Teacher training helps kids rein in emotions

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When teachers participated in a training program focused on pro-social classroom behavior, their students were better able to control their emotions, a new study shows.

Previous research has shown that children who can regulate emotion are more likely to be academically successful.

For the study, which appears in Prevention Science, researchers looked at more than 100 teachers and 1,817 students from kindergarten to third grade to see if teachers could support students’ emotional and behavioral growth through the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Program.

The program uses videos and training sessions, along with role-playing and coaching, to help teachers learn proactive management strategies such as using behavior-specific praise, building positive relationships with students, and considering proximity to reduce disruptive behavior.

Teachers in the training group increased their positive interactions with students by 64 percent versus 53 percent for teachers in the control group without the training.

“Emotional regulation is the ability to recognize what behavior is appropriate in the current situation,” says Wendy Reinke, professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri.

“For example, a student might have difficulties controlling feelings of anger if he or she gets frustrated with another student. But under this program, the teacher might encourage them to move to a different spot in the classroom, effectively teaching them that sometimes stepping away and taking a breather is a good way to calm down and manage those feelings,” Reinke says.

After one school year of implementing the program in classrooms, students had improved their social abilities and ability to regulate their emotions. These improvements resulted in an increase in student competence from the 50th to the 56th percentile for students in Incredible Years classrooms versus students in control classrooms.

“It shows that this classroom management approach can help mitigate risk for struggling learners early on, which could help prevent more intensive support needs in a child’s future,” Reinke says.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Missouri and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The US Department of Education funded the work. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency.

Source: University of Missouri