Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

A Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Long-Term Intervention on Social and Emotional Learning in Compulsory School

Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

A Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Long-Term Intervention on Social and Emotional Learning in Compulsory School

Article excerpt


Education and youth development researchers have increasingly focused on social and emotional competencies due to evidence that these competencies have importance for students' success in school and life (Durlak et al., 2011; Heckman & Kautz, 2012; Sklad et al., 2012). These competencies include selfregulation of emotions, self-awareness, emotional stability, relationship skills and responsible decision making. There is evidence that they serve as protective factors that support and predict success in academics and on the labor market, as well as general well-being by helping students to achieve and develop to their full potential (Heckman & Kautz, 2012). Further, if students develop their social and emotional competencies, they have a lower risk of developing conduct problems and of being involved in risky activities such as violence and drug abuse (Cohen, Piquero & Jennings, 2010; Payton et al., 2008; Sklad et al., 2012).

The use of different educational interventions (or programs: hereafter intervention and program are used interchangeably) in school for enhancing students' social and emotional learning (hereafter SEL or SE competencies) has since the beginning of the 1990s been common in the USA. Evaluations of these interventions have shown substantial evidence for short-term positive effects for social and emotional learning for both targeted and universal interventions (see Durlak, et al., 2011) as well as long-term effects of targeted interventions (Belfield, et al., 2006; Heckman, et al., 2009; Reynolds et al., 2011; Schweinhart & Weikart, 1980; Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993). These types of SEL interventions have spread to other countries during the last decades and have become more common in Europe today.

In this paper, a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is presented for a Swedish social and emotional learning intervention. Influenced by SEL interventions in USA and the demonstrated benefits for students' development, for schools and society at large, Kimber (2001a,b) launched a Swedish longitudinal SEL intervention called Social and Emotional Training (SET), in which two schools in one municipality in Sweden during the years 2000 to 2005 participated. In particular, the effects of the SET intervention on students' drug use are focused in the current BCA study. An overview of the research within the SEL field is presented followed by a review of the research and economics of the effects of SEL on drug use among adolescents and adults. A BCA framework to estimate the value of SE competencies is then outlined, concluding with a BCA for the Swedish SET intervention.

Previous research

Evidence of the importance of students ' social and emotional competencies for later outcomes In order for individuals to succeed in life, to graduate and to get a good job, it is important that they develop their social and emotional competencies (Heckman & Kautz, 2012; Heckman, Pinto & Savelyev, 2013; Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015). Another term for SE competencies is 'life skills' which has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) (1997) as competencies focusing on how to solve and manage daily life challenges and personal development. The definitions of SE competencies are also closely related to the definition of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995). If students develop their SE competencies they may gain benefits such as higher educational attainment, higher earnings, better mental health, lower crime rates and less use of illegal substances (Durlak & Weissberg, 2005; Heckman et al., 2013; Levin, 2012).

The impact of SEL interventions in educational settings is usually substantial with effect sizes (Cohen's d) between 0.2 and 0.6 (Durlak et al., 2011). Sklad et al. (2012) conducted a meta-analytic review of the effects of universal school-based SEL interventions on different outcomes. The interventions showed large effect sizes for social skills. …

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