (SEL), which refers to the process of acquiring the skills of self- and social awareness, emotion regulation, responsible decision making, problem solving, and relationship management (Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). Accordingly, SEL programs are designed both to enhance these skills and create an emotionally supportive climate to increase the likelihood of school engagement, attendance, and academic success. The effects of these programs on youth outcomes have been positive (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011), but most evaluations did not include training or implementation data (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 2002; Lewis, Battistich, & Schaps, 1990; Tanyu, 2007). The variables surrounding implementation need to be assessed both in research and in practice to better understand the effectiveness of programs in achieving their intended goals (Dane & Schneider, 1998; Durlak & DuPre, 2008; Sanetti & Kratochwill, 2009). The relative importance of the quantity of teacher training, the dosage, or number of lessons students receive, and the quality of implementation, including teacher attitudes toward programming and their delivery style, are of particular interest in SEL programming.

In this study, we examined the extent to which these training and implementation variables for an SEL program, The RULER Approach (www.therulerapproach.org), were related to targeted social and emotional outcomes for students during the program's first year of implementation. We begin with a short overview of literature on program implementation followed by a description of SEL programs. We then highlight the important role that teachers play as implementers of SEL programs.

Implementing SEL Programs

Programs introduced into social settings like schools are not always implemented with fidelity (Fixsen, Blase, Naoom, & Wallace, 2009). This makes formative evaluations or the study of the processes underlying program implementation critical. Implementation occurs in six stages (Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, & Wallace, 2007). In the exploration stage, schools consider which program to adopt by examining feasibility and fit. In the installation stage, key stakeholders decide that the program will be implemented and plan for its proper execution. In the initial implementation stage, staff members are hired; participants are recruited; organizational supports are in place; and because all stakeholders are new to the program, problem solving and troubleshooting are frequent. In the full implementation stage, the program is fully integrated, with program processes and procedures part of the regular routine. Once the program has been implemented effectively, improvements are generally tested in the innovation stage. Sustaining the program both through continuous staff development and funding support comprise the sustainability stage.

Program implementation is rarely a perfect process, and a growing body of research shows that the effectiveness of school-based prevention programs is limited by the extent that they are implemented as intended (Dusenbury, Brannigan, Falco, & Hansen, 2003). Schools have wide-ranging priorities, policies, and politics that may interfere with how a program is delivered (e.g., Fagan & Mihalic, 2003; Gager & Elias, 1997). The evidence of SEL program effectiveness is growing; for example, a meta-analysis of over 200 studies shows that SEL programs have the intended positive effect on students' academic performance and their social and emotional skills (Durlak et al. …

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