Study: Social and emotional learning yields academic gains

It seems logical to think that teaching good character to kids would improve their academic performance. After all, a trustworthy, responsible, and respectful student attends class, pays attention, completes work on time, and makes good decisions. But it’s always nice to get some hard data agreeing with that assumption.

From the January/February issue of the journal Child Development (via Education Week) comes a recent meta-analysis of several previous studies of the effectiveness of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. Researchers at Loyola University, Chicago, and University of Illinois, Chicago, examined findings from 213 school-based SEL programs involving 270,034 K-12 students.

The researchers found that students who participated in social and emotional learning programs “demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.” This confirms our most recent data from Downey Unified in California, where, in the four years after CC! was implemented, annual district API scores rose 5.12%. (See more of our data.)

The authors of the meta-study explain the correlation between SEL and academic achievement by citing previous studies linking social and emotional learning programs to improved attitudes and performance (Zins et al., 2004) and higher self-awareness and confidence, which leads to greater persistence (Aronson, 2002).

The authors also found that programs that adhere to SAFE (sequenced, active, focused, and explicit) practices yield the greatest improvements. When done right, CC! adheres to each of these practices.

If you’ve implemented CC!, keep up the good work, and make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

Sign up for training.

Attend our free webinars.

Integrate character into your curriculum.

Use our free lesson plans.

Finally, measure your progress so you can make adjustments to maximize your success. (And, please, email us your data.)

If you haven’t yet implemented CC!, what are you waiting for?

Decrease bullying by increasing empathy

A boy comforts his friendIs bullying like a disease? For which the only antidote is a little taste of social exclusion?

Writing for the website LiveScience, Jeanna Bryner summarizes the findings of a recent study at Northwestern University: “Unless they’ve experienced it firsthand, people underestimate the social pain endured by victims of bullying.”

In the study, researchers had students play a simple computer game that involved tossing and catching a ball with other players (who were actually computer simulations). Some students experienced exclusion as the other players left them out of the game. Others were included in the play.

The researchers then asked the students questions. Two of the questions dealt with how students would feel after discovering their close friends didn’t invite them to their party or after asking someone out and getting turned down. The students who’d just been excluded in the computer game “indicated a significantly higher pain experience” than those who didn’t, highlighting the fragility of our social self-esteem.

In another experiment, students had to gauge how a victim of bullying felt after being teased about her weight. The excluded students rated her pain higher than the included students. This result suggests that their recent experience of social pain increased the students’ empathy for another’s experience of it.

The researchers then put middle-school teachers through the same tests, asking also about the proper punishment for the person who bullied the overweight student. In keeping with the previous results, the teachers who’d recently experienced exclusion rated the student’s pain higher and suggested more severe punishment for the bully.

Lead researcher Loran Nordgren concludes, “All told, our perception of social pain matters as much as our understanding of physical pain. Not only do estimates of social pain govern how we empathize with socially traumatic events, but they guide our approach to how well we advocate on a victim’s behalf.” Nordgren thinks current programs and laws that address bullying might not adequately address the problem. He suggests increasing empathy in teachers and administrators through training that simulates social exclusion.

Making you feel bad about yourself isn’t even remotely a goal of our Character Development Seminars, but we do offer exercises that help increase your empathy and teach you how to better understand bullying, what to do about it, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. Our new 3-day training works by providing you with successful strategies to instill character values in your students and create physically and emotionally safe environments. Even if you’ve attended one of our seminars before, this dynamic, redesigned program reflects a full integration of new teaching/learning practices you need now.

Learn more, or see the schedule.

PISA Survey ties educational outcomes to future economic growth

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development recently conducted a Programme for International Student Assessment survey of reading literacy among 15-year-olds. From the results, the OECD concluded that greater wealth doesn’t necessarily make for better education levels. Similarly prosperous countries can diverge widely in terms of education level, but, according to Secretary-General Angel Gurría, “Better educational outcomes are a strong predictor for future economic growth.”

We can’t do much about our current economic situation, but how can schools achieve better outcomes and ensure future economic prosperity?

PISA’s conclusions reinforce our own findings that learning environment is crucial for student achievement. (Click here to read Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States.)

On teacher-student relations: “Positive teacher-student relations can help to establish an environment that is conducive to learning. Research finds that students, particularly disadvantaged students, tend to learn more and have fewer disciplinary problems when they feel that their teachers take them seriously. One explanation is that positive teacher-student relations help foster social relationships, create communal learning environments and promote and strengthen adherence to norms conducive to learning.”

On school climate: “Classrooms and schools with more disciplinary problems are less conducive to learning, since teachers have to spend more time creating an orderly environment before instruction can begin. More interruptions within the classroom disrupt students’ engagement and their ability to follow the lessons.”

Korea and Finland topped the list in the study,which polled over 500,000 students in 70 economies. The United States didn’t make it into the top ten, though we did make some gains in reading.

Because CHARACTER COUNTS! does so much to improve school climate, we believe it is a crucial component in our continuing to improve educational outcomes. In addition to improving test scores and graduation rates, CC! has a proven track record of reducing suspensions and expulsions and increasing satisfaction of students, parents, and teachers. Improving all of these will help create an environment where students can learn.

Sign up for our new 3-day Character Development Seminar, which will provide participants with strategies to instill character values and create physically and emotionally safe environments.

Watch a short video about the survey, how it was done, and what it means, narrated by Andreas Schleicher, Head of Indicators and Analysis Division at OECD:


Study shows high school experience is more gloom than glee

Girls bullying another girl

In our recent survey (the largest ever undertaken of the attitudes and conduct of high school students), half of all high school students (50 percent) admit they bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half (47 percent) say they were bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset them in the past year. The study reports the responses from 43,321 high school students. The margin of error is less than one percent.

“If the saying, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me’ was ever true, it certainly is not so today,” said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute. “Insults, name calling, relentless teasing, and malicious gossip often inflict deep and enduring pain,” he added.

“It’s not only the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization that’s troublesome. The Internet has intensified the injury. What’s posted on the Internet is permanent, and it spreads like a virus – there is no refuge. The difference between the impact of bullying today versus 20 years ago is the difference between getting into a fist fight and using a gun.”

The study also found that one-third (33 percent) of all high school students say that violence is a big problem at their school, and one in four (24 percent) say they do not feel very safe at school. More than half (52 percent) admit that within the past year they hit a person because they were angry. Ten percent of students say they took a weapon to school at least once in the past 12 months, and 16 percent admit that they have been intoxicated at school.

“The combination of bullying, a penchant toward violence when one is angry, the availability of weapons, and the possibility of intoxication at school increases significantly the likelihood of retaliatory violence,” Josephson said.


What you can do:

Parents: Take our three online surveys to determine whether your child is being bullied, whether your child is a bully, and whether you’re doing all you can to prevent bullying.

Teachers: Book an anti-bullying workshop. Our one-day in-service workshop will teach you how to intervene, combat cyber-bullying, and promote a positive school climate. Learn more>>


Click on the links below to see the press generated by the Ethics of American Youth: 2010 survey. Click here for a more comprehensive list.

USA Today: “Bullying Survey: Most teens have hit someone out of anger”

Chicago Sun-Times: “Half of high schoolers admit bullying someone” Study: Half of high school students admit to bullying

NPR: Study: Half of Teens Admit Bullying in Last Year A Glimmer of Hope in Bad-News Survey About Bullying

Los Angeles Times Blog: Survey shows technology worsening teen bullying

San Francisco Chronicle: Study: Half of teens admit bullying in last year

Washington Post: The Answer Sheet: Are we raising a generation of bullies? “Half Of Teens Report Being Bullied In New Study”

The Canadian Press: National study: Half of high schoolers admit bullying in last year

Education Week: Half of U.S. Teens Admit Bullying in Last Year

The New York Times, Opinion by Charles M. Blow: Private School Civility Gap 

Count on 2 News, WCBD TV, Charleston, SC: “Feds tackle school bullying” (Video:)

Today Show: Bullying: Just a part of growing up? (Video:)

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams: DOE Bears Down on Bullying (Video:)