Social and Emotional Learning - Digital Promise

Social and Emotional Learning

Sections


Overview

Social and emotional learning (SEL) refers to acquiring and applying knowledge of establishing and maintaining relationships, making responsible decisions, managing emotions, and achieving positive goals. One important organization in the field of SEL is the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). CASEL is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the development of academic, social, and emotional learning (casel.org). They assert that implementing SEL curricula into preschool through high schools will help improve positive social behavior and emotional functioning and lead to academic success. CASEL has identified five competencies that should be addressed in the curriculum: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Many studies look at these skills concurrently; therefore this first section will include a few studies examining the effectiveness of curricula designed to implement SEL in the schools. Following that, specific factors important in SEL will be discussed.

Research Findings

  • Payton and colleagues (2008) summarized the results of three research reviews examining the impact of SEL programs in elementary and middle schools. Many of the SEL programs reviewed were universal interventions designed to involve whole classes of students and were implemented by classroom teachers. Many programs were also implemented in an afterschool setting. The SEL skills in students who were part of these universal programs increased significantly. They displayed improved attitudes, better SEL skills, less conduct problems, and less emotional distress. Also, their academic performance improved over students in control groups. Peyton and colleagues also found a distinction in the effectiveness of interventions using four recommended practices, which they termed as SAFE programs. Overall, the SAFE programs were more effective than those programs that did not use these four recommended practices. The recommended areas include programs that are:
    • Sequenced (the program applies a set of planned activities to develop skills sequentially)
    • Active (the program uses active forms of learning such as role-playing)
    • Focused (the program dedicates a sufficient amount of time to focus solely on developing SEL skills)
    • Explicit (the program targets specific SEL skills)
  • Kumschick and colleagues (2015) evaluated literature-based interventions designed to improve emotional competence in a group of students in the 2nd and 3rd grades. The specific variables measured were: emotional vocabulary, explicit emotional knowledge, detecting and appropriately labeling mixed feelings, and recognizing masked feelings. The program was implemented for eight weeks in an after care program and was based on a specific children’s book (Ein  Schaf furs Leben). The children’s emotional vocabulary and explicit emotional knowledge improved significantly in the experimental group relative to the control group. Also, boys benefitted significantly more than girls from this program, particularly in their ability to recognize masked feelings.

References

Kumschick, I. R., Beck, L., Eid, M., Witte, G., Klann-Delius, G., Heuser, I., … & Menninghaus, W. (2014). READING and FEELING: The effects of a literature-based intervention designed to increase emotional competence in second and third graders. Frontiers in Psychology5, 1448.

Payton, J. W., Weissberg, R. P., Durlak, J.A., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., Schellinger, K.B., & Pachan, M. (2008). Positive impact of social and emotional learning for kindergarten to eighth-grade students: Findings from three scientific reviews (Technical Report). Chicago: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.


Emotion

Emotions are complex psychological states that involve a subjective experience and can result in a physiological and/or a behavioral response. Emotion regulation is the ability to control emotional arousal in order to facilitate adaptive functioning. Adaptive functioning signifies the ability to complete daily tasks, cope with changes in the environment, and function successfully in a classroom. The development of social, cognitive, and language skills are also an essential component of adaptive functioning. Thus, Emotion regulation is critical to academic success, including reading skill acquisition. Poor Emotion regulation can also lead to difficulties with behavioral Self-Regulation (Blair, 2002).

The transition to a school environment can be a challenging for young children because they are required to adapt to a new routine where they must accomplish many tasks throughout the school day. Therefore, the development of Emotion regulation skills are an important factor in overall academic success, as well as literacy skill development.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health concerns among children. Experiencing anxiety can negatively impact academic outcomes, including literacy measures such as reading fluency and reading comprehension. Anxious thoughts may distract students when they are trying to complete tests or projects. Children who find reading difficult report high levels of reading anxiety and find reading to be a stressful activity (Tsovili, 2004).

Stereotype Threat (see below) can also lead to anxiety. Stereotype Threat occurs when a negative stereotype about a particular social group results in suboptimal performance by members of that group. This is possibly due to the stereotype inducing anxiety in members of that group. Furthermore, individuals who do not believe the stereotype is true about their social group will often still experience the negative effects of Stereotype Threat.

Assessments

Emotion Knowledge

  • Affect Knowledge Test (AKT) (Denham, 1986): Evaluates children’s Emotion knowledge by showing them cartoon faces that depict various emotions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, scared) and asking them to identify expressions by pointing.
  • Kusche Emotional Inventory (KEI) (Kusche, 1985): Assesses children’s ability to recognize Emotion expressions.
  • Emotion Situation Knowledge (Garner et al., 1994): Asks children to listen to a story and view a drawing of situations that are likely to produce an emotion. Then the experimenter asks whether the child in the story feels happy/sad/angry/afraid.

Emotion Regulation

  • Emotion Regulation Checklist (ER Checklist) (Shields & Cichetti, 1997): A 24-item parent questionnaire that includes an Emotion regulation scale and a negativity/lability scale that measures negative affect and emotional lability.

Anxiety

  • Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC) (March, 1997): A self-report measure for children and adolescents that contains 39-items, which are answered with a 4-point Likert scale. It measures physical symptoms of anxiety (restlessness), harm avoidance (anxious coping, perfectionism), separation anxiety/panic, and social anxiety (humiliation or fears of performing activities in public).
  • Preoccupation with Reading Disability Questionnaire (PRDQ) (Shany et al., 2011): 21 items that measure anxiety symptoms associated with having a reading disability.

Learner Factor Connections

  • Attention: The ability to focus on a specific task without being distracted, as well as the ability to select relevant information while ignoring irrelevant information
    • Strong Emotion regulation skills help students focus Attention resources on learning classroom material.
  • Hearing: The ability to hear sounds in the typical human range of approximately 20 – 20,000 Hz.
    • Children with hearing loss experience depression at higher rates than their peers with typical hearing. This is likely due to the social isolation that can occur when hearing loss causes communication difficulties, as well as exclusion and discrimination that these students frequently face.
  • Inhibition: The cognitive ability to suppress attention to irrelevant stimuli to focus on pertinent stimuli/information, both controlling responses and attention
    • Inhibition allows emotional impulses to be regulated and controlled and is essential for Emotion regulation.
  • Motivation: The desire that guides behavior. Intrinsic Motivation is the inherent desire to learn and accomplish goals, while extrinsic Motivation is the desire to accomplish goals because of external rewards/recognition.
    • Students are more motivated when they are engaged in emotionally compelling activities.
  • Physical Fitness: A state of overall health and physical well-being
    • Children, and particularly girls, who are overweight are more likely to experience depression.
  • Safety – Physical & Mental: How physically and psychologically safe a child feels at home, school, and in their community
    • Children who are bullied at school are at risk for developing anxiety and depressive disorders.
  • Self-Regulation: The ability to alter responses and align them with standards, such as social expectations
    • Emotion regulation is directly related to Self-Regulation skills because the ability to control emotional arousal aids the control of behavioral responses.
  • Social Awareness & Relationship Skills: Understanding social norms for behavior and understanding the perspective of others contributes to interpersonal skills
    • Awareness and understanding of Emotions is an essential component of Social Awareness. Also, difficulties with Emotion regulation can lead to disruptive behaviors that negatively impact Social Awareness & Relationship Skills because they make it difficult to form relationships with peers.
  • Sensory Integration: The process of receiving, processing, and organizing multiple sources of sensory information from the environment
    • Sensory Integration difficulties can negatively impact Emotion regulation abilities.
  • Social Supports: The perception of the support network, including parents, friends, and teachers, that is available to help if needed
    • Children who are rejected by their peers or are bullied at school have poor peer relationships, which are essential to Social Supports, and are at risk for developing anxiety and depressive disorders. Also, children who have better Emotion Regulation skills experience higher levels of acceptance by their peers, which results in better peer Social Supports.
  • Stereotype Threat: When a negative stereotype about a group results in suboptimal performance by members of that group, due to concern about being judged and confirming the negative stereotype about their group
    • Stereotype Threat can cause anxiety, which leads to suboptimal reading performance.
  • Trauma: Emotional distress resulting from experiencing violence, abuse, a disaster, or an accident. Interpersonal Trauma refers to Trauma that has occurred between people (e.g., assault or abuse), and non-interpersonal Trauma refers to Trauma inflicted by some other source (e.g., a motor vehicle accident, a natural disaster).
    • Children who experience Trauma are at risk for developing anxiety and depressive disorders and PTSD. Experiencing interpersonal Trauma puts children at more risk for developing PTSD than non-interpersonal Trauma.
  • Working Memory: The type of memory that allows a person to temporarily hold and manipulate information for use in many complex cognitive processes
    • When children experience anxiety during testing, this can interfere with the efficiency of Working Memory processes causing them to underperform.

Research Findings

Emotion Knowledge

  • Rhoades and colleagues (2010) conducted a study examining the relationship between Emotion knowledge (measured with the Affect Knowledge Test, Emotion Situation Knowledge, and the Kusche Emotional Inventory), Attention, and academic competence (measured by the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery Revised; Woodcock & Johnson, 1990) in a group of economically disadvantaged preschool children (n = 341). They followed the children for three years (preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade). Emotion knowledge in preschool was a significant predictor of academic achievement in the 1st grade (including Alphabet Knowledge). The authors discuss that the development of Emotion knowledge is important for academic success, but this relationship is mediated by Attention skills. They propose that children’s Emotion knowledge helps them regulate their Emotions so they can use their Attention skills to focus on learning in the classroom.

Emotion Regulation

  • Graziano and colleagues (2007) investigated the relationship between Emotion regulation (measured by the ER Checklist) and academic success, classroom productivity, math skills, and early literacy skills (as measured by the WIAT basic reading and spelling subtests; Wechsler, 1992). Academic success was measured using the Academic Performance Rating Scale, which is a 19-item scale where the teacher rates the child on their academic behavior and performance. Behavior problems were assessed using the Behavior Assessment System for Children, which was completed by the parents. Emotion regulation skills positively predicted early literacy skills, as well as academic success, classroom productivity, and math skills. This study demonstrates that Emotion regulation can have a large impact on multiple academic skills, including the development of early literacy skills. Also, children with better Emotion regulation had more positive relationships (an aspect of Social Supports) with their teachers and fewer behavioral Self-Regulation problems. The authors explained that teachers tend to interact more positively with children with strong Emotion regulation skills.
  • In a review article, Blair (2002) discussed the link between Emotion regulation and cognitive processes including Working Memory and Attention. He suggested that poor Emotion regulation can physiologically inhibit these cognitive processes because difficulty with Emotion regulation impairs the development of higher order cognitive skills involved in Self-Regulation.
  • Carlson and Wang (2007) conducted a study with 53 children between the ages of 4 to 6 to determine the relationship between Emotion regulation (measured using a Disappointing Gift scenario, a Secret Keeping scenario, and a parent report questionnaire) and inhibitory control of Attention (measured using a Simon Says game). Inhibition was significantly correlated with Emotion regulation skills. Parent report measures of Inhibition and Emotion regulation were also correlated with the behavioral results obtained by the researchers. The authors discussed that this relationship did change as a function of age and gender. This relationship was significant in 4-year-olds, but not 5-year-olds, and it was stronger in girls than in boys. The gender differences were possibly due to the fact that poor Emotion regulation skills are more rare in girls, so when girls display difficulty with Emotion regulation, it is likely indicative of a more severe problem.
  • Children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) typically have poor Social Awareness and Relationship skills, often display more aggressive and disruptive behaviors relative to their peers without EBD, lack Motivation, and have deficits in Attention (Vannest, Harrison, Temple-Harvey, Ramsey, and Parker, 2011;  Sutherland, Lewis-Palmer, Stichter, & Morgain, 2008).
  • Bolanos and colleagues (2015) examined a group of children (n = 36) who were at risk for developing sensory processing disorders (SPDs) because they showed sensory processing indicators and a group of children (n = 15) who were not at risk for developing SPDs. They assessed the children with the Revised Profile of Developmental Behaviors (PCD-R) (a developmental scale) and the Sensory Profile, as well as also conducted classroom observations. They found a significant correlation between Sensory Integration impairments and Emotion regulation difficulties. Moreover, their results suggested that children with sensory processing risk indicators also were affected in the areas of motor organization and expressive language.

Anxiety/Depression

  • Grills-Taquechel and colleagues (2012) examined the relationship between anxiety (measured using the MASC) and Decoding and reading fluency in a group of 153 ethnically diverse 1st-graders. Students were assessed in the middle of the academic year (Time 1) and at the end of the academic year (Time 2). They compared two possible models of the interaction between anxiety and reading achievement: one where reading achievement predicts anxiety and the other where anxiety predicts reading achievement. Their results revealed that difficulties with Decoding skills positively predicted symptoms of harm avoidance, and difficulties with fluency skills predicted separation anxiety symptoms. Additionally, higher levels of harm avoidance symptoms were predictive of better reading fluency skills. The authors explained that a moderate level of anxiety can indicate a desire to perform well on tasks that can lead to better academic performance.
  • Nelson and Harwood (2011) conducted a meta-analysis of 58 studies in order to compare anxiety measures in children with and without learning disabilities. They found that children with learning disabilities are more vulnerable to experiencing anxiety than their peers without learning disabilities. The authors also found that a combination of anxiety measures, including self-report as well as teacher- and parent-report measures, offers the best description of anxiety in students with learning disabilities.
  • Blicher and colleagues (2016) examined the relationship between reading comprehension, trait anxiety, and preoccupation with reading disability in a group of Hebrew speaking children. Trait anxiety and preoccupation with reading disability were measured both in children and their mothers. Trait anxiety is the tendency to experience and report negative Emotions, including anxiety and fears across many different types of situations. Children who had been identified as having a reading disability were included in this study. The students (n = 88) were in the 3rd to 5th grades. They did not find any evidence of a relationship between a mother’s trait anxiety and their children’s reading comprehension skills. The results also revealed that children’s reading comprehension skills could be explained by the children’s reading fluency and trait anxiety, as well as mother’s preoccupation with their children’s reading disabilities. The authors explained that children with reading disabilities could benefit from receiving additional emotional and educational support. Moreover, parents of children with reading disabilities could also benefit from emotional and educational support groups, and in turn, this would likely benefit their children.
  • DePrince and colleagues (2009) tested executive functioning in 114 school-age children divided into three groups: those who had been exposed to familial Trauma (e.g., sexual abuse, physical abuse, or witnessing domestic violence), those exposed to non-familial Trauma, and those with no exposure to Trauma. Specifically, they measured Working Memory, Inhibition, auditory Attention, and interference control. Working Memory was measured using arithmetic, letter-number sequencing, and digit span subscales of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV; Wechsler, 2003). Inhibition was measured using the Gordon Diagnostic System, where children are asked to look at strings of numbers and press a key whenever they see a certain sequence of numbers in the center of the number string. Auditory Attention was measured using the Brief Test of Attention, where the children are asked to listen to a series of letters and numbers, then are asked to indicate how many numbers were presented without counting on their fingers. Finally, interference control was assessed using the Stroop task. They found a significant correlation (medium effect size) between experiencing familial Trauma to a composite score of executive functioning, even when controlling for SES, traumatic brain injury, and anxiety. They did not find this association in children who had been exposed to non-familial Trauma. They concluded that executive functioning impairments may contribute to the academic, psychological, and behavior problems often seen in children who have suffered abuse.
  • Theunissen and colleagues (2011) examined Emotion regulation and depressive symptoms in a group of 27 children with cochlear implants living in the Netherlands and the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, 56 children with hearing aids, and 117 children with normal hearing (age range = 8 to 16 years, mean age = 11 years, 11 months). They measured depression using the Child Depression Inventory and also measured two aspects of Emotion regulation: (1) mood states (measured using a self-report Mood questionnaire) and (2) coping skills (using the self-report Coping Scale). They found that children with hearing impairments experienced significantly more symptoms of depression compared to children with normal hearing, although the degree of hearing loss was not related to level of depression. The authors explain that higher levels of depression were probably due to difficulties communicating with people with normal hearing and due to exclusion and discrimination against hearing impaired individuals. Also, the older students were more likely to experience depression. Moreover, depression rates were lower in children who attended mainstream schools and only used oral speech to communicate compared to those attending schools for the deaf and who supplemented their communication with sign language. The authors explained that students who attend schools for the deaf may experience more feelings of isolation than those attending mainstream schools.
  • Judge and Jahns (2007) examined data from 3rd-graders from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. They found that being overweight (an aspect of Physical Fitness) was associated with negative social and behavioral outcomes for girls. Also, while there was a correlation between being overweight and lower academic achievement, this relationship disappeared once SES and maternal education variables were removed. Overweight girls were more likely to engage in undesirable external behaviors such as fighting and to show undesirable internal behaviors indicating increased levels of loneliness and sadness. Overweight girls were also less likely to exhibit self-control relative to non-overweight girls. The authors stated that the association between being overweight and depressive symptoms in girls is a concern since depression can often lead to impairments of social and behavioral skills.
  • Safety is an important factor when considering how well students can learn at school. Students who attend safe schools where they feel protected are better able to focus on learning, whereas students in unsafe schools are more likely to miss school and they participate less often in classroom discussions/activities (Boyd, 2004; Hernandez & Seem, 2004). Research has demonstrated that children who are bullied experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, which can all result in lower levels of academic achievement (Hymel, Schonert-Reichl, & Miller, 2006; Rivers, Poteat, Noret & Ashurst, 2009; Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto, & Toblin, 2005; Whitted & Dupper, 2005).
  • Schmader (2010) wrote a review paper discussing the cognitive factors that lead to the negative influences of Stereotype Threat on academic performance. In this review, the author explained that complex cognitive operations are required for successful testing performance across many academic domains. Students who are concerned about confirming negative stereotypes about their gender, race, or other important group are unable to focus all of their Working Memory resources on completing the test. Instead, they use some of their Working Memory resources worrying about their performance, and this leads to decreased academic performance in students from groups at risk of being stereotyped. Stereotype Threat impairs Working Memory capacity most significantly in students who highly identify with, and are most invested in, the academic domain of interest.

References

Blair, C. (2002). School readiness: Integrating cognition and emotion in a neurobiological conceptualization of children’s functioning at school entry. American Psychologist, 57(2), 111-127.

Blicher, S., Feingold, L., & Shany, M. (2017). The role of trait anxiety and preoccupation with reading disabilities of children and their mothers in predicting children’s reading comprehension. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50(3), 309-321.

Bolaños, C., Gomez, M. M., Ramos, G., & Rios del Rio, J. (2015). Developmental risk signals as a screening tool for early identification of sensory processing disorders. Occupational Therapy International.

Boyd, K. S. (2004). The association between student perceptions of safety and academic achievement: The mediating effects of absenteeism. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, CA.

Carlson, S. M., & Wang, T. S. (2007). Inhibitory control and emotion regulation in preschool children. Cognitive Development, 22(4), 489-510.

Denham, S. A. (1986). Social cognition, prosocial behavior, and emotion in preschoolers: Contextual validation. Child Development, 57, 194-201.

DePrince, A. P., Weinzierl, K. M., & Combs, M. D. (2009). Executive function performance and trauma exposure in a community sample of children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33(6), 353-361.

Garner, P. W., Jones, D. C., & Miner, J. L. (1994). Social competence among low-income preschoolers: Emotion socialization practices and social cognitive correlates. Child Development, 65, 622-637.

Graziano, P. A., Reavis, R. D., Keane, S. P., & Calkins, S. D. (2007). The role of emotion regulation in children’s early academic success. Journal of School Psychology, 45(1), 3-19.

Grills-Taquechel, A. E., Fletcher, J. M., Vaughn, S. R., & Stuebing, K. K. (2012). Anxiety and reading difficulties in early elementary school: Evidence for unidirectional-or bi-directional relations? Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 43(1), 35-47.

Hernandez, T. J., & Seem, S. R. (2004). A safe school climate: A systems approach and the school counselor. Professional School Counseling, 7, 256-262.

Hymel, S., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Miller, L. (2006). Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and relationships: Considering the social side of education. Exceptionality Education Canada, 16(3), 1-44.

Judge, S., & Jahns, L. (2007). Association of overweight with academic performance and social and behavioral problems: an update from the early childhood longitudinal study. Journal of School Health, 77(10), 672-678.

Kusché, C. A. (1985). The understanding of emotion concepts by deaf children: An assessment of an affective curriculum (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

March, J.S. (2013). Multidimensional anxiety scale for children (2nd ed.). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Multi-health Systems.

Nelson, J. M., & Harwood, H. (2011). Learning disabilities and anxiety: A meta-analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44(1), 3-17.

Rhoades, B. L., Warren, H. K., Domitrovich, C. E., & Greenberg, M. T. (2011). Examining the link between preschool social–emotional competence and first grade academic achievement: The role of attention skills. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26(2), 182-191.

Rivers, I., Poteat, V. P., Noret, N., & Ashurst, N. (2009). Observing bullying at school: The mental health implications of witness status. School Psychology Quarterly, 24(4), 211-223.

Schmader, T. (2010). Stereotype threat deconstructed. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(1), 14-18.

Schwartz, D., Gorman, A. H., Nakamoto, J., & Toblin, R. L. (2005). Victimization in the peer group and children’s academic functioning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(3), 425 – 435.

Shany, M., Wiener, J., & Feingold, L. (2011). Knowledge about and preoccupation with reading disabilities: A delicate balance. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44(1), 80-93.

Shields, A., & Cicchetti, D. (1997). Emotion regulation among school-age children: The development and validation of a new criterion Q-sort scale. Developmental Psychology, 33(6), 906-916.

Sutherland, K. S., Lewis-Palmer, T., Stichter, J., & Morgan, P. L. (2008). Examining the influence of teacher behavior and classroom context on the behavioral and academic outcomes for students with emotional or behavioral disorders. The Journal of Special Education, 41(4), 223-233.

Theunissen, S. C., Rieffe, C., Kouwenberg, M., Soede, W., Briaire, J. J., & Frijns, J. H. (2011). Depression in hearing-impaired children. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 75(10), 1313-1317.

Tsovili, T.D. (2004). The relationship between language teachers’ attitudes and the state-trait anxiety of adolescents with dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading, 27(1), 69-86.

Vannest, K. J., Harrison, J. R., Temple-Harvey, K., Ramsey, L., & Parker, R. I. (2011). Improvement rate differences of academic interventions for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Remedial and Special Education, 32(6), 521-534.

Wechsler, D. (1992). Wechsler preschool and primary scale of intelligence – Revised. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Whitted, K. S., & Dupper, D. R. (2005). Best practices for preventing or reducing bullying in schools. Children & Schools, 27, 167-173.

 


Motivation

A distinction can be made between intrinsic and extrinsic Motivation to read. Intrinsic Motivation is defined as the disposition to read because it is accompanied by positive emotions and is considered to be very rewarding (Becker, McElvany, & Kortenbruck, 2010). Extrinsic Motivation is the drive to read in order to achieve external rewards/recognition such as good grades or positive attention from teachers or parents (Becker et al., 2010).

Intrinsic Motivation is a natural drive to learn and seek out challenges. For reading, intrinsic Motivation is comprised of several components including interest in reading material, perceived control (a student’s perception of their own control over reading activities), self-efficacy (a student’s perception of their reading ability), involvement (spending a substantial amount of time reading), and social collaboration (Taboada et al., 2008).

There are several forms of extrinsic Motivation that vary in terms of relative autonomy: external regulation, introjected regulation, and identification (Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci, 2006). External regulation is the least autonomous where a behavior is performed because of demands, rewards, or punishments. In introjected regulation, a behavior is performed as a result of internal pressure to either avoid guilt/shame or to maintain self-worth and has an external perceived locus of causality (the behavior is not considered to be self-determined). Identification is more autonomous with an internal perceived locus of causality and involves consciously valuing a goal or regulation and considering the behavior/action to be personally important.

Internalization is an important component of self-determination theory that is empowered by the basic psychological needs for competence (the desire to be proficient), autonomy, and relatedness (the desire to be related to others or feel part of a family or group). Internalization of extrinsic Motivation occurs when regulations are fully integrated with a person’s sense of self. Internalization produces many advantages to learning, and enhancing autonomous Motivation in classrooms can benefit students (Deci et al., 1994).

Intrinsic Motivation and identification are classified as types of autonomous Motivation, whereas external regulation and introjected regulation are classified as controlled Motivation.

A summary:

  • Motivation is the desire that guides behavior, and it is an important component in understanding individual students’ desire to learn to read.
  • Self-Determination Theory is a theory of Motivation that is based on three basic psychological needs:
    • Competence: The desire to learn and gain mastery of tasks
    • Autonomy: The desire to have control over one’s own behaviors and goals
    • Relatedness: The desire to interact and connect with others and feel part of a family or group
  • Self-Determination Theory distinguishes between different forms of Motivation:
    • Intrinsic Motivation: The inherent desire to learn and accomplish goals
    • External Regulation: The least autonomous where a behavior is performed because of demands, rewards, or punishments
    • Introjected Regulation: A behavior is performed as a result of internal pressure to either avoid guilt/shame or to maintain self-worth.
    • Identification: The most autonomous form of extrinsic Motivation, with an internal perceived locus of causality. It involves consciously valuing a goal or regulation and considering the behavior/action to be personally important.
  • According to Self-Determination Theory, internalization of extrinsic Motivation occurs when the regulation of activities/behaviors are fully integrated with one’s sense of self. Intrinsic Motivation and identification are types of autonomous Motivation and are ideal for supporting learning, whereas external regulation and introjected regulation are forms of controlled Motivation.

Assessments

  • The SRQ-Reading Motivation Scale: Based on Self-Determination Theory, this scale can be used to measure late-elementary school students’ autonomous (intrinsic and identified) and controlled (introjected and external) types of Motivation for reading. It is administered to students and contains 17 items rated on a 5-point Likert scale.
  • Teacher rating scale (i.e., Likert scale): Can rate variables like: (1) reads favorite topics/authors, (2) thinks deeply about text content, (3) reader confidence, (4) enjoys discussing books with peers, and (5) reads independently.
  • Elementary Research Attitude Survey (ERAS) of reading interest (McKenna & Kear, 1990): Assesses reading interest using questions related to recreational and academic reading.

Learner Factor Connections

  • Background Knowledge: Information that is essential for fully understanding a situation, problem, story, etc.
    • Research suggests that students who are internally motivated (intrinsic or identified Motivation) are better able to connect Background Knowledge with text, which improves the understanding of the text. Also, the act of connecting reading material with Background Knowledge increases Motivation.
  • Emotion: A complex psychological state that involves a subjective experience and can result in a physiological and behavioral response
    • Students are more motivated when they are engaged in emotionally compelling activities.
  • Self-Regulation: The ability to alter responses and align them with standards, such as social expectations
    • Students who are more motivated are better able to use Self-Regulation strategies to achieve their goals.

Research Findings

  • De Naeghel and colleagues (2016) conducted a study to determine the impact of Self-Determination Theory on a group of 5th grade students’ (n = 664) autonomous Motivation to read. Students with autonomous reading Motivation are willing to read, whereas students with controlled reading Motivation read due to a sense of pressure or coercion. Recall that according to Self-Determination Theory, students with autonomous Motivation will perform better academically than students with controlled Motivation. Teachers in the experimental condition participated in a professional development workshop designed to enhance their autonomy-supportive teaching style, and teachers in the control condition continued using their normal teaching practices. They aimed to determine whether this workshop would improve autonomous Motivation for academic reading and whether this would generalize to leisure-time reading. The SRQ-Reading Motivation Scale was used to measure the autonomous and controlled reading Motivation before and after the intervention. The professional development workshop had a positive influence on enhancing recreational autonomous reading Motivation in the experimental versus the control group. This effect was larger in boys than girls (who typically show lower scores of autonomous reading Motivation), suggesting that this type of program will be particularly beneficial to boys.
  • A study of 4th grade students found a positive association between intrinsic reading Motivation and reading comprehension skills (when controlling for extrinsic Motivation and amount of reading) but a negative association between extrinsic reading Motivation and reading comprehension skills (when controlling for intrinsic Motivation and amount of reading) (Wang & Guthrie, 2004).
  • Another study of 4th grade students found that Motivation (as measured by teacher rating scale) was a strong predictor of a child’s reading comprehension skills. Also, Motivation predicted the improvement in reading over a three month period (Taboada et al., 2008).
    • The student’s Background Knowledge was also a significant predictor of reading comprehension ability, and there was an interaction between Motivation and Background Knowledge. It is possible that internally motivated students are better able to make connections between the text and their Background Knowledge.
  • A longitudinal study of students from grades 1 to 3 found only a weak correlation between interest in reading and reading ability (Kirby, Ball, Geier, Parrila, & Woolley, 2011).
  • While a decline in reading interest (between grades 1 to 6) is found across all groups of typically developing children, there is a sharper decline in students who have poor reading skills (McKenna & Kear, 1990).
  • In children with learning disabilities who receive extra reading instruction in a resource room, interest in reading patterns are similar to typically developing peers. Interest in recreational reading declined in the group of children with learning disabilities, but interest in academic reading remained stable (Lazarus & Callahan, 2000).
  • A study of preschoolers in Finland found that interest in reading in preschool was not predictive of early reading skills (at age 6.5) (Torppa et al., 2007). Interest in reading was measured using a reading habits questionnaire that was given to the parents to fill out. This questionnaire measured the parents’ perception of their child’s interest in reading.
  • Jarvela and colleagues (2011) examined the relationship between Self-Regulation and Motivation in 32 elementary students (age range = 9 to 13 years) when they were studying science over the course of two months using gStudy software. Students were interviewed by the experimenters to gain an understanding of their Motivational goals, Motivational control, and Self-Regulation skills. They found that students with more Motivation were better able to use Self-Regulation strategies to achieve their goals.

References

Becker, M., McElvany, N., & Kortenbruck, M. (2010). Intrinsic and extrinsic reading motivation as predictors of reading literacy: A longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(4), 773-785.

De Naeghel, J., Van Keer, H., Vansteenkiste, M., Haerens, L., & Aelterman, N. (2016). Promoting elementary school students’ autonomous reading motivation: Effects of a teacher professional development workshop. The Journal of Educational Research, 109(3), 232-252.

Deci, E. L., Eghrari, H., Patrick, B. C., & Leone, D. R. (1994). Facilitating internalization: The self-determination perspective. Journal of Personality, 62, 119-142.

Järvelä, S., Järvenoja, H., & Malmberg, J. (2012). How elementary school students’ motivation is connected to self-regulation. Educational Research and Evaluation, 18(1), 65-84.

Kirby, J. R., Ball, A., Geier, B. K., Parrila, R., & Wade‐Woolley, L. (2011). The development of reading interest and its relation to reading ability. Journal of Research in Reading, 34(3), 263-280.

McKenna, M. C., & Kear, D. J. (1990). Measuring attitude toward reading: A new tool for teachers. The Reading Teacher, 43(9), 626-639.

Taboada, A., Tonks, S. M., Wigfield, A., & Guthrie, J. T. (2009). Effects of motivational and cognitive variables on reading comprehension. Reading and Writing, 22(1), 85-106.

Torppa, M., Poikkeus, A. M., Laakso, M. L., Tolvanen, A., Leskinen, E., Leppanen, P. H., … Lyytinen, H. (2007). Modeling the early paths of phonological awareness and factors supporting its development in children with and without familial risk of dyslexia. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11, 73-103.

Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Intrinsic versus extrinsic goal contents in self-determination theory: Another look at the quality of academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 41(1), 19-31.

 


Self-Regulation

Self-Regulation is a skill that is required for students to do well in school, as it is involved in many classroom activities, such as following directions, standing in line, paying attention, and behaving appropriately. In general, the terms self-control and Self-Regulation refer to the ability to alter one’s responses and align them with standards, such as social expectations, values, and ideals, to support the achievement of long-term goals. However, the exact definition of these terms varies widely among researchers.

Self-Regulation can also be broken down into Emotion regulation, cognitive regulation, and behavior regulation (Williford, Whittaker, Vitiello, & Downer, 2013). Emotion regulation refers to the ability to manage and control emotional arousal in order to behave in a socially appropriate manner (see Emotion section above for more information). Cognitive regulation involves using executive functions (e.g., Working Memory, Inhibition, Attention) to inhibit impulses and attend to tasks. Behavior regulation refers to the ability to control one’s behavior in order to meet socially acceptable norms. Children with poor Self-Regulation skills are at greater risk for low academic achievement and emotional and conduct problems, which can all lead to higher dropout rates in adolescence (Duncan et al., 2007).

Assessments

Assessments of self-control can take several forms (see Duckworth & Kern, 2011 for a thorough review):

  • Assessments of Delay of Gratification: These tasks evaluate how well subjects can ignore smaller but immediate rewards in order to receive a larger but delayed reward. One example is the Real Choice Delay Task (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005) which has subjects make an actual choice between a small immediate reward and a larger but delayed reward and measures the time subjects resist the smaller reward.
  • Assessments of Executive Functions: These tasks examine executive functions (e.g., Working Memory, Attention, Inhibition, task switching) because top-down processes are needed to control bottom-up impulses. Stroop tasks are commonly used for these assessments.
  • Personality Questionnaires: A subject or people close to the subject (e.g., parents or teachers) can rate self-control using a Likert scale. Many self-report and informant-report questionnaires exist, such as Self-Control Scale (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004).

Assessments to measure Self-Regulation in preschool and elementary school children are:

  • Head-to-Toes Task measures behavior regulation (requiring inhibitory control, Attention, and Working Memory) by requiring children to perform the opposite of provided verbal instructions. Best for children 4 and under.
  • Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task is an expanded version of the Head-to-Toes Task and can be used in children 5 and over (Ponitz, McClelland, Matthews, & Morrison, 2009).

Learner Factor Connections

  • Attention: The ability to focus on a specific task without being distracted, as well as the ability to select relevant information while ignoring irrelevant information
    • Attention skills help students focus on tasks, which is an important component of Self-Regulation.
  • Emotion: A complex psychological state that involves a subjective experience and can result in a physiological and behavioral response. Emotion regulation is the ability to control emotional arousal in order to facilitate adaptive functioning.
    • Emotion regulation is directly related to Self-Regulation skills because the ability to control emotional arousal aids the control of behavioral responses.
  • Inhibition: The ability to suppress attention to irrelevant stimuli to focus on pertinent stimuli/information, both controlling responses and attention
    • Inhibition is essential to Self-Regulation because it allows students to effectively monitor and suppress inappropriate behaviors and impulses.
  • Motivation: The desire that guides behavior. Intrinsic Motivation is the inherent desire to learn and accomplish goals, while extrinsic Motivation is the desire to accomplish goals because of external rewards/recognition. Extrinsic Motivation can vary in terms of relative autonomy, and identified regulation is the most autonomous form with an internal perceived locus of causality. It involves consciously valuing a goal or regulation and considering the behavior/action to be personally important.
    • Students who are more motivated are better able to use Self-Regulation strategies to achieve their goals.
  • Sensory Integration: The process of receiving, processing, and organizing multiple sources of sensory information from the environment
    • Sensory Integration results from a combination of sensory processing and behavioral Self-Regulation.
  • Social Awareness & Relationship Skills: Understanding social norms for behavior and understanding the perspective of others contributes to interpersonal skills
    • Difficulties with Social Awareness & Relationship Skills often result from poor Self-Regulation because regulating behavior is important for developing friendships with peers.

Research Findings

  • Behavior regulation measured in the fall of the prekindergarten year (mean age = 4.4 years) is a significant predictor of growth in emergent literacy skills (identifying letters, reading words with fluent pronunciation) and Vocabulary measured in spring of the prekindergarten year (mean age = 4.95 years) (McClelland et al., 2007).
  • A child’s chronological age was found to be more predictive of Self-Regulation abilities than time spent in preschool, when comparing children with one versus two years of preschool (Skibbe et al., 2011).
    • This finding supported the results of a similar study which found that Self-Regulation growth can be attributed to general development rather than time spent in specific school environments (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2004).
  • Self-Regulation skills are associated with concurrent and future success in school (Blair, 2002; McClelland et al., 2007).
  • Self-Regulation measured at the beginning of the kindergarten year positively predicted academic achievement in the spring including literacy and Vocabulary achievement (although Self-Regulation was even more predictive of achievement in mathematics) (Ponitz et al., 2009).
  • Providing students who have low Self-Regulation scores at the beginning of 1st grade with individualized student instruction designed to improve Self-Regulation can lead to greater gains in Self-Regulation over the course of the school year (compared to students with normal classroom instruction) (Connor et al., 2010).
  • Pelco and Reed-Victor (2007) reviewed literature examining school-age children’s Self-Regulation and its relationship to academic achievement and social skills including following directions and taking turns. They found that poor Self-Regulation was associated with low academic achievement and poor Social Awareness and Relationship Skills. Children with poor Self-Regulation experience more conflict with parents, teachers, and peers. Intervention strategies are also discussed.
  • In a review article, Blair (2002) discusses the link between Emotion regulation and cognitive processes including Working Memory and Attention. He suggests that poor Emotion regulation can physiologically inhibit these cognitive processes because difficulty with Emotion regulation impairs the development of higher order cognitive skills involved in Self-Regulation.
  • Jarvela and colleagues (2011) examined the relationship between Self-Regulation and Motivation in 32 elementary students (age range = 9 to 13 years) when they were studying science over the course of two months using gStudy software. Students were interviewed by the experimenters to gain an understanding of their motivational goals, motivational control, and Self-Regulation skills. They found that students with more Motivation were better able to use Self-Regulation strategies to achieve their goals.
  • Bolanos and colleagues (2015) examined a group of children (n = 36) who were at risk for developing sensory processing disorders (SPDs), because they showed sensory processing indicators, and a group of children (n = 15) who were not at risk for developing SPDs. They assessed the children with the Revised Profile of Developmental Behaviors (PCD-R) (a developmental scale) and the Sensory Profile and also conducted classroom observations. They found a significant correlation between sensory processing impairments and Emotion regulation difficulties. Moreover, their results suggested that children with sensory processing risk indicators also were affected in the areas of motor organization and expressive language.

Several studies have found that in middle and high school students Self-Regulation measures serve as better predictors of academic success than measures of IQ:

  • A study of middle school students found that Self-Regulation was a better predictor than IQ of grades, and it was mediated by classroom conduct as well as homework completion (Duckworth, Quinn, & Tsukayama, 2012).
  • A long-term study of middle school students found that Self-Regulation (as measured by self-report, parent-report, and teacher-report) accounted for more than twice as much variance as IQ in factors such as school attendance, the number of hours spent doing homework, and final grades (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005).

Several studies of high school and college-age students have found that Self-Regulation is highly correlated with school success, for example:

  • A large study of high school seniors discovered that behaviors associated with Self-Regulation, such as participating in classroom activities, turning work in on time, avoiding drug use, and attending classes regularly, were a better predictor of GPA than standardized achievement test scores (Willingham, Pollack, & Lewis, 2002).
  • Self-Regulation ratings in high school students (measured by self- and parent-report) were predictive of high school and college GPA, even though SAT scores were not a good predictor (Oliver, Guerin, & Gottfried, 2007).

References

Blair, C. (2002). School readiness: Integrating cognition and emotion in a neurobiological conceptualization of children’s functioning at school entry. American Psychologist, 57(2), 111-127.

Bolaños, C., Gomez, M. M., Ramos, G., & Rios del Rio, J. (2015). Developmental risk signals as a screening tool for early identification of sensory processing disorders. Occupational Therapy International.

Connor, C. M., Ponitz, C. C., Phillips, B. M., Travis, Q. M., Glasney, S., & Morrison, F. J. (2010). First graders’ literacy and self-regulation gains: The effect of individualizing student instruction. Journal of School Psychology, 48(5), 433-455.

Duckworth, A. L., & Carlson, S. M. (2013). Self-regulation and school success. In B. W. Sokol, F. M. E. Grouzet, & U. Muller (Eds.), Self-regulation and autonomy: Social and developmental dimensions of human conduct (pp. 208-230). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Duckworth, A. L., & Kern, M. L. (2011). A meta-analysis of the convergent validity of self-control measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 45(3), 259-268.

Duckworth, A. L., Seligman, M. E.P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939-944.

Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., … Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428-1446.

Järvelä, S., Järvenoja, H., & Malmberg, J. (2012). How elementary school students’ motivation is connected to self-regulation. Educational Research and Evaluation, 18(1), 65-84.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2004). Multiple pathways to early academic achievement. Harvard Educational Review, 74, 1-29.

McClelland, M. M., Cameron, C. E., Connor, C. M., Farris, C. L., Jewkes, A. M., & Morrison, F. J. (2007). Links between behavioral regulation and preschoolers’ literacy, vocabulary, and math skills. Developmental Psychology, 43, 947-959.

Oliver, P. H., Guerin, D. W., & Gottfried, A. W. (2007). Temperamental task orientation: Relation to high school and college educational accomplishments. Learning and Individual Differences, 17, 220-230.

Pelco, L. E., & Reed-Victor, E. (2007). Self-regulation and learning-related social skills: Intervention ideas for elementary school students. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 51(3), 36-42.

Ponitz, C. C., McClelland, M. M., Matthews, J. S., & Morrison, F. J. (2009). A structured observation of behavioral self-regulation and its contribution to kindergarten outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 45(3), 605-619.

Williford, A. P., Vick Whittaker, J. E., Vitiello, V. E., & Downer, J. T. (2013). Children’s engagement within the preschool classroom and their development of self-regulation. Early Education & Development, 24(2), 162-187.

Willingham, W. W., Pollack, J. M., & Lewis, C. (2002). Grades and test scores: Accounting for observed differences. Journal of Educational Measurement, 39, 1-37.

 


Social Awareness and Relationship Skills

Social Awareness and Relationship Skills are essential for forming and maintaining positive relationships and are a key component to learner success, including learning to read. Social Awareness refers to the understanding of social norms for behavior and the ability to understand the perspectives of others. Relationship Skills are the interpersonal skills that allow children to communicate and interact with others, including cooperation and preventing and resolving interpersonal conflicts.

Social Awareness allows children to empathize with people from diverse backgrounds that are different from their own and to recognize the resources available from family members, at school, and in the community. The knowledge and understanding of Emotion is an essential component of Social Awareness (CASEL, 2003). The combination of Social Awareness and interpersonal skills are essential for developing Relationship Skills to form and maintain positive relationships (Durlak et al., 2011).

Children with Emotion and behavioral disorders (EBD) typically have poor interpersonal relationship skills, often display more aggressive and disruptive behaviors relative to their peers without EBD, lack Motivation, and have deficits in Attention (Vannest et al., 2011;  Sutherland et al., 2008). Children with EBD often exhibit weak reading skills (Maughan et al., 1996; Wehby et al., 2003).

Assessments

  • Classroom observation can be used to assess social behavior. In these observations, incidents of prosocial behavior (cooperative interactions with peers), aggressive behavior (aggressive interactions with peers), solitary play, and negative affect (facial expressions or behavior that indicate a negative emotional state such as pouting, whining or crying) are noted.
  • Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis, 1983) (modified for use with children, Schonert-Reichl et al., 2012): Assesses empathy and perspective-taking with four subscales: perspective-taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress.
  • The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) (LeBuffe, Shapiro, & Naglieri, 2011): A rating scale that can be completed by parents or teachers. This is used to evaluate SEL competencies, including Social Awareness and Relationship Skills, for children in kindergarten to 8th grade. It also contains a screening tool, the DESSA-mini, to identify children who may require further, more extensive evaluation.

Learner Factor Connections

  • Emotion: A complex psychological state that involves a subjective experience and can result in a physiological and behavioral response. Emotion regulation is the ability to control emotional arousal in order to facilitate adaptive functioning.
    • Awareness and understanding of Emotions is an essential component of Social Awareness. Also, difficulties with Emotion regulation can lead to disruptive behaviors that negatively impact Social Awareness & Relationship Skills because they make it difficult to form relationships with peers.
  • Inhibition: The ability to suppress attention to irrelevant stimuli to focus on pertinent stimuli/information, both controlling responses and attention
    • Inhibition subserves Relationship Skills such as sharing, likely because the choice to share requires students to inhibit the impulse to keep resources (food/toys etc.) for themselves.
  • Self-Regulation: The ability to alter responses and align them with standards, such as social expectations
    • Difficulties with Social Awareness & Relationship Skills often result from poor Self-Regulation because regulating behavior is important for developing friendships with peers.
  • Sensory Integration: The process of receiving, processing, and organizing multiple sources of sensory information from the environment
    • Social Awareness & Relationship Skills are negatively impacted when a student has difficulties with Sensory Integration due to decreases in social participation with peers and quality/quantity of play skills.
  • Social Supports: The perception of the support network, including parents, friends, and teachers, that is available to help if needed
    • The quality of peer relationships, vital to Social Supports, depends on a student’s Social Awareness & Relationship Skills.

Research Findings

  • Doctoroff, Greer, and Arnold (2006) examined the relationship between social behavior and emergent literacy in a group of preschoolers. Their findings indicated that gender is an important factor when examining the relationship between social behavior and emergent literacy. Specifically, in boys, weaker emergent literacy skills were associated with more aggressive behaviors and fewer prosocial interactions. However, no such relationship was found in girls. Yet, negative affect and higher levels of solitary play were associated with emergent literacy difficulties in both girls and boys. The authors concluded that it may be more difficult to identify girls with learning difficulties because the behaviors associated with learning difficulties (negative affect and more solitary play) in girls demand less of the teacher’s attention than the aggressive behavior often seen in boys with learning difficulties.
  • Wehby and colleagues (2003) studied the impact of weak reading skills with a reading program that combined Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) and Open Court Reading Curriculum in a group of children (age 7 to 10 years) with emotional/behavioral disorders. In the PALS reading program, students with advanced reading skills are paired with lower performing students, and they engaged in reading activities designed to improve reading comprehension and fluency. Open Court Reading instruction was designed to be implemented in the classroom by teachers. They found improvement in some students on measures of reading nonsense words, sound naming, and sound blending (phonological skills that were specifically targeted in the curriculum). However, little improvement was revealed on measures of general reading abilities, which were not specifically targeted in the program. Thus, the trained skills did not appear to generalize, which was possibly due to the short duration of the program.
  • Aguilar-Pardo and colleagues (2013) examined altruistic sharing in a group of 4- to 6-year-olds and its relationship to Inhibition, Working Memory, and Cognitive Flexibility. They found that altruistic behavior was related to a child’s inhibitory control skills. They discussed that altruism, which is an important component of Relationship Skills, is partially subserved by the ability to inhibit the impulse to preserve your own resources. Future research is needed to fully explore the cognitive underpinnings of Relationship Skills like altruistic sharing.
  • Pelco and Reed-Victor (2007) reviewed literature examining Self-Regulation in school-age children and its relationship to academic achievement and Social Skills, including following directions and taking turns. They found that poor Self-Regulation was associated with low academic achievement and poor Social Awareness and Relationship Skills. Children with poor Self-Regulation experienced more conflict with parents, teachers, and peers. Intervention strategies were also discussed.
  • Bolanos and colleagues (2015) examined a group of children (n = 36) who were at risk for developing Sensory Processing (Integration) disorders (SPDs), because they showed sensory processing indicators, and a group of children (n = 15) who were not at risk for developing SPDs. They assessed the children with the Revised Profile of Developmental Behaviors (PCD-R) (a developmental scale) and the Sensory Profile and also conducted classroom observations. They found a significant correlation between sensory processing impairments and Emotion regulation difficulties. Moreover, their results suggested that children with sensory processing risk indicators also were affected in the areas of motor organization and expressive language.
  • Hartas (2012) investigated the relationship between prosocial behavior, hyperactivity, emotional difficulties and language and literacy abilities in a cohort of children from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) who were 3, 5, and 7 years old. Prosocial behavior and hyperactivity were measured using both parent and teacher ratings on the SDQ. They found that prosocial behaviors were correlated with language and literacy skills. The author discussed that a child’s receptive/expressive language skills may impact teacher and parent perceptions of a child’s behavior. They explained that the relationship between behavior (which contributes to parent and teacher ratings of peer relationships), peer relationships, and language/literacy skills is very complex. Yet, there is clearly a relationship between positive peer relationships, Phonological Awareness, and Alphabet Knowledge. Also, difficulties with prosocial behavior and hyperactivity decreased over the 3 to 7 year period, whereas ratings of emotional difficulties remained stable.

References

Aguilar-Pardo, D., Martínez-Arias, R., & Colmenares, F. (2013). The role of inhibition in young children’s altruistic behaviour. Cognitive Processing, 14(3), 301-307.

Bolaños, C., Gomez, M. M., Ramos, G., & Rios del Rio, J. (2015). Developmental risk signals as a screening tool for early identification of sensory processing disorders. Occupational Therapy International.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (2003). Safe and sound: An educational leader’s guide to evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. Chicago, IL: CASEL.

Davis, Mark, H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44(1), 113–126.

Doctoroff, G. L., Greer, J. A., & Arnold, D. H. (2006). The relationship between social behavior and emergent literacy among preschool boys and girls. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27(1), 1-13.

Hartas, D. (2012). Children’s social behaviour, language and literacy in early years. Oxford Review of Education, 38(3), 357-376.

Pelco, L. E., & Reed-Victor, E. (2007). Self-regulation and learning-related social skills: Intervention ideas for elementary school students. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 51(3), 36-42.

Sutherland, K. S., Lewis-Palmer, T., Stichter, J., & Morgan, P. L. (2008). Examining the influence of teacher behavior and classroom context on the behavioral and academic outcomes for students with emotional or behavioral disorders. The Journal of Special Education, 41(4), 223-233.

LeBuffe, P. A., Naglieri, J. A., & Shapiro, V. B. (2012). The Devereux student strengths assessment–second step edition (DESSA-SSE). Lewisville, NC: Kaplan.

Maughan, B., Pickles, A., Hagell, A., Rutter, M., & Yule, W. (1996). Reading problems and antisocial behavior: Developmental trends in comorbidity. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 37(4), 405-418.

Wehby, J. H., Falk, K. B., Barton-Arwood, S., Lane, K. L., & Cooley, C. (2003). The impact of comprehensive reading instruction on the academic and social behavior of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 11(4), 225-238.

 


Stereotype Threat

Many stereotypes about race, gender, and Socioeconomic Status exist when it comes to academic performance and learning to read. Stereotype Threat occurs when a negative stereotype about a particular social group results in suboptimal performance by members of that group. Essentially, Stereotype Threat theory posits that people underperform under the prospect of being judged. This is possibly due to the stereotype inducing anxiety in members of that group. Furthermore, individuals who do not believe the stereotype is true about their social group will often still experience the negative effects of Stereotype Threat.

Stereotype Threat can cause students such as minorities to underperform in school. Also, often girls are stereotypically thought to be better at reading than boys, so in terms of literacy, Stereotype Threat can potentially impact male students’ reading success.

One important factor to consider is domain identification, which is the degree to which a person values achievement in a specific domain. Domain identification is measured by an individual’s perceived ability and perceived importance of a specific domain, like reading. Research has shown that negative stereotypes will impact individuals who most highly identify with a stereotyped domain (Aronson et al., 1999; Wasserberg, 2014).

Another important component is stereotype lift, which refers to a boost in performance when being compared to a group that has negative stereotypes.

Assessments

  • Stereotype Threat is typically measured by comparing a group of students who take a reading test and are told the test is diagnostic of their reading abilities to a group of students who are told the test is non-diagnostic in nature (e.g., telling the students the test is a game). If students perform worse on the test when it is diagnostic, this suggests Stereotype Threat is involved.
  • Domain identification can be measured by the Domain Identification Measure (DIM) (Smith & White, 2001), which contains items on a Likert scale to assess students’ perceived ability and perceived importance of specific domain, like reading. The English subsection of this task contains seven items measuring the importance placed on reading performance.

Learner Factor Connections

  • Emotion: A complex psychological state that involve a subjective experience and can result in a physiological and behavioral response. Anxiety is intense worry or fear, and in individuals with an anxiety disorder, these feelings will not subside over time.
    • Stereotype Threat can cause anxiety, which leads to suboptimal reading performance.
  • Working Memory: The type of memory that allows a person to temporarily hold and manipulate information for use in many complex cognitive processes
    • Research in older children and adults suggests that the uncertainty and concern over confirming stereotypes negatively impacts Working Memory processes, and this is what leads to reduced academic performance.

Research Findings

Gender

  • Hartley and Sutton (2013) conducted several experiments to examine the role of Stereotype Threat in poorer academic outcomes in boys relative to girls. In their first study, it was discovered that by the age of 4, girls believed, and thought adults believed, that girls are academically superior to boys, and boys believed this same stereotype by the age of 7. In their second study, they told a group of 162 children who were 7- to 8-year-olds that boys typically perform worse in school, and they found that boys performed significantly worse on measures of reading writing and math skills, although the girls’ performance was not impacted. In their final study, a group of 184 children who were 6- to 9-year-olds were told that boys and girls have similar academic performance in school. This manipulation resulted in improved performance in the group of boys, but no difference was found in the group of girls. These results suggest that gender stereotypes can hinder academic performance.
  • Pansu and colleagues (2016) investigated whether boys experience Stereotype Threat due to the stereotype that boys typically cannot read as well as girls. They studied a group of 80 3rd-graders in three public elementary schools in France. The students were all given a standard French reading test assessing recognition and comprehension of words (the students were asked to underline as many animal names as possible in a list of 486 words which contained 50% animal names in 3 minutes). Half of the students were placed in the threat condition by telling them the test was diagnostic of their reading skills, and the other half were placed in the reduced threat condition by telling them the test was a game. Within the entire sample, boys and girls performed similarly to one another in the threat and reduced threat conditions. However, when the groups were split into students who highly identify as readers, the girls performed better than the boys in the threat condition, but the boys outperformed the girls in the reduced threat condition. Thus, Stereotype Threat significantly impacted performance among boys who highly identified with the reading domain.

Race

  • Wasserberg (2014) investigated whether the stereotype that African Americans do not perform as well on academic tasks would impact performance on a reading comprehension test in a group of 198 African American children in elementary school. The test was either characterized as a measure of reading ability or it was characterized as non-diagnostic of reading ability. Stereotype Threat had a significant impact on reading comprehension performance, as the group of children who were aware of this negative stereotype performed significantly worse on the test when they thought it was a test of reading ability relative to when they believed it was non-diagnostic. However, this distinction was not revealed in the group of children who were not aware of the stereotype. Children who placed a greater value on achievement (those with the highest domain identification) were most vulnerable to Stereotype Threat, and they also experienced higher levels of anxiety (part of Emotion) and lower self-efficacy. Therefore, the authors concluded that Stereotype Threat can negatively impact self-efficacy in young students.
  • In Wasserberg (2017), Stereotype Threat in a group of 81 African American and Latino/a children in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades was investigated. They were given a domain identification questionnaire that measured perceived academic ability and importance placed on reading performance. They were also given the State Anxiety Scale to measure anxiety before being given a reading test. The reading test consisted of two reading passages, which were followed by 21 multiple choice questions. The students were randomly assigned to a Stereotype Threat condition where the reading test was characterized as a test of diagnostic ability or a non-threat condition where it was characterized as a non-diagnostic performance task. Children in the Stereotype Threat condition were also asked to bubble in their race, which is standard procedure in standardized test administration. The results indicated that African American students are vulnerable to Stereotype Threat, as this group of students performed significantly worse on the reading comprehension task in the Stereotype Threat condition, while the Latino/a students were unaffected by Stereotype Threat. The authors suggested that the consequences of Stereotype Threat can be mitigated by framing tests as non-diagnostic whenever possible.

General Research from Older Age Groups

  • Beilock, Rydell, and McConnell (2007) aimed to investigate how Stereotype Threat leads to decreased academic performance by examining math performance in adult women. The participants were given a variety of math problems, which were designed to place various demands on Working Memory resources. They discovered that Stereotype Threat only resulted in decreased performance in problems that relied heavily on Working Memory resources, and particularly those relying on verbal Working Memory resources. They also examined a training program that was designed to alleviate the influence of Stereotype Threat on Working Memory by drawing on Long-term Memory resources instead of Working Memory resources (by repeating problems multiple times). The training program was successful at alleviating the negative effects of Stereotype Threat.
  • Schmader (2010) wrote a review paper discussing the cognitive factors that lead to the negative influences of Stereotype Threat on academic performance. In this review, the author explained that complex cognitive operations are required for successful testing performance across many academic domains. Students who are concerned about confirming negative stereotypes about their gender, race, or other important group, are unable to focus all of their Working Memory resources on completing the test. Instead, they use some of their Working Memory resources worrying about their performance, and this leads to decreased academic performance in students from groups at risk of being stereotyped. Stereotype Threat impairs Working Memory capacity most significantly in students who highly identify with, and are most invested in, the academic domain of interest.
  • Steele and Aronson (1995) conducted the original set of studies describing and investigating Stereotype Threat in college-age students. Together they demonstrated that Stereotype Threat seriously impacts testing performance in groups of students who are at risk of being stereotyped:
    • In Study 1, they compared African American to white college students who were given a 30-minute test comprised of items from the verbal GRE test. The items were designed to be difficult and at the limits of most participants’ skills. In the Stereotype Threat condition, the participants were told the test was diagnostic of their intellect, while in the non-Stereotype Threat condition, they were told it was a laboratory problem-solving task that was not diagnostic of their intellectual ability. The African American participants performed significantly worse than their white peers in the Stereotype Threat condition, but the two groups performed equally in the non-Stereotype Threat condition.
    • Study 2 was similar to Study 1, except the participants completed the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory (STAI) right after the test. The results were similar to those of Study 1, and interestingly, they did not find any differences between groups/conditions on the anxiety measure. The authors suggested the anxiety measure may not have been very sensitive, or was administered too long after the test’s conclusion.
    • In Study 3, both white and African American participants were given a word-fragment completion task as a measure of stereotype activation, where 12 of the 80 fragments only had one possible solution, which reflected either a race-related construct (e.g., RA_ _ (race)) or an image associated with African Americans. Self-doubt activation was measured by seven word fragments that reflected self-doubt about competence and ability (e.g., FL_ _ _ (flunk)). A stereotype avoidance measure was also administered where participants were asked to rate their preferences for various activities (e.g., shopping, traveling) and to rate the self-descriptiveness of certain personality traits (e.g., extroverted, organized), some of which were associated with African Americans. These different measures were presented under a Stereotype Threat diagnostic condition and a non-Stereotype Threat nondiagnostic condition. A self-handicapping measure was also administered, preceding a demographic questionnaire (e.g., asking for race, age, gender) that asked questions about various topics, such as the hours of sleep they had been getting and whether they had been under stress lately. The African American participants in the diagnostic condition showed significantly more activation of stereotypes, greater cognitive activation regarding concerns about their academic abilities, a greater tendency to avoid racially stereotypic preferences, and were more likely to make excuses about their performance on the tests. They were also less likely to report their race on the questionnaire, when reporting race was optional. These were all evidence that Stereotype Threat was activated under diagnostic testing conditions.
    • Finally, in Study 4, African American and white participants were included, who took the same test as in Study 2 (a difficult test of verbal abilities). They were placed either into a group that was asked to record their ethnicity before taking the test or into a group that was not asked to record their ethnicity. The test was never presented as diagnostic. They found that even though the test was not diagnostic, the African Americans’ testing performance was significantly worse than all other groups in the condition where they were asked to indicate their race. The other groups included white students in either condition, and American students in the no-race-prime condition.

References

Aronson, J., Lustina, M.J., Good, C., Keough, K., Steele, C.M., & Brown, J. (1999). When white men can’t do math: necessary and sufficient factors in stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35(1), 29-46.

Beilock, S. L., Rydell, R. J., & McConnell, A. R. (2007). Stereotype threat and working memory: Mechanisms, alleviation, and spillover. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136(2), 256-276.

Hartley, B. L., & Sutton, R. M. (2013). A stereotype threat account of boys’ academic underachievement. Child Development, 84(5), 1716-1733.

Pansu, P., Régner, I., Max, S., Colé, P., Nezlek, J.B., & Huguet, P. (2016). A burden for the boys: Evidence of stereotype threat in boys’ reading performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 65, 26–30.

Schmader, T. (2010). Stereotype threat deconstructed. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(1), 14-18.

Smith, J.L., & White, P.H. (2001). Development of the domain identification measure: A tool for investigating stereotype threat effects. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 61(6), 1040-1057.

Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of personality and social psychology, 69(5), 797-811.

Wasserberg, M. J. (2014). Stereotype threat effects on African American children in an urban elementary school. The Journal of Experimental Education, 82(4), 502-517.

 


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