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The Relationship between rural elementary school teacher characteristics and level of comfort with the use of social emotional learning

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Title:
The Relationship between rural elementary school teacher characteristics and level of comfort with the use of social emotional learning
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Anders, Jennifer
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
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University of Colorado Denver
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English

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Degree:
Doctorate ( Doctor of philosophy)
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University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
School of Education and Human Development, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
School psychology
Committee Chair:
Crepaeu-Hobson, Franci
Committee Members:
Harris, Bryn
Stein, Rachel

Notes

Abstract:
The objective of this study was to examine the extent to which teacher demographic variables (age, gender, ethnicity, level of education, and year’s experience in education) can be related to the level of comfort with using social emotional-learning (SEL) in the classroom. SEL in the classroom is associated with increases in students’ social and emotional competencies and pro-social decision making. Participants were 44 elementary school teachers employed in a rural school district. Findings from this study revealed that the teacher variables years in education and education level are significantly related to the level of comfort in the use of SEL strategies in the classroom. Teachers with fewer years of experience and those with higher levels of education reported a higher degree of comfortability in the use of SEL in their classrooms. Findings suggest that veteran teachers need additional training and support in becoming comfortable in using SEL in their classrooms.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Copyright Jennifer Anders. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RURAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER
CHARACTERISTICS AND LEVEL OF COMFORT WITH THE USE OF SOCIAL
EMOTIONAL LEARNING
by
JENNIFER ANDERS
B.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2013
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of School Psychology Program
2019


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This thesis for the Doctor of Psychology degree by Jennifer Anders has been approved for the School Psychology Program by
Franci Crepeau Hobson, Chair Bryn Harris
Date: May 18th, 2019
Rachel Stein


Ill
Anders, Jennifer (PsyD, School Psychology Program)
The Relationship Between Rural Elementary School Teacher Characteristics and Level of Comfort With the use of Social Emotional Learning
Thesis directed by Professor Franci Crepeau-Hobson
ABSTRACT
The objective of this study was to examine the extent to which teacher demographic variables (age, gender, ethnicity, level of education, and year’s experience in education) can be related to the level of comfort with using social emotional-learning (SEL) in the classroom. SEL in the classroom is associated with increases in students’ social and emotional competencies and pro-social decision making. Participants were 44 elementary school teachers employed in a rural school district. Findings from this study revealed that the teacher variables years in education and education level are significantly related to the level of comfort in the use of SEL strategies in the classroom. Teachers with fewer years of experience and those with higher levels of education reported a higher degree of comfortability in the use of SEL in their classrooms. Findings suggest that veteran teachers need additional training and support in becoming comfortable in using SEL in their classrooms.
The format and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Franci Crepeau-Hobseon


IV
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTROCUCTION TO RESEARCH...............................................1
Research Question...................................................3
II. REVIEW 01 LITERATURE..................................................5
Social emotional competencies.......................................7
Positive outcomes of SEL............................................8
SEL in a K-8 school.................................................9
SEL in Early Childhood Education....................................9
SEL in after-school care...........................................10
SEL in a school undergoing transition..............................11
SEL as a component of literature class.............................12
Assessing Teachers Beliefs about SEL...............................13
Teachers Role in Using SEL.........................................14
Classroom-Strategies...............................................15
Mindfulness as a SEL strategy......................................17
Restorative Practices..............................................18
School Wide Implementation of SEL..................................19
Conclusion.........................................................20
III. METHOD...............................................................22
Participants.......................................................22
Measures...........................................................22


V
Procedures......................................................23
IV. RESULTS...........................................................24
Demographics....................................................24
Teacher beliefs.................................................25
Teacher Characteristics and Level of Comfort with SEL...........28
V. DISCUSSION........................................................29
Limitations.....................................................33
Conclusion......................................................34
REFERENCES............................................................36
APPENDIX..............................................................40


VI
LIST OF TABLES
TABLE
Table 1. Sample Demographics...................................................27
Table 2. Addressing Teacher Beliefs about SEL and Student Achievement.29
Table 3. Addressing Teacher Beliefs About the Importance of Teaching SEL Skill.29
Table 4. Addressing Teacher Beliefs About School Climate..............30
Table 5. Teacher Comfort with SEL.....................................31


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CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION
Our biological need to connect with other humans is no great mystery. If we did not develop social bonds with other human beings, we would not survive. The act of sharing feelings, emotions, and the ability to empathize with others, in some ways, sets us apart from other animals (Fox, 2003). Developing strong social ties contributes to our unique experience of being human. Social emotional learning (SEL) is an ancient concept, dating back to the ancient Greeks (Edutopia, 2011). When Plato wrote about education in his dialogue The Republic, he proposed a “holistic curriculum” that includes training in social-emotional wellbeing and ‘moral judgement’ (Edutopia, 2011).
Our current understanding of social emotional learning has shifted quite a bit since ancient times, but it still reflects similar concepts. In the 1960’s, child psychiatrist James Comer began the Comer School Development Program through the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center. The aim of his program was to determine if social emotional intervention could improve the educational experience of kids (Comer, 1968). The Comer System Framework places students’ developmental needs at the center of the school’s agenda. Within this framework, school teams work together to assess, modify, and plan social-emotional programming using data to help ensure the school is continuously improving (Comer, 1968). The pilot study focused on two poor, low-achieving, predominately African American elementary schools in New Haven, Connecticut. The program targeted the schools’ social, academic and behavior issues and by the


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early 1980s, the academic performance of the two schools exceeded the national average (Comer, 1968).
In the mid-1980s, New Haven, Connecticut became a hub for SEL research. Yale psychology professor Roger P. Weissberg and Yale educator Timothy Shriver established the K-12 New Haven Social Development Program to teach social and emotional learning in schools as a means to prevent social and health problems among young people (Shriver & Weissberg, 1994). Within the same time period, Roger Weissberg and Maurice Elias established the W.TGrant Consortium of the School-Based Promotion of School Competence. The Consortium developed a comprehensive list of social skills necessary for emotional competence. This list included themes such as “identifying and labeling feelings, expressing feelings, assessing the intensity of feelings, managing feelings, delaying gratification, controlling impulses, and reducing stress” (Elias,
Gara, Schuyler, Branden-Muller, & Sayette., 1991, p. 410).
The concept of SEL was further propelled into American lexicon in the mid-1990’s when Daniel Goleman published the book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than 10, which proposed the idea that social-emotional intelligence is important and relevant in today’s world (Goleman, 1995). Around the same time, the organization Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) was formed, with the aim of preventing violence and drug use in schools, increasing school-community connectiveness, and fostering responsible behavior (Edutopia, 2011). In 1997, CASEL collaborators coauthored Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators (Elias et al., 1997) which provided educators with practical strategies for creating SEL programs in preschool through high school. In 2001,
CASEL defined its mission “to establish social emotional learning as an essential part of


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education” (CASEL, 2017). Since its inception, CASEL has been a driving force in promoting SEL through grants, teacher training, and educational policy development (Edutopia, 2011).
Problem Statement
A recent review of U.S. school practices found that 59% of schools have in place programming to address and develop social emotional and emotional competencies (Foster et al., 2005). While this suggests that many schools and districts are heading in the right direction in this regard, many schools still do not use specific evidence-based SEL programs (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 2002). Much of the research suggests that teachers are the primary implementers of SEL programming (Brackett, Reys, & Rivers, 2012). Therefore, it is important to understand those factors that influence teacher’s beliefs and practices related to SEL programming. To date, a few studies have examined factors influencing teachers’ ability in implementing SEL and perceptions of school climate in accepting SEL. However, no studies have investigated individual teacher factors such as age, gender, level of education, years in education, and ethnicity and their comfortability with using social emotional learning curriculum in the classroom.
The intent of this study was to understand if a relationship exists between teacher demographics (i.e., age, gender, ethnicity, level of education, and years in education) and comfortability with using SEL. Data gathered from this study will be used to support the participating school district in the implementation of a streamlined social-emotional learning program, which ultimately may reduce the risk for negative outcomes and future social-emotional struggles.
Research Questions


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1. Are teachers employed in a rural elementary school comfortable in the use of social emotional learning in the classroom?
2. Do demographic factors such as teachers’ gender, age, ethnicity, level of education, and years in education impact their level of comfort with social emotional teaching in the classroom?


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CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW
Social Emotional Learning: Overview
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an essential part of student development. Research shows that students with greater social emotional skills perform better academically and have greater success with finances, families, and career (Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015). A leading SEL researcher and author, Carla Tantillo Philibert, outlines the importance of SEL in her book Everyday SEL in Elementary School: Integrating Social-Emotional Learning and Mindfulness into Your Classroom (2016). She states, “devoting classroom time to SEL and mindfulness is not only a way to empower students with lifelong learning tools, it also helps them develop skills necessary for being responsible, bodily aware, and collaborative individuals” (p. 6). Durlak, another leading contributor to the field of social emotional learning, defines SEL as a systematic framework that promotes competence and youth development to help reduce risk factors and foster protective mechanisms for positive adjustment (Durlak et al., 2011).
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), whose mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning an integral part of education, defines social emotional learning as “an embedded framework that is infused into all areas of teaching, staffing and professional budgets” (CASEL, 2017), and a “process through children and adults effectively apply their knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions” (CASEL, 2017).


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Elias, another leading researcher in the social emotional learning community defined SEL as the process by which students acquire core competencies in recognizing, organizing and managing emotions (Elias et. al., 1997). In Elias’ model, mastery of SEL skills comes from setting and achieving positive goals, appreciating the perspective of others, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling interpersonal situations (Elias et. al., 1997).
SEL is not only essential to the success of children, it has lasting positive effects that create pro-social school environments (CASEL, 2017). According to CASEL, it is important for students to develop pro-social emotions and positive relationships for a number of different reasons. In general, learning is described as a highly social and collaborative process and it is our relationships with our peers, families, educators and communities that drives this process (CASEL, 2017). In addition, emotions are very powerful in that they have the potential to control what our students learn and how they use what they learn in the world outside of K-12 education. Positive emotions have the ability to help students generate an interest in learning, ask questions, and become more engaged; whereas negative and unmanaged emotions, such as stress and poor regulation of behavior can interfere with memory, attention and ultimately disrupt learning (CASEL, 2017).
A growing body of research has shown that teachers have an impact on the development of their students’ social emotional wellbeing. In order to ensure social emotional skills translate from school to home environments, teachers must use and model SEL practices in their classrooms (Philibert, 2016). This can be done by cultivating teacher competencies around SEL and through nurturing positive climates. Teachers must look at SEL as a life-long practice; one


that requires educators to leave their comfort zones, use an integrative approach and practice being actively present (Philibert, 2016).
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In order for students to feel ready to learn, they must be comfortable with feeling vulnerable and taking risks (Philibert, 2016). One major factor in establishing lasting SEL practices in schools requires the development of a common language around emotional regulation and wellbeing. Implementing consistent and cohesive practices across classes will help students align with this practice as a whole (Philibert, 2016).
Social emotional competencies.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has established five core areas in which socially and emotionally competent children and youth are skilled. Ideally, these competencies are taught and infused into all lessons across classrooms, schools, homes and communities. Those five competencies include: (1) self-awareness, (2) self-management, (3) responsible decision making, (4) relationship skills, and (5) social awareness (CASEL, 2017). Being self-aware involves the ability to recognize one’s emotions, describe interests and values, and accurately assess their own strengths. Self-Management refers to one’s ability to regulate emotions, manage stress, control impulses and persevere in the face of challenging obstacles. The ability to demonstrate responsible decision-making at home, at school and in the community, involves making decisions that are considerate of ethical standards, safety, appropriate social norms and respect for others. Possessing good relationship skills is defined as the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships based on mutual cooperation and the ability to resist inappropriate social pressure. And being socially aware is more broadly defined as the ability to take perspectives, empathize with others, recognize and appreciate individual and group differences (CASEL, 2017).


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Successful development of these competencies ultimately provides children with a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance (Durlak et al., 2011). Mastery of social-emotional wellbeing also has implications that go beyond the classroom setting.
According to Greenberg et al. (2003), possessing SEL skills results in fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress and less delinquent behavior. Successfully acquiring SEL competencies results in higher levels of behavioral control; such as caring for others, making good decisions and taking responsibility for ones’ actions.
A large body of empirical evidence has documented the positive effects of SEL programming on children of diverse backgrounds from preschool through high school in various educational settings (CASEL, 2017). Research demonstrates that when implemented with fidelity, SEL programs have the ability to improve children’s academic performance on standardized tests, create better attendance records, minimize disruptive classroom behavior, and helps students perform better in school (CASEL, 2017).
Positive outcomes of SEL
The thoughts, attitudes, and skills fostered by SEL are associated with key indicators of positive adjustment over the lifespan (Greenberg, Domitrovich, Weissberg, & Durlak., 2017). In addition to promoting positive life outcomes, SEL competencies can buffer children from the effects of being exposed to risk factors. A meta-analysis conducted by Greenberg et al., (2017) examined outcomes from 213 SEL interventions. Their findings revealed significant effects of SEL on pro-social behavior, academic performance, and decreases in conduct problems in children who were exposed to SEL interventions (Greenberg et al., 2017). The same metaanalysis also found long term benefits of SEL interventions lasting up to 3.75 years. The results from this meta-analysis show that up to three and a half years past the implementation of an SEL


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intervention, students had reduced behavior problems, delinquency, school failure and substance use.
SEL in a K-8 school.
In order to understand the effects of SEL intervention in a K-8 school setting, Stillman et al. (2018) conducted a case study at an independent school that serves 190 students in Northern California. This study collected data from teachers and students following the integration of SEL into their core educational values. Observations and interpretations of assessment results were used to evaluate the integration of SEL practices into the school. In this case study, multiple sources of evidence and convergent data were used to develop a theoretical proposition to guide data collection, The Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment-Adult Version (SEI-AV®), Youth Version (SEI-YV®), and Education Vital Signs (EVS) were used to assess school climate and teacher’s emotional IQ (Stillman et al., 2018). One-to-one sessions with teachers, observations, and data from the rating scales revealed that schools have the ability to improve climate and student-teacher relations through practicing and methodically measuring the implementation of SEL. One limitation of this study was the school population, which lacked diversity in gender, learning models, and ethnicity (Stillman et al., 2018).
SEL in Early Childhood Education.
In a recent study, Zinsser et al. (2014), examined teachers’ impact on children’s social-emotional learning (SEL). The researchers compared private preschool teachers with Head Start teachers (n=32) using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CASS). Comparisons between the two groups were made on the observed emotional support given in the classroom and qualitative responses from a focus group. Results from this study indicated that while all teachers acknowledged the importance of preparing children for school both emotionally and


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academically, significant differences emerged between the highly supportive and the moderately supportive teachers in the following areas: (1) teachers’ beliefs about emotions and the value of SEL; (2) teachers’ socialization behaviors and SEL strategies; and (3) teachers’ perceptions of their roles as emotion socializers (Zinnser et al., 2014). The results of this study suggest that understanding teachers’ differences in opinion can help school systems facilitate and establish viable SEL curriculums to help meet student’s needs.
SEL in after-school care.
Some research has looked at teaching SEL within the context of after-school programming. A study by Hurd and Deutsch (2017) built on Durlak’s research and analyzed the effects of SEL-focused after-school programs on positive youth development. This study examined the effects of “adult structured” after-school programs offered between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. The mission of these programs was explicitly defined as including SEL skill development. This study uncovered the important role of the after-school staff in SEL development. The authors found that adult staff who modeled positive behavior, provided opportunities for skill development, and ensured safety were more likely to see positive effects of SEL (Hurd & Deutsch, 2017). The study also revealed the importance of a less structured environment in the cultivation of SEL skills and the inherent increased opportunities for informal conversations and shared activities. The relationships between students and adults in the afterschool setting are not weighed down by academic requirements and evaluative responsibilities which can help foster more enjoyable interactions that are “ideal for transferring adult values, advice and perspectives” (p. 101). After-school staff also tend to be closer in age to their students, making the relationship less hierarchical (Hurd & Deutsch, 2017). The findings from this study show that after-school programs are important in that they provide a natural setting for


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promoting and modeling SEL skills. With less weighted academic demands, rewarding relationships, and more opportunities for natural conversation, the after-school setting is a good place for children to learn and practice SEL skills.
Despite these numerous strengths, after-school programs face a number of barriers in promoting SEL. First, participation in after-school programming is not mandatory, and therefore attendance is sporadic, which means that the benefits do not extend across to all students (Hurd & Deutsch, 2017). Secondly, staff turnover tends to be higher than teacher turnover because of the generally lower levels of education of after school care staff. This high turn-over poses challenges for the consistent and stable implementation of SEL. Hurd and Deutsch argue that future studies should consider factors that influence teacher’s use and knowledge of SEL and whether or not their level of education has an impact on the delivery and of SEL in academic settings (2017).
SEL in a school undergoing transition.
Another study examined the effects of implementing SEL practices into a school undergoing transitions. Specifically, Kasler and Elias (2012) examined teacher attitudes and beliefs in relation to the development of SEL values in a school that was changing its approach to education. This study attempted to bridge a major gap in the literature between writing about change and actually putting in place initiatives that bring about change. The researchers collected data from a small elementary school in Israel undergoing a transition in programming. Within this study, the elementary school embarked on a radical change in its pedagogic style as it adopted a holistic SEL teaching approach. After three years of intensive training and implementation of the new program, data were collected through interviews with faculty and stakeholders. Results indicated several roadblocks and concerns that arise when attempting to


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shift major pedagogical frameworks to incorporate SEL. Several key principles that help sustain SEL initiatives in schools undergoing transition were identified. Some of the key elements they found include: belief in the effectiveness of the approach, continuity of leadership, possessing a critical mass of stakeholders, commitment to enforcing the new pedagogy, consultants, in-house evaluation, team spirit, and establishing a learning community. Increasing these factors were found to help support the school with the implementation of SEL programming (Kasler & Elias, 2012). One limitation of this study is the lack of generalizability due to the setting. The authors suggest that educational transition in the middle-east is likely very different from educational transitions in the west, and that cultural factors, region, and religion may impact generalizability. However, this study contributed to the understanding of SEL and the specific factors that help sustain SEL initiatives in schools undergoing transition. These factors should be considered when schools embark on a new plan to systematize SEL.
SEL as a component of literature class.
Shechtman and Yaman (2012) contributed to the body of SEL research by studying the effects of integrating SEL into a literature class. Participants in this study included 36 teacher trainees at a college in Israel and 1,137 fifth and sixth grade students from 36 classrooms in 12 schools. The study measured increases in relationships, behavior, motivation to learn, and content knowledge as a result of two different teaching conditions: affective and non-affective. Affective teaching was defined as including informative, conceptual, and value based teaching methods, while non-affective teaching included only informative and conceptual teaching (Shechtman & Yaman, 2012).
Results from this study showed that greater improvements with SEL were linked with the affective teaching condition as compared to the control group. Shechtman and Yaman (2012)


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found that student’s relationships and behaviors were significantly associated with increases in motivation and content knowledge. One limitation to this research relates to the study sample. Because the study was conducted in the country of Israel with a unique population of Arabs, the results might not be generalizable to other populations. Another limitation of this study was the use of self-report measures. Because of the students young age (fifth and sixth graders), reliability is something to question (Shechtman & Yaman, 2012). However, what this study revealed is the importance of including value-based teaching methods into the classroom. Assessing Teachers Beliefs about SEL
Some research has revealed the importance of teachers’ backgrounds, beliefs, and values to the outcomes of SEL programs (Brackett et al., 2012). Brackett et al. (2012) conducted a study from a large sample of kindergarten through eighth grade teachers from diverse areas of New York. Their study found that a teacher’s commitment to SEL, their cultural background, education level, and comfort with SEL impacted the way the teachers implemented SEL programs in their school (Brackett et al., 2012). In this two-phase study, a survey was administered to 935 teachers to understand teachers’ backgrounds, values and perception of SEL. Phase two involved the implementation a SEL program as part of a randomized control trial (Brackett et al., 2012). The results of this study demonstrate that these core domains (beliefs, education, values, and background) possessed by teachers shape the learning environment, contribute to the success of SEL implementation in the classroom, and impact the outcomes of SEL programming.
In their discussion, Brackett et al. (2012) suggest that these factors can be used by practitioners who wish to bring SEL into their schools in order to better understand the school’s readiness to adopt SEL programming. This study sheds light on the importance of teacher


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perception and background in the implementation of SEL. Using this model, future research should aim to investigate how teacher qualities such as age, gender, perception, and values impact the implementation of SEL in classrooms.
According to research from Collie et al., (2015), teachers generally show high-levels of interest in improving their SEL skills. Strategies and supports for improving teachers SEL skills can come in the form of professional learning and school-wide commitment to SEL. Moreover, administrative support at both the school and district level has the potential to improve the delivery of SEL in classrooms.
Teachers’ Role in Using SEL
As noted above, teachers’ attitudes, backgrounds, commitment to service delivery, confidence, and perceptions all can affect SEL program implementation. Brackett et al. (2012) argue that teachers varying beliefs about SEL moderate the extent to which programs are developed and delivered. To date, only a few studies that include the assessment of teachers’ beliefs and delivery of SEL have been published. In a recent national survey of teachers, 95% of respondents said that SEL is teachable and 97% said that students from all social-economic backgrounds can benefit from SEL (Greenberg et al., 2017). This suggests that most teachers feel that SEL is both doable and beneficial in the classroom.
The Education Week Research Center, along with support from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the California Endowment, the NoVo Foundation, and the Raikes Foundation conducted a study in 2015 to better understand how teachers and school-based administrators view social and emotional learning (Editorial Projects in Education, Inc., 2015). The authors surveyed 500 teachers/users of edweek.org, Education Week’s flagship website and asked about their perspectives, conditions of their school, training of teachers, and strategies related to SEL.


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The survey included questions that mirrored items from two pervious Education Week Research Center studies, which focused on issues related to student engagement and school climate.
Results from this study found that 57% of respondents indicated that their educator training program did not adequately prepare them to address students’ social and emotional learning needs. Two-thirds of respondents reported having some educational training in social emotional learning and only 1/3 of respondents were very familiar with social emotional learning. About 16% of the respondents in this study had worked in K-12 for less than 10 years and 17% of respondents had more than 30 years of experience. In a similar vein, the survey revealed that education and training influenced the teachers’ level of confidence about implementing certain social emotional instructional practices. Less than half of the respondents (43%) indicated that their educational programs had adequately prepared them to address their students’ SEL needs, noting that their undergraduate and graduate preparation programs did not prepare them as well as professional development received after obtaining a teacher certification. The study also revealed quality and proper use of social emotional learning instruction to be highly correlated with student achievement (84 and 67% respectively; Editorial Projects in Education, Inc., 2015). This study helped provide a foundation for understanding teacher and school characteristics that both hinder and help SEL development in schools.
Classroom-Strategies.
There is a large body of research that suggests teachers have the potential to influence social emotional learning in the school environment (CASEL, 2018). Therefore, it is important to understand the classroom strategies that lead to increased SEL. Greenberg et al. (2017) suggest that enhancing SEL can come from improving school structure, supporting teacher’s


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instructional quality, and offering SEL curricula that promotes knowledge and teacher’s specific skills in the area of SEL.
A frequently used SEL approach involves training teachers to explicitly teach social-emotional skills. In this model, teachers can embed SEL skill development into academic content areas and model social-emotional skills. Additionally, teachers can provide students the opportunity to practice and apply their skills in different situations (i.e., group work, role playing and presenting). Teaching methods that involve collaboration and cooperation promote student’s communication, interpersonal skills and in turn have a positive effect on the development of SEL (Greenberg et al., 2017).
Philibert (2016) outlines five recommendations in her book Everyday SEL in Elementary School: Integrating Social-Emotional Learning and Mindfulness into Your Classroom to help teachers implement SEL with consistency across their school communities. The first method is to teach with intention and treat SEL like an academic subject area. Teachers can do this by scaffolding material and re-teaching material until mastery is achieved. Delivery must take place over time, using visual and practical learning techniques (Philibert, 2016). Next, Philibert recommends teachers develop SEL competencies amongst themselves by teaching skills they model to their students. Creating standards, and embracing the duality between teacher and learner will propel the learning process for effectively teaching SEL. Philibert also suggests that teachers must create a motivational call to action. This includes creating a common definition around what the particular school stands for and framing problems as opportunities to learn and grow the community will help foster a sense of community that and ownership of the values (2016). Another classroom strategy for teaching SEL involves educating the whole child. This can be done by prioritizing wellness, meeting the student’s basic bodily and safety needs, and


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modeling healthy practices throughout the school day (Philibert, 2016). Philibert suggests teachers use SEL as a whole-class intervention and not just for the children with Individualized Education Plans (2016). In order for SEL practices to be integrated across classrooms, teachers must create a safe space for students to practice new tools, take on problems on their own, and be vulnerable (Philibert, 2016). Philibert suggests that, cultivating a practice around these major areas will help teachers move towards integrating effective SEL practices.
Mindfulness as a SEL strategy.
The research on mindfulness in school programs has many implications for the development of children’s social-emotional learning, mental health, and resiliency (Sheinman, Hadar, Gafni, & Milman, 2018). Mindfulness-based school programs have become widely incorporated into educational settings and have shown to have many benefits for both students and teachers (Sheinman et al., 2018).
A study in Brazil conducted by Waldemar, Rigatti, Menezes, Guimaraes, Falceto, &
Heldt (2016) investigated the effects of a Mindfulness and Social-Emotional Learning Program on the effects of mental health problems and quality of life in fifth graders across southern Brazil’s public schools. The study sample comprised 132 students in total. Sixty-four students received a combined intervention of mindfulness and social-emotional learning. This group were compared to a control group of 68 students who were on a waitlist. The outcomes were measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Youth Quality of Life Instrument, and the Swanson, Nolan and Pelham-IV questionnaire. Results revealed that the students who received mindfulness and social-emotional learning instruction significantly improved in mental health domains (i.e., prosocial behavior, conduct, relationships and emotional wellbeing) and quality of life scores (Waldemar et al., 2016).


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Sheinman et al., (2018) studied 646 students, ages 9-12 from three Israeli public schools using mindfulness programming. One of the schools had implemented a whole school mindfulness approach for 13 years, the second school had been implementing mindfulness practices for one year, and the third had no formal mindfulness practice. Data measuring students’ disposition to using mindfulness strategies found that girls had a higher tendency to apply mindfulness-based strategies than boys (Sheinman et al., 2018). Additionally, 10-year-olds showed a greater propensity to apply mindfulness-based strategies than 9-, 11-, and 12-year-olds (Sheinman et al., 2018). Data from this study can help educators target mindfulness based SEL interventions towards certain ages in order to have the greatest effects.
Restorative Practices.
Restorative practices in schools is an emerging approach that is very much linked with social emotional learning. Restorative practices involve restoring relationships when there has been harm in situations that involve offenders and victims (Greenberg et al., 2017). Teachers can also be involved in restorative practices, which some research has linked to the development of SEL. Restorative practices help to promote children’s interpersonal skills and can contribute to the positive develop of teacher-student relationships. Restorative practice was originally developed as an approach to resolving crime and involves repairing harm and giving a voice to victims (Greenberg et al., 2017). Restorative practices in education differ slightly from the criminal justice model, but similarly involve professionals working with young students who violate the school rules and harm people in the educational community (Greenberg et al., 2017).
Schumacher (2014) collected data from a two-year restorative practice program involving adolescent girls in an urban high school. In this study, 60 adolescent girls participated in 12 weekly Talking Circles organized by the restorative practice leader. The aim of the Talking


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Circles was to build friendships, develop emotional literacy, resolve interpersonal conflict, and provide opportunity for interactive-role-play learning. Schumacher (2014) found that restorative practices like this can reduce offending, bullying, and victimization of students. The author concluded that this type of program can improve school attendance and prosocial interactions. It can also provide another venue for developing social-emotional skills for adolescent girls in schools.
Other studies have found similar effects of restorative justice programs in schools (e.g., Blood, 2005; Chemelynski, 2005; Drewery, 2004). When implemented correctly, these programs have the ability to improve school environments, enhance learning and encourage young people to be more empathetic and responsible (Bitel, 2005). Alternatively, it is important to note the potential negative effects of restorative justice programs in schools, specifically, the harm and unintended consequences that might arise from putting victims into vulnerable situations with bullies and aggressors.
School Wide Implementation of SEL.
The extant research indicates that when implemented with fidelity, SEL programs can lead to positive developmental outcomes for children and young adults (Meyers et al., 2018). However, in order for schools to sustain positive outcomes, school-wide supports need to be integrated into all facets of the school community (Meyers et al., 2018). According to much of the research, sustainability of SEL programs can be promoted by gaining buy-in from relevant stakeholders (Fixsen et al., 2005; Meyers et al., 2012), and by ensuring the SEL programs are in line with the previously established educational structures and processes within the building (Scheirer, 2005).


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CASEL’s School Theory of Action is composed of six key activities that are often included in the implementation of SEL framework. (1) Establish a shared vision of schoolwide SEL; (2) assess resources and needs for schoolwide SEL; (3) provide ongoing professional learning; (4) adopt evidence-based SEL programs; (5) integrate SEL into the core functioning of the school; and (6) use data and a cycle of inquiry to improve SEL practice and student outcomes. (CASEL, 2017; Meyers et al., 2012). These six activities are known to promote high-quality delivery of SEL by providing a systematic approach for building a school’s capacity to effectively implement and sustain evidence based SEL programs to improve and sustain positive school culture and climate (Meyers et al., 2012).
Conclusion
Research shows a number of positive effects associated with the use of evidence-based social and emotional learning programs in schools (Greenberg et al., 2017). When implemented with fidelity, SEL can lead to measurable, long-lasting improvements in many areas of children’s lives (Greenberg et al., 2017). Given the extant research supporting the use of social emotional learning in the school setting, it can be assumed that further exploration into the use of SEL in schools would be worthwhile. Because the teacher plays such a critical role in the successful implementation of SEL, having a better understanding of the differences that exist amongst teachers who do and do not utilize SEL would be helpful. To date, no studies have researched the specific teacher factors of level of education, years of experience in education, age, and gender and their relationship with teachers’ use of SEL in the classroom. The present evaluation aims to address the gap in the existing literature by examining the association between these factors and teachers’ teacher’s knowledge and comfortability with SEL. The rationale behind this study is


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based in the work of Taylor et al., (2017) and will help inform future decision making and allocation of mental health resources to appropriate populations in the school setting.


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CHAPTER III METHOD
Participants
A convenience sample was used for this study. Participants were identified through the informal contacts in a rural school district and included English-speaking teachers employed at an elementary school. A convenience sample was determined the most appropriate methodology this setting due to its cost effectiveness, the ability to collect data in a short amount of time, and the availability of participants. The use of convenience sampling methodology does, however, have its limitations. One of these limitations includes selection bias: as participants are not selected at random, the researcher runs the risk of not adequately representing the entire population. Additionally, a convenience sampling method is not appropriate for generalizing data or findings to the greater population. As such, the conclusions from this study can only be applied to the sample group and not the general population. While there are numerous drawbacks to using a convenience sample, for this exploratory study, the low costs, convenience, availability of participants, and ease of time makes this sample strategy appropriate for testing hypotheses.
Measures
An electronic survey was used to gather data for this study. This survey included demographic questions (years of teaching experience, gender, education level, ethnicity, and age), as well as questions related to comfortability with SEL in the classroom, school climate, and student achievement. These latter questions were modeled after the Education Week Research Center’s National Social Emotional Learning Survey and aim to understand teacher


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beliefs about the importance of SEL and student achievement. The survey items utilized a 5-point Likert scale indicating agreement (strongly disagree to strongly agree) for statements related to school climate and benefits of SEL. Comfortability with the use of SEL in the classroom was assessed via a single 7-point Likert-scale item (Extremely Comfortable to Extremely Uncomfortable).
Procedure
Following university and school district Institutional Review Board approval, teachers employed in an elementary school in a rural school district were sent an e-mail in September 2018 which included an informed consent form and a link to participate in the survey. The survey was administered online through the Qualtrex survey platform. Online administration is the chosen method for this survey as it provides a quick, efficient, and convenient option for both respondents in completing the survey as well as researcher in data collection.
Data from the survey were entered into a spreadsheet prior to analyses. The dependent variable, comfortability with SEL (originally collected as 1-7: ranging from 1 being most comfortable to 5 being most uncomfortable) was re-coded into 1 (Comfortable with SEL) and 0 (Absence of comfort with SEL), as follows: 1= Yes/ 0= No. Independent variables were dummy coded as follows: years in education coded as 1-5: (1 = 1-5 years in the field of education to 5 = 26+ years experience); education level was coded as 1-4: with 1= associates degree to 4 = PhD); ethnicity was dummy coded as 1-4: with the following ethnicities represented: Latinx, White, Asian and Native); and age (coded as 1 = 18 to 25; to 5 = 57+ years of age). Teacher gender was originally considered as a variable in this study. However, due to the low number of male teachers responding to the survey, this variable was discarded.


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CHAPTER IV RESULTS
Demographics
Table 1 presents the demographic data for the sample. A total of 44 elementary school teachers participated in the study. The sample was predominantly female (93%; n = 40) and the majority identified as Caucasian (59%; n=26). Fourteen participants were Latinx (31%), two were Asian, and two were Native American. More than half of the sample identified as age 46 or older and most had a bachelor’s or graduate degree. However, seven participants reported they had not yet earned a four-year degree and/or were currently enrolled in an “alternative pathways” degree. Almost half of the participants were relatively new to teaching with 47% indicating they had 1-5 years of experience. And finally, most (70%) survey respondents teach general education.
Table 1: Sample Demographics
Teacher Characteristic Total (n) Percentages
Gender
Female 40 93%
Male 4 7%
Race
White 26 59%
Latinx 14 31%
Asian 2 0.04%
Native 2 0.04%
Age
18-25 1 0.02%
26-31 14 31%
32-45 3 0.06%
46-56 15 34%
57+ 11 25%
Level of Education
Associates 7 15%
Undergraduate 23 52%
Masters 13 29%


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Table 1 Cont’d
Doctorate/PhD 1 0.01%
Years in Education
1-5 21 47%
6-10 4 0.9%
11-15 10 22%
16-25 4 0.09%
26+ 5 0.2%
Type of Teacher
General Education 31 70%
Special Education 13 30%
Teacher Beliefs About SEL
In addition to gathering information about teacher demographics, teacher attitude and beliefs surrounding SEL were measured. Questions from this section of the survey aligned with the Education Week Research Center’s National Social Emotional Learning Survey and assess teacher beliefs about the importance of SEL and student achievement. Table 2 reveals teacher opinions related to how school safety, social emotional learning, parental support, family background, school climate, teacher quality, school discipline, and student engagement impact student achievement. Interestingly, teachers reported school discipline and teaching qualities to be the highest contributors to student achievement. Teachers also reported social emotional learning and student motivation to be the lowest contributing factors to student achievement.
Table 2: Descriptives for Teacher Beliefs about SEL and Student Achievement
Q: On a five-point scale (where 1 is “extremely important” and 5 is “not at all important”), how important do you feel the following factors are in student achievement:
Table 2 Cont’d on next page


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Question Minimum Maximum Mean Std Deviation N
School safety 1 2 1.27 0.45 44
Social emotional learning 1 4 1.41 0.65 44
Parental support and engagement 1 3 1.5 0.58 44
Family background 1 4 1.5 0.72 44
School climate 1 3 1.48 0.62 44
Teaching quality 1 4 1.59 0.68 44
School discipline policies 1 4 1.82 0.98 44
Student engagement and motivation 1 3 1.41 0.58 44
Table 3 includes data related to items assessing the importance of teaching SEL skills as it relates to improving school climate, reducing discipline problems, and improving student achievement. The majority of teachers surveyed (83%) strongly agreed that teaching social emotional skills is an effective way to improve school climate. The majority of teachers (76%) also strongly agreed that teaching social emotional skills reduced school discipline problems. Similarly, the majority of teachers (90%) reported that teaching social emotional skills can improve student achievement. Across the board, teachers reported to believe that teaching social emotional skills can have a positive impact on school climate, discipline and achievement.
Table 3: Descriptives for Teacher Beliefs re: The Importance of Teaching SEL Skills
O: To what extent do yon believe teaching social emotional learning skills is an effective way to:
Question Strongly agree Somewhat agree Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree N
Improve school climate 83.33% 14.29% 2.38% 0 0 42
Reduce discipline problems 76.74% 20.93% 2.33% 0 0 43
Improve student achievement 90.70% 9.30% 0 0 0 43


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Table 4 presents descriptive data related to teacher general beliefs around school learning climate, student and staff safety, engagement and bullying. The majority of teachers (72%) strongly agree that the school’s climate is conducive to teaching and learning. The distribution between teachers who strongly agree and somewhat agree that the school’s climate fosters social and emotional learning was a bit more dispersed, with 59% of teachers strongly agreeing that it is and 33% of teachers somewhat agreeing that the environment is conducive to fostering SEL. The majority of teachers (70%) reported that students and staff feel safe at school. The results around student behavior indicate that most teachers agree to some degree that students in the school are well behaved (see Table 4). The majority of teachers (53%) reported to somewhat agree that students are engaged and motivated. And finally, the majority of teachers (53%) reported to some agreement that bullying rarely occurs, closely followed by 23% of teachers who are neutral that bullying occurs.
Table 4: Descriptives re: Teacher Beliefs About School Climate
O: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school?
Question Strongly agree Somewhat agree Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongl y disagre e N
My school's learning climate is conducive to teaching and learning 72.09% 25.58% 2.33% 0 0 43
My school's climate fosters social and emotional wellbeing for students and staff 59.52% 33.33% 2.38% 4.76% 0 42
Students and staff feel safe at my school 70.45% 27.27% 2.27% 0 0 44
Student's are well-behaved at my school 45.45% 36.36% 15.91% 2.27% 0 44
Student's are engaged and motivated 34.88% 53.49% 11.63% 0 0 43
Bullying of students rarely occurs 21.43% 52.38% 23.81% 2.38% 0 42


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Teacher Characteristics and Level of Comfort with SEL
Two-way contingency table analyses were conducted to evaluate whether comfortability with SEL differed significantly as a result of various demographic variables. Significant differences were observed by teacher education level (.X2 = 22.90, df= 9 ,p< .01), with teachers who have higher levels of education reporting higher levels of comfort with using SEL. Years in education was also significantly related to teacher comfort with using SEL in the classroom (.X2 = 33.76, df= 12, p < .001). Teachers with fewer years of experience as teachers reported more comfort with using SEL, while teachers with more years of experience as educators reported to generally be less comfortable with SEL. No other significant differences were observed. These data are presented in Table 5.
Table 5.
Descriptives for Comfort with SEL by Teacher Demographic Characteristics
N Extremely Comfortable Very Comf. Moderately Comf. Slightly Comf.
Level of Education*
1= Associates/Some 7 0 0 2 5
2= Undergraduate 23 1 9 5 8
3= Masters 13 3 10 0 0
4= PhD/ Doctorate 1 0 1 0 0
Total 44 4 20 7 13
Years in Education**
0= 1-5 21 3 14 3 1
1=6-10 4 1 2 1 0
2=11-15 10 0 2 0 8
3=16-25 4 0 1 0 3
4=26+ 5 0 1 3 1
Total 44 4 20 7 13
*<0.01; ** <0.001


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CHAPTER V DISCISSION
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between teacher characteristics and comfort in the use of social emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. This is important because research suggests that students with better social emotional skills fair better not only academically, but also in terms of overall life success Greenberg et al., 2003). Research indicates that students learn the majority of social emotional skills through teachers and adults (Waajid, Garner & Owen, 2013). Research also suggests that teachers’ attitudes, backgrounds, commitment to service delivery, confidence, and perceptions all can affect SEL program implementation (Brackett et al., 2012). Teachers participating in the present study overwhelmingly reported the belief that teaching social emotional skills can have a positive impact on school climate, discipline, and achievement. In addition, findings from the present study indicate that teachers with fewer years of experience in education feel significantly more comfortable incorporating SEL in the classroom than teachers with more years of experience. In other words, working in the field of education longer does not equate to higher comfort levels with SEL. This may be related to when these teachers were trained and the evolution of teacher education programs. According to Waajid et al. (2013), most undergraduate teacher preparation programs today have adopted a model of instructing perspective teachers that involves some instruction in social emotional wellbeing and classroom management. Although limited, newer teacher programs tend to discuss social emotional issues more so than teacher training programs did in the past.


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Research in this area also indicates an overall increase in professional development and improved implementation of SEL programs when training programs allow for both teacher collaboration and the ability to contribute to the development of the curriculum; characteristics of more recent graduate teacher training programs (Orphinas & Home, 2004). According to Waajid et al., (2013), teachers educated in prior decades generally received no formal training on social-emotional competencies beyond the scope of classroom management strategies. While the trend in teacher education programs is promising, due to limitations of time and money, most undergraduate training programs still neglect to fully address issues of social-emotional and classroom management (Waajid et al., 2013). Clearly, there is still much work to be done in this area Indeed, Onchwari (2010) reported that 66% of teachers still admit to being moderately or poorly prepared to deal with students’ emotions, making this research with teachers in the schools even more relevant. The present study confirms what the previous research has indicated: that teachers a) are open to learning more about social emotional teaching; b) believe social emotional learning is an important factor in improving school climate and wellbeing; and c) believe SEL is an area of professional development that is lacking and could be improved upon.
This present study found that teacher level of education was significantly related to comfortability with SEL. None of the teachers surveyed who had not yet earned a bachelor’s degree or who pursued an alternative teaching licensure program reported to be comfortable with using formal SEL teaching techniques in their classrooms. In contrast, 100% of teachers with a graduate degree reported high levels of comfort with SEL. These findings are generally consistent with the existing literature. Hammond, Chung and Frelow (2002) found that of the 3000 new teachers surveyed throughout New York City, the teachers who were educated through


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formal teacher training programs felt significantly more prepared across 39 dimensions of teaching, including the ability to teach social emotional competencies and the ability to meet their students’ academic and emotional needs than their counterparts who entered the teaching profession through alternative programs.
The link between years of experience in education and teacher comfortability with SEL fits well within research from CASEL which suggests that teachers with fewer years of experience in education enter into the workforce with an eagerness to make an impact on the emotional wellbeing of their children (CASEL, 2017). Unlike veteran teachers, teachers directly out of university tend to possess a blindness towards bureaucratic boundaries and limitations that allows them to explore the connection between social emotional functioning and academics (CASEL, 2017).
Another study out of Sweden, conducted by Sandell, Skoogb, and Kimber (2013), presented an analysis of teacher training program that involved social and emotional learning curricula. The results from this study found that training programs that include development in social emotional competencies generates increased personal and professional development, more positive classroom climate and higher degrees of collaboration amongst staff. These implications are important and relevant to this current study, as they suggest that teacher training programs that devote resources to the study of SEL usually produce teachers with a higher comfort level with delivering SEL in the classroom (Sandell et al., 2013). The current study generally confirms that teachers who graduate from university programs enter into the education workforce with an eagerness to put their newly acquired skills into action.
Research from Ransford and colleagues (Ransford, Greenberg, Domitrovich, Small, & Jacobson, 2009) also align with the findings from this current study. They found that higher


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levels of teacher-perceived support from school administration resulted in an increased use of SEL curriculum and an increase in SEL quality. This is relevant to our current understanding of the use of SEL in the classroom because both veteran teachers and new teachers alike believe in the importance of SEL; however, perceived support from the building level is necessary to carry out effective SEL instruction.
Similar research from Kaur and Luxmi (2013) is also consistent with the findings from this study. These researchers found that years of teacher experience has an impact on teachers’ classroom management approaches. More specifically, an increase in teacher experience is correlated to higher amounts of student conflict in the classroom. This research has several implications within the context of using SEL as it has been related to lower levels of disruptive classroom behavior and increased academic performance (CASEL, 2017). Teachers with more years of experience in education are less likely to use their knowledge of social emotional development and are more likely to use punitive classroom management styles (Kaur & Luxmi, 2013). And, more importantly, newer teachers are more likely to be trained in the areas of conflict resolution and classroom management (Kaur & Luxmi, 2013).
While the results from this study did not yield adequate data to examine the potential association of gender and the use of SEL in the classroom, previous studies have found that teacher gender does play a significant role in the use of SEL in the classroom. A study conducted by Drugli (2013) found that female teachers reported less conflict and a higher degree of student-teacher relationships than male teachers. According to this research, decreases in classroom conflict and increased student-teacher relationships are correlated with the use of SEL in the classroom (Drugli, 2013). Similar research found that male teachers typically display controlled, authoritarian, rigid, impersonal, and assertive personality traits which are correlated with


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decreases in the use of SEL (Martin & Yin, 2003). As such, male teachers should be provided with SEL-related professional development opportunities.
Overall, there is conclusive evidence from the existing body of research that suggests teacher demographic variables can impact the use of SEL in the classroom. The current research found that newer teachers are more comfortable with using SEL than more veteran teachers. Teacher training programs that include curriculum on developing social emotional competencies have been shown to be successful in developing these traits across teachers. Therefore, no matter what the teacher’s age, gender, level of education, or experience in education; all teachers have the ability to cultivate social emotional competencies that contribute to their students’ overall success years down the road.
Limitations
The current study has several limitations that need to be considered when examining the results. First, a convenience sample was used to collect data for this study. Due to the sampling methodology, the findings from this study are only representative of a fraction of the population. Participants were teachers from a single elementary school in a rural school district. Consequently, the results cannot be generalized to urban or suburban contexts. Furthermore, the elementary school in which the study was conducted is in the process of implementing a new social emotional learning curriculum. This transition towards implementing a new SEL curriculum may have impacted the likelihood that teachers responded favorably to the questions related to their comfortability with using social emotional learning curriculum. Another limitation to this study was the lack of diversity in teacher gender. The sample was 97% female and thus differences related to teacher gender could not be examined.


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Another limitation of this study was that only elementary school teachers participated in the in the study. According to Winnie & Perry (2000), secondary school teachers are more likely to report lower levels of comfort with school wide SEL due to the rotating nature of classes and the increased academic demands. This also raises an interesting question about whether or not secondary level teachers are equipped to meet teenager’s social-emotional needs within the context of the typical school day. Moving forward, it will be necessary to devote resources to supporting secondary level teachers in the implementation of SEL.
There are also limitations regarding the survey itself. The use of self-reported data is known to skew results. Teachers were surveyed about their demographics and beliefs through a self-report system which in of itself poses difficulties regarding validity (Winne & Perry, 2000). Furthermore, the survey only obtained information regarding the participants’ level of comfort in the use of SEL in the classroom and did not examine actual SEL-related practices. More methodologically rigorous studies should examine the relationship between teacher variables, level of comfort, and the use of SEL in the classroom. In addition, consideration should be given to other relevant factors including teacher gender and grade level.
Conclusion and Implications
This study examined the relationship between teacher variables and level of comfort with using social emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. The study found that years in education and education level are related to the level of comfort in the use of social emotional learning in the classroom. Teachers with fewer years of experience and those with higher levels of education reported higher levels of comfortability with using SEL in the classroom. These findings have implications for both pre-service training programs and professional development for practicing teachers. Although previous research has indicated that most teacher preparation


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programs do not prioritize SEL in their training (Waajid et al., 2013), results of this study suggest that might be changing. The results also suggest that veteran teachers need additional training and support in becoming comfortable in using SEL in their classrooms. Schools should provide professional development opportunities in this regard, as teacher perceived school support is related to the use of SEL in the classroom (Ransford et al., 2009). The body of research in this area aligns with these findings, with teachers modeling SEL and time spent as an educator being major factors for the use of SEL in the classroom. The present study contributes to the existing body research but also illuminates many more questions. More research needs to be conducted around system level implementation of SEL.
Research suggests that social emotional competencies are not fixed personality traits (CASEL, 2017). Therefore, there is always room to cultivate and nurture these skills across settings. Equipping teachers with the skills needed to bring SEL into their classrooms and supporting their efforts in this regard has the potential to decrease inter-personal conflict and increase positive educational outcomes (CASEL, 2017). Many teachers have some knowledge about social-emotional learning, but taking this one-step further by absorbing SEL into the larger educational school system at the district level, and ensuring all teachers attend trainings and professional developments will help ensure more universal use of SEL in schools (CASEL, 2017).


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Appendix Survey Questions
Social Emotional Learning Survey
Start of Block: Social emotional Learning Definition:
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions
Q1 Which of the following best describes your current professional role? General education teacher in a K-12 public school (1)
Special education teacher in a K-12 public school (2)
Q2 How long have you worked in K-12 education?
I- 2 years (1)
3-5 years (2)
6-10 years (3)
II- 15 years (4)
16-20 years (5)
21-25 years (6)
26-30 years (7) more than 30 years (8)


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Q3 On a five point scale (where 1 is "extremely familiar"), how familiar are you with the concept of social and emotional learning?
1- Extremely familiar (1)
2- Very familiar (2)
3- Moderately familiar (3)
4- Slightly familiar (4)
5- Not familiar at all (5)


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Q4 On a five point scale (where 1 is "extremely important" and 5 is "not at all important", how important do you feel the following factors are in student achievement?
1- Extremely important (1) 2- Very important (2) 3- Moderately important (3) 4- Slightly important (4) 5- Not at all important (5)
school safety (1) o o o o o
social emotional learning (2) o o o o o
parental support and engagement (3) o o o o o
family background (4) o o o o o
school climate (5) o o o o o
teaching quality (6) o o o o o
school discipline policies (7) o o o o o
student engagement and motivation (8) o o o o o


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Q5 To what extend do you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Teaching social and emotional learning skills to students is an effective way to...
Strongly agree (1) Somewhat agree (2) Neither agree nor disagree (3) Somewhat disagree (4) Strongly disagree (5)
Improve school climate (1) o o O o o
reduce discipline problems (2) o o o o o
improve student achievement (3) o o o o o


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Q6 To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school?
Strongly agree (1) Somewhat agree (2) Neither agree nor disagree (3) somewhat disagree (4) Strongly disagree (6)
My school's learning climate is conducive to teaching and learning (1) o o O o o
My school's climate fosters social and emotional well-being for students and staff (2) o o o o o
Students and staff feel safe at my school (3) o o o o o
Student's are well-behaved at my school (4) o o o o o
Student's are engaged and motivated (5) o o o o o
Bullying of students rarely occurs (6) o o o o o
Q7 On a scale of 1-5, how comfortable do you feel with implementing SEL curriculum in your classroom?


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Extremely comfortable (1)
Moderately comfortable (2)
Slightly comfortable (3)
Neither comfortable nor uncomfortable (4) Slightly uncomfortable (5)
Moderately uncomfortable (6)
Extremely uncomfortable (7)
End of Block: Social emotional Learning Definition:
Start of Block: Block 1
Q8 What is your highest level of education?
Associates degree (1)
Undergraduate degree (2)
Masters degree (3)
PhD or doctorate degree (5)
Click to write Choice 6 (6)


Q9 What is your gender Male (1)
Female (2) Other (3)
Q10 How would you describe yourself?
American Indian or Alaska Native (1)
Asian (2)
Black or African American (3)
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (4) White (5)
Latino/a (6)
Q11 What is your age? 18-25 (1) 26-32 (2) 33-45 (3) 46-52 (4) 53-60 (5) 65-75 (6)
75+ (7)


Full Text

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THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RURAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER CHARACTERISTICS AND LEVEL OF COMFORT WITH THE USE OF SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING by JENNIFER ANDERS B.A., University o f Colorado at Boulder, 2013 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of School Psychology Program 2019

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ii This thesis for the Doctor of Psychology degree by Jennifer Anders has been approved for the School Psychology Program b y Franci Crepeau Hobson, Chair Bryn Harris Rachel Stein Date: May 18 th , 2019

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iii Anders, Jennifer (PsyD, School Psychology Program) The Relationship Between Rural Elementary School Teacher Characteristics and Level of Comfort With the use of Social Emotional Learning Thesis directed by Professor Franci Crepeau Hobson ABSTRACT The objective of this study was to examine the extent to which teacher demographic variables (age, gender, ethnicity, level of education, and year's experience in education) can be related to the level of comfort with using social emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. SEL in the classroom is associated with increases in students' social and emotional competencies and pro social decision making. Participants were 44 elementary school teachers employed in a rural school district. Findings from this study revealed that the teacher variables years in education and education level are significantly related to the level of comfort in the use of SEL strategies in the classroom. Teachers with fewer years of experience and those with higher levels of education reported a higher degree of comfortability in the us e of SEL in the ir classroom s. Findings suggest that veteran teachers need additional training and suppo rt in becoming comfortable in using SEL in their classrooms. The format and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Franci Crepeau Hobseon

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iv TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. I NTROCUCTION TO RESEARCH ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ ÉÉÉÉÉ....1 Research Ques tionÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ...3 II . REVIEW OF LITERA TUREÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ......5 Social emotional competencies. ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.É.ÉÉÉÉ7 Positive outcomes of SEL ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..ÉÉÉ..8 SEL in a K 8 school. ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..É.....9 SEL in Early Childhood Education. ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ9 SEL in after school care ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.....10 SEL in a school undergoing transition. ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.....1 1 SEL as a component of literature class ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..1 2 Assessing Teachers Beliefs about SEL ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.. É13 Teachers Role in Using SEL . . ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ....1 4 Classroom Strategies..ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ...15 Mindfulness as a SEL strategy. ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..É17 Restorative Practices. ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ....18 School Wide Implementation of SEL . ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..É19 Conclusion. ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..ÉÉÉ.20 III. METHOD ÉÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..ÉÉ..22 ParticipantsÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ...ÉÉ..22 MeasuresÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ É...É.22

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v Procedures ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..23 IV . RESULTS ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ24 Demographics ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ24 Teacher beliefs ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ...25 Teacher Characteristics and Level of Comfort with SEL ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..28 V . DISCUSSION ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ...29 Limitatio nsÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.33 Conclusion ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.34 REFERENCESÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ..36 APPENDIXÉÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ....40

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vi LIST OF TABLES TABLE Table 1. Sample Demographics ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.É27 Table 2. Addressing Teacher Beliefs about SEL and Student Achievement ÉÉÉÉÉ.29 Table 3. Addressing Teacher Beliefs About the Importance of Teaching SEL SkillÉ....29 Table 4. Addressing Teacher Beliefs About Scho ol Climate ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ....30 Table 5. Teacher Comfort with SEL ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ É 31

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Our biological need to connect with other humans is no great mystery. If we did not develop social bonds with other human beings , we would not survive. The act of sharing feelings, emotions, and the ability to empathize with others, in some ways, sets us a part from other animals (Fox, 2003). Developing strong social ties contributes to our unique experience of being human. Social emotional learning (SEL) is an ancient concept, dat ing back to the ancient Greeks (Edutopia, 2011). When Plato wrote about education in his dialogue The Republic , he proposed a "holistic curriculum" that includes training i n social emotional wellbeing and Ô moral judgement ' (Edutopia, 2011) . Our current understanding of social emotional learning has shi fted quite a bit since ancient times, but it still reflects similar concepts . In the 1960's , child psychiatrist James Comer began the Comer School Development Program through the Yale School of Medicine's Child Study Center . The aim of his program was to d etermine if social emotional intervention could improve the educational experience of kids ( Comer , 1968 ). The Comer System Framework places student s ' developmental needs at the center of the school's agenda. With in this framework , school teams work together to assess, modify , and plan social emotional programming using data to help ensure the school is continuously improving ( Comer, 1968 ). The pilot study focused on two poor, low achieving, predominately African American elementary school s in New Hav en, Connecticut. The program targeted the schools ' social, academic and behavior issue s and by the

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2 early 1980s, the academic performance of the two schools exceeded the national average ( Comer , 1968). In the mid 1980s , New Haven , Connecticut became a hub for SEL research. Yale psychology professor Roger P. Weissberg and Yale educator Timothy Shriver established the K 12 New Ha ven Social Development Program to teach social and emotional learning in schools as a means to prevent social and health problems among young people ( Shriver & Weissberg , 199 4 ). Within the same time period, Roger Weissberg and Maurice Elias established the W.T Grant Consortium of the School Based Promotion of School Competence . The Consortium developed a c omprehensive list of social skills necessary for emotiona l competence. This list included themes such as "identifying and labeling feelings, expressing feelings, assessing the intensity of feelings, managing feelings, delaying gratification, controlling im pulses, and reducing stress" ( Elias , Gara, Schuyler, Branden Muller, & Sayette ., 1991, p. 410 ) . The concept of SEL was further propelled into American lexicon in the mid 1990's when Daniel Goleman published the book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ, which proposed the idea that social emotional intelligence is important and relevant in today's world (Goleman, 1995). Around the same time, the organization Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotio nal Learning (CASEL) was formed, with the aim of pre v enting violence and drug use in schools, increasing school community connectiveness, and fostering responsible behavior (Edutopia, 2011). In 1997, CASEL collaborators coauthored Promoting Social and Emot ional Learning: Guidelines for Educators (Elias et al., 1997) which provided educators with practical strategies for creating SEL programs in preschool through high school . In 2001, CASEL defined its mission "to establish social emotional learning as an e ssential part of

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3 education" (CASEL, 2017 ). Since its inception, CASEL has been a driving force in promoting SEL t hrough grants, teacher training, and educational policy development (Edutopia, 2011) . Problem Statement A recent review of U .S. school practices found that 59% of schools have in place programming to address and develop social emotional and emotional competencies (Foster et al., 2005). While this suggests that many schools and districts are heading in the right direction in th is regard , many schools still do not use specific evidence based SEL programs (Go ttfredson & Gottfredson, 2002). Much of the research suggests that teachers are the primary implementers of SEL programming (Brackett , Reys, & Rivers , 2012). Therefore, it is important to understand those factors that influence teacher's beliefs and practices related to SEL programming . To dat e, a few studies have examined factors influencing teacher s ' ability in implementing SEL and perception s of sc hool climate in acce pting SEL. However, n o studies have investigated individual teacher factors such as age, gender , level of education, years in education , and ethnicity and their comfortability with using social emotional learning curriculum in the classroom. The intent of this study was to understand if a relationship exists between teacher demographics (i.e., age, gender , ethnicity, level of education , and years in education) and comfortability with using SEL. Data gathered from this study will be used to support the pa rticipating school district in the implementation of a streamlined so cial emotional learning program, which ultimatel y may reduce the risk for negative outcomes and future social emotional struggles. Research Questions

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4 !" ! Are teachers employed in a rural elementary school comfortable in the use of social emotional learning in the classroom? # $" ! Do demographic factors such as teachers ' gender, age , ethnicity, level of education , and years in education impact their level of comfort with social emotional teaching in the classroom? #

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5 CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW Social Emotional Learning: Overview Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an essential part of student development. Research shows that students with greater social emotional skills perform better academically and have greater success with finances, families , and career ( Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015 ). A leading SEL researcher and author , Carla Tantillo Philibert , outlines the importance of SEL in her book Ev eryday SEL in Elementary School : Integrating Social Emotional Learning and Mindfulness into Your Classroom (2016) . She states , " d evoting classroom time to SEL and mindfulness is not only a way to empower studen ts with lifelong learning tools, it also helps them develop skills necessary for being responsible, bodily aware , and collaborative individuals " ( p. 6 ). Durlak , a nother leading contributor to the field of social emotional learning , defines SEL as a systematic framework that promotes competence and youth development to help reduce risk factors and foster protective mechanisms for positive adjustment (Durlak et al., 2011) . The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), whose mission is to help make evidence based social and emotional learning an integral part of education, defines social emotional learning as " an embedded framework that is infused into all areas of teaching, staffing and professional budgets " (CASEL, 2017) , an d a "process through children and adults effectively apply their knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships an d make responsible decisions" (CASEL, 2017).

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6 Elias , another leading researcher in the social emotional learning community defined SEL as t he process by which students acquire core competencies in recognizing, organizing and managing emotions (Elias et. al ., 1997) . In Elias' model, mastery of SEL skills comes from se t t ing and achieving positive goals, appreciating the perspective of others, establish ing and maintain ing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling interpersonal situations (Elias et . al . , 1997). SEL is not only essential to the success of children, it has lasting positive effects that create pro social school environments (CASEL, 2017) . According to CASEL, it is important for students to develop pro social e motions and positive relationships for a number of different reasons . In general, learning is described as a highly social and collaborative process and it is our relationships with our peers, families, educators and communities tha t drives this process (CASEL, 2017). In addition, e motions are very powerful in that they have the potential to control what our students learn and how they use what they learn in the world outside of K 12 education . Positive e motions have the ability to h elp students generate an interest in learning, ask questions , and become more engaged; w hereas negative and unmanaged emotions, such as stress and poor regulation of behavior can interfere with memory, attention and ultimately di srupt learning (CASEL, 2017). A growing body of research has shown that teachers have an impact on the development of their student s ' social emotional wellbeing . In order to ensure social emotional skills translate from school to home environments, teach ers must use and model SEL practices in the ir classrooms (Philibert, 2016) . This can be done by cultivating teacher competencies around SEL and through nurturing positive climates . T eachers must look at SEL as a life long practice; one

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7 that requires educators to leave their comfort zones, use an integrative approach and practice being actively pr esent (Philibert, 2016). In order for students to feel ready to learn, they must be comfortable with feeling vulnerable and taking risk s (Phili bert, 2016). One major factor in establishing lasting SEL practices in school s requires the development of a common language around emotional regulation and wellbeing . I mplementing consistent and cohesive practices across classes will help students align with this practice as a whole (Philibert, 2016). Social emotional c ompetenc ies . The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning ( CASEL ) has established five core areas in which socially and emotional ly competent children and youth are skilled. Ideally, these competencies are taught and infused into all lessons across classrooms, schools, homes and communities. Those five competencies include : (1) self awareness, (2) self management, (3) responsible deci sion making, (4) relationship s kills, and (5) social awareness (CASEL, 2017). Being self aware involves the ability to recognize one's emotions, describe interests and values, and accurately assess their own strengths . Self Management refers to one's abili ty to regulate emotions, manage stress, control impulses and persevere in the face of challenging obstacles. The ability to demonstrate responsible decision making at home, at school and in the community, involves making decisions that are considerate of ethical standards, safety, appropriate social norms and respect for others . Possessing good relationship skills is defined as the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationshi ps based on mutual cooperation and the ability to resist inappropriate social pressure . And being socially aware is more broadly defined as the ability to take perspectives, empathize with others, recognize and appreciate individual and group differences (CASEL, 2 017).

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8 Successful development of these competencies ultimately provide s children with a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance (Durlak et al. , 2011). Mastery of social emotional wellbeing also has implications that go beyond the classroom setting. According to Greenberg et al. (2003) , possessing SEL skills results in fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress and less delinquent behavior . S uccessfully acquiring SEL competencies results in highe r levels of behavioral control ; such as caring for others, making good decisions an d taking responsibility for one s ' actions . A large body of empirical evidence has documented the positive effects of SEL programming on children of diverse backgrounds from preschool through high school in various educational settings (CASEL, 2017). Research demonstrates that when implemented with fidelity, SEL program s have the ability to improve children's academic performance on standardized tests, create better attendance records, minimize disruptive classroom behavior , and helps students perform better in school (CASEL, 2017). Positive o utcomes of SEL The thoughts, attitudes , and skills fostered by SEL are associated with key indicators of positive adjustment over the lifespan (Greenberg , Domitrovich , Weissberg , & Durlak ., 2017). In addition to promoting positive life outcomes, SEL competencies can buffer children from the effects o f being exposed to risk factors. A meta analysis conducted by Greenberg et al., (2017) examined outcomes from 213 SEL interventions . Their findings revealed significant effects of SEL on pro social behavior, academic performance , and decreases in conduct problems in children who were exposed to SEL interventions (Greenberg et al., 2017). The same meta analysis also found long term benefits of SEL interventions lasting up to 3.75 years. The results from this meta analys is show that up to three and a half years past the implementation of a n SEL

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9 intervention , students had reduce d behavior problems, delinquency, school failure and substance use. SEL in a K 8 s chool . In order to understand the effects of SEL intervention in a K 8 school setting , Stillman et al. (2018) conducted a case study at an independent school that serves 190 students in Northern California . This study collected data from teachers and students following the integration of SEL int o their core educational values . Observations and interpretations of assessment results were used to evaluate the integration of SEL practices in to the school. In this case study, multiple sources of evidence and convergent data were used to develop a theoretical proposition to guide data colle ction , The Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment Adult Version (SEI AV ¨ ) , Youth Version (SEI YV ¨ ) , and Education Vital Signs (EVS) were used to assess school climate and teacher's emotional IQ (Stillman et al., 2018 ). One to one session s with teachers, observations , and data from the rating scales revealed that schools have the ability to improve climate and student teacher relations through practicing and methodically measuring the implementation of SEL . One limitation of this study was the school population, which lacked diversity in gender, learning models , and ethnicity (Stillman et al., 2018). SEL in Early Childhood Education. In a recent study, Zinsser et al. (2014), examined teachers' impact on children's social emotional learning (SEL) . The researchers compared private preschool teachers with Head Start teachers ( n =32) using the Clas sroom Assessment Scoring System (CASS). Comparisons between the two groups were made on the observed emotional support given in the classroom and qualitative responses from a focus group. Results from this study indicate d that while all teachers acknowledge d the importance of preparing children for school both emotionally and

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10 academically , significant differences emerged between the highly suppo rtive and the moderately supportive teachers in the following areas: (1) teachers' beliefs about emotions and the value of SEL; (2) teachers' socialization behaviors and SEL strategies ; and (3) teachers' perceptions of the ir roles as emotion socializers ( Zinnser et al., 2014). The results of this study suggest that u nderstanding teachers' differences in opinion can help school systems facilitate and establish viable SEL curriculums to help meet student's needs. SEL in after school c are . Some research has looked at teaching SEL within the contex t of after school programming. A study by Hurd and Deutsch (2017) built on Durlak's research and analyzed the effects of SEL focused after school programs on positive youth development . This study exami ned the effects of "adult structured" after school programs offered between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. The mission of these program s w as explicitly defined as including SEL skill development. This study uncovered the important role of the after school staff in SEL development . The authors found that adult staff who model ed positive behavior, provide d opportunities for skill development , and ensure d safety were more likely to see positive effects of SEL (Hurd & Deutsch, 2017 ). The study also revealed the importance of a less structured environment i n the cultivation of SEL skills and the inherent increased opportunities for informal conve rsations and shared activities. The relationships between student s and adult s in the after school setting are not weighed down by academic requirements and evaluative responsibilities which can help foster more enjoyable interactions that are "ideal for transferring adult v alues, advice and perspectives" ( p. 101 ) . After school staff also tend to be closer in a ge to their students, making the relationship less hierarchical (Hurd & Deutsch, 2017). T he findings from this study show that after school programs are important in that they provide a natural setting for

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11 promoting and modeling SEL skills. With less weighted academic demands, rewarding relationships, and more opportunities for natural conversation, the after school setting is a good place for children to learn and practice SEL skills. Despite these numerous strengths, after sch ool programs face a number of barriers in promoting SEL. First, participation in after school programming is not mandatory, and therefore attendance is sporadic , which means that the benefits do not extend across to all students (Hurd & Deutsch, 2017). Sec ondly, staff turnover tends to be higher than teacher turnover because of the generally lower levels of education of after school care staff. This high turn over poses challenges for the consistent and stable implementa tion of SEL. Hurd and Deutsch argue that future studies should consider factors that influence teacher's use and knowledge of SEL and whether or not the ir level of education has an impact on the delivery and of SEL in academic settings (2017). SEL in a school undergoing t ransition . Another study examined the effects of implementing SEL practices in to a school undergoing transitions. Specifically, Kasler and Elias (2012) examined teacher attitudes and beliefs in relation to the development of SEL values in a school that was changing its approach to education . This study attempted to bridge a major gap in the literature between writing about change and actually putting in place initiatives that bring about change. The researchers collected data from a small elementary school in Israel undergoing a transition in programming . Within this study, the elementary school embarked on a radical change in its pedagogic style as it adopt ed a holistic SEL teaching approach. After three years of intensiv e training and implementation of the new program , data were collected through interviews with faculty and stakeholders . Results indicate d several roadblocks and concerns that arise when attemptin g to

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12 shift major pedagogical frameworks to incorporate SEL . S everal key principles that help sustain SEL initiatives in schools undergoing transition were identified . Some of the key elements they found include: belief in the effectiveness of the approach, continuity of leadership, possessing a critical mass of stak eholders, commitment to enforcing the new pedagogy , consultant s , in house evaluation, team spirit, and establishing a learning community. I ncreasing these factors were found to help support the school with the implementation of SEL programming (Kasler & Elias, 2012) . One limitation of this study is the lack of generalizability due to the setting . The authors suggest that educational transition in the middle east is likely very different from educational transitions in the west , and that cultural factors, region , and religion may impact generalizability . However, this study contributed to the understanding of SEL and the specific factors that help sustain SEL initiatives in schools und ergoing transition. These factors s hould be considered when school s embark on a new plan to systematize SEL. SEL as a component of literature c lass . Shechtman and Yaman (2012) contributed to the body of SEL research by studying the effects of integrating SEL into a literature c lass. Participants in this study included 36 teacher trainees at a college in Israel and 1,137 fifth and sixth grade students from 36 classrooms in 12 schools. The study measured increases in relationships, behavior, motivation to learn , and c ontent knowledge as a result of tw o different teaching conditions : affective and non affective. Affective teaching was defined as including informative, conceptual , and value based teaching methods , while non affective teaching included only info rmative and conceptual teaching (Shechtman & Yaman, 201 2). Results from this study showed that greater improvements with SEL were linked with the affective teaching condition as compared to the control group. Shechtman and Yaman (2012)

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13 found that student's relationship s and behaviors were significantly associated with increases in motivation and content knowledge. One limitation to th is research relates to the study sample . Because the study was conducted in the country of Israel with a unique population of Arabs , the results might no t be generalizable to other populations . Another limitation of this study was the use of self report measures . Because of the students young age (fifth and sixth graders), reliability is something to question (Shechtman & Yaman, 2012). However, what this study revealed is th e importance of including value based teaching methods into the classroom. Assessing Teachers Beliefs about SEL Some research has revealed the importance of teachers' backgrounds, beliefs , and values to the outcomes of SEL programs (Brackett et al., 2012). Brackett et al. (2012) conducted a study from a large sample of kindergarten through eighth grade teachers from diverse areas of New York. Th eir study found that a teacher ' s commit ment to SEL , their cultural background, education level , and comfort with SEL impacted the way the teachers implemented SEL programs in their school (Brackett et al., 2012) . In this two phase study, a survey was administered to 935 teachers to understand teachers ' background s , values and perception of SEL. Phase two involved the implementation a SEL program as part of a randomized control trial (Brackett et al., 2012). The results of this study demonstrate that these core domains (beliefs, education, values , and background) possessed by teachers shape the learning environment , contribute to the success of SEL implementation in the classroom, and impact the outcomes of SEL programming. In their discussion, Brackett et al. (2012) suggest that these factors can be used by practitioners who wish to bring SEL into their schools in order to better understand the school's readiness to adopt SEL programming. This study sheds light on the importance of teacher

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14 perception and background in the implementation of SEL . Using this model, future research should aim to investigate how teacher qualities such as age, gender, perception , and values impact the implementation of SEL in classrooms. According to research from Collie et al., (2015) , teachers generally show high levels of interest in improving their SEL skills. Strategies and supports for improving teachers SEL skills can come in the form of professional learning and school wide commitment to SEL. Moreover, administrative support at both the school and d istrict level has the potential to improve the delivery of SEL in classrooms. Teachers ' Role in U sing SEL As noted above, teachers ' attitudes, backgrounds, commitment to service delivery , confidence, and perceptions all can affect SEL program implementation . Brackett et al. (2012) argue that teacher s varying beliefs about SEL moderate the extent to which programs are developed and delivered. To date, only a few studies that include the assessment of teachers' beliefs and delivery of SEL have be en published. In a recent national survey of teachers, 95% of respond ents said that SEL is teachable and 97% said that students from all social economic backgrounds can benefit from SEL (Greenberg et al., 2017). This suggests that most teachers feel that S EL is both doable a n d beneficial in the classroom. The Education Week Research Center, along with support from the Atlantic Philanthropies , the California Endowment, the NoVo Foundation, and the Raikes Foundation conducted a study in 2015 to better understand how teachers and school based administrators vie w social and emotional learning (Editorial Projects in Education, Inc ., 2015). The authors surveyed 500 teachers/users of edweek.org, Education Week's flagship website and asked about their perspectives, conditions of their school, training of teachers , and strategies related to SEL.

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15 The survey included questions that mirrored items from two pervious Education Week Research C enter studies, which focused on issues related to student engagement and school climate. Results from this study found that 57 % of respondents indicated that their educator t rain ing program did not adequately prepare them to address students ' social and e motional learning needs. Two thirds of respondents reporte d having some educational training i n social emot ional learning and only 1/3 of respondents were very familiar with social emotional learning . About 16% of the respondents in this study ha d worked i n K 12 for less than 10 years and 17% of respondents ha d more than 30 years of experience . In a similar vein, the survey revealed that education and training influence d the teachers ' level of confidence about implementing certain social emotional instructional practices. Less than half of the respondents (43 % ) indicated that their educational programs had adequately prepared them to a dd ress their students ' SEL needs, n oting that their undergraduate and graduate preparation programs did not prepare them as well as professional development received after obtaining a teacher certification. The study also revealed quality and proper use of social emotional learning instruction to be highly correlated with student achievement (84 and 67% respectively; Editorial Projects in Education, Inc . , 2015 ). This study helped provide a foundation for understanding teacher and school characteristics that both hinder and help SEL development in schools . C lassroom Strategies . There is a large body of research that suggests teachers have the potential to influence social emotional learning in the school environment (CASEL, 2018). Therefore, it is important to understand the classroom strategies that lead to increased SEL . Greenberg et al. (2017) suggest that enhancing SEL can come from improving school structure, supporting teacher's

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16 instructional quality , and offering SEL curricula that promotes knowledge and teacher's specific skills in the area of SEL . A frequently used SEL approach involves training teachers to explicitl y teach social emotional skills. In this model, teachers can embed SEL skill development into academic content areas and model social emotional skills. Additionally, teachers can provide s tudents the opportunity to practice and apply their skills in different situations ( i.e., group work, role playing and presenting). Teaching methods that involve collaboration and cooperation promote student's communication, interpersonal skills and in tur n have a positive effect on the development of SEL (Greenberg et al., 2017). Philibert (2016) outlines five recommendations in her book Everyday SEL in Elementary School: Integrating Social Emotional Learning and Mindfulness into Your Classroom to help teachers implement SEL with consistency across their school communities . The first met hod is to teach with intention and treat SEL like an academic subject area . Teachers can do this by scaffolding material and re teaching material until mastery is achieved. Delivery must take place over time, using visual and practical learning techniques (Philibert, 2016). Next, Philibert recommends teachers develop SEL competencies amongst thems elves by teaching skills they model to their students. Creating stand ards , and embracing the duality between teacher and learner will propel the learning proce s s for effectively teaching SEL. Philibert also suggests that teachers must create a motivational call to action. This includes c reating a common definition around wh at the particular school stands for and framing problems as opportunities to learn and grow the community will help foster a sense of community that and ownership of th e values ( 2016). Another classroom strategy for teaching SEL involves educating the whole child. This can be done by p rioritizing wellness, meeting the student ' s basic bodily and safety needs, and

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17 modeling healthy prac t ices throughout the school day ( Philibert, 2016). Philibert suggests teachers use SEL as a whole class intervention and not just for the children with Individualized Education Plans ( 2016). In order for SEL practices to be integrated across classrooms, teachers must create a safe space for students to practice new tools, take on problems o n their own, and be vulnerable (Philibert, 2016). Philibert suggests that, cultivating a practice around these major areas will help teachers move towards integrating effective SEL practices. Mindfulness as a SEL s trategy . The research on mindfulness in school programs has many implications for the development of children' s social emotional learning, mental health , and resiliency (Sheinman , Hadar, Gafni, & Milman , 2018). Mindfulness based school programs have become widely incorporated into educational settings and have shown to have many benefits for both students and teachers (Sheinman et al., 2018). A study in Brazil conducted by Waldemar, Rigatti, Menezes, Guimar‹es, Falceto, & Heldt (2016) investigat ed the effects of a Mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning Prog ram on the effects of mental health problems and quality of life in fifth graders across southern Brazil's public schools. The study sample comprised 132 students in total. Sixty four students received a combined intervention of mindfulness and social emotional learning. This group were compared to a control group of 68 students who were on a waitlist. The outcomes were measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Yout h Quality of Life Instrument, and the Swanson, Nolan and Pelham IV questionnaire. Results revealed that the students who received mindfulness and social emotional learning instruction significantly improved in mental health domains (i.e., prosocial behavio r, conduct, relationships and emotional wellbeing) and quality of life scores ( Waldemar et al., 2016).

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18 Sheinman et al., (2018) studied 646 students, age s 9 12 from three Israeli pu blic schools using mindfulness programming . One of the schools ha d implement ed a whole school mindfulness approach for 13 years, the second school ha d been implementing mindfulness practices for one year , and the third ha d no formal mindfulness practice. Data measuring students ' disposition to using mindfulness strategies found that girls had a highe r tendency to apply mindfulness based strategies tha n boys (Sheinman et al., 2018). Additionally, 10 year olds showed a greater propensity to apply mindfulness based strateg ies than 9 , 11 , and 12 year olds (Sheinman et al., 2018). D ata from this study can help educators target mindfulness based SEL interventions to wards certain ages in order to have the greatest effects. Restorative P ractices . Res torative practices in schools is an emerging approach that is very much linked with soc ial emotional learning. Restorative practices involve restoring relationships when there has been harm in situations that involve offenders and victims (Greenberg et al., 2017). Teachers can also be involved in restorative practices, which some research has linked to the development of SEL . Restorative practices help to promote chi ldren's interpersonal skills and can contribute to the positive develop of teacher student relationships. Restorative practice was originally developed as an approach to resolvi ng crime and involves repairing harm and giving a voice to victims (Greenberg et al., 2017). Restorativ e practices in education differ slightly from the criminal justi ce model, but similarly involve professionals working with young students who violate the school rules and harm people in the educational community (Greenberg et al., 2017). Schumacher (2014) collected data from a two year restorative practice program involving adolescent girls in an urban high school. In this study, 60 adolescent girls parti cipated in 12 weekly Talking Circles organized by the restorative practice leader. The aim of the Talking

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19 Circles was to build friendships, develop emotional literacy, resolve interpersonal conflict , and provide opportunity for interactive role play learni ng. Schumacher (2014) found that restorative practices like this can reduce offending, bullying , and victimization of students. The author concluded that this type of program can improve school attendance and pro social interaction s. It can also provide another venue for developing social emotional skills for adolescent girls in schools. Other studies have found similar effects of restorative justice programs in schools (e.g., Blood, 2005; Chemelynski, 2005; Drewery, 2004) . When implemented corr ectly, these programs have the ability to improve school environments, enhance learning and encourage young people to be more empathetic and responsible (Bitel, 2005). Alternatively, it is important to note the potential negative effects of restorative jus tice programs in schools, specifically, the harm and unintended consequences that might arise from putting victims into vulnerable situations with bullies and aggressors. School Wide Implementation of SEL . The extant research indicate s that when implemented with fidelity, SEL programs can lead to positive developmental outcomes for children and young adults (Meyers et al., 2018). However, in order for schools to sustain positive outcomes, school wide supports need to be integrated into all fa cets of the school community (Meyers et al., 201 8 ). According to much of the research, sustainability of SEL programs can be promoted by gaining buy in from relevant stakeholders (Fixsen et al., 2005; Meyers et al., 2012), and by ensuring the SEL programs are in line with the previously established educational structures and processes within the building (Scheirer, 2005).

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20 CASEL's School Theory of Action is composed of six key activities that are often inc luded in the implementation of SEL framework . (1) Es tablish a shared vision of schoolwide SEL; (2) assess resources and needs for schoolwide SEL; (3) provide ongoing professional learning; (4) adopt evidence based SEL programs; (5) integrate SEL into the core functioning of the school; and (6) use data and a cycle of inquiry to improve SEL practice and student outcomes. (CASEL, 2017; Meyers et al., 201 2 ). The se six activities are known to promote high quality delivery of SEL by providing a systematic approach for building a school's capacity to effectively implement and sustain evidence based SEL programs to improve and sustain positive school culture and climate (Meyers et al., 201 2 ). Conclusion Research shows a number of positive effects associated with the use of evidence based social and emotional learning programs in schools (Greenberg et al., 2017). When implemented with fidelity, SEL can lead to measurable, long lasting improvements in many areas of children's lives (Greenberg et al., 2017). Given the extant research support ing the use of social emotional learning in the school setting , it can be assumed that further exploration into the use of SEL in schools would be worthwhile . Because the teacher plays such a critical role in the successful implementation of SEL, having a better understanding of the differences that exist amongst teachers who do and do not utilize SEL would be helpful. To date, no studies have researched the specific teacher factors of level of education, years of experience in education, age, and gender and their relationship with teachers' use of SEL in the classroom . The present evaluation aims to address the gap in the existing literature by examining the association between these factors and teachers' teacher's knowledge and comfortability with SEL . The rationale behind this study is

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21 based in the work of Taylor et al., (2017) and will help inform future decision making and allocation of mental health resources to appropriate populations in the school setting.

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22 CHAPTER I I I M ETHOD Participants A convenience sample was used for this study. Participants were identified through the informal contacts in a rural school district and include d English speaking teachers employed at an elementary school. A convenience sample was determined the most appropriate methodology this setting due to its cost effectiveness, the ability to collect data in a short amount of time, and the availability of particip ants. The use of convenience sampling method ology does , however , have its li mitations . One of these limitations includes selection bias : as participants are not selected at random, the researcher runs the risk of not adequately representing the entire population. Additionally, a convenience sampling method is not approp riate for generalizing data or findings to the greater population. As such, the conclusions from this study can only be applied to the sample group and not the general population. While there are numerous drawbacks to using a convenience sample, for this exploratory study , the low costs, conv en i e nce, availability of participants, and ease of time makes this sample strategy appropriate for testing hypotheses. Measures An electronic survey was used to gather data f or this study. This survey include d demographic questions (years of teaching experience, gender, education level , ethnicity, and age ), as well as questions related to comfortability with SEL in the classroom , school climate , and student achievement. These latter questions were modeled after the Education Week Research Center's National Social Emotional Learning Survey and aim to understand teacher

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23 beliefs about the importance of SEL and student achievement. The survey items utilized a 5 point Likert scale indicating agreement (strongly disag ree to strongly agree) for statements related to school climate and benefits of SEL . Comfortability with the use of SEL in the classroom was assessed via a single 7 point Likert scale item (Extremely Comfortable to Extremely Uncomfortable) ! "" " Procedure " "" """" Following university and school district Institutional Review Board approval, teachers employed in an e lementary school in a rur a l school district were sent an e mail in September 2018 which include d an informed consent form and a link to participate in the survey. The survey was administered online through the Qualtrex survey platform. Online administration is the chosen method for this survey as it provides a quick, efficient, and convenient option for both respondent s in completing the sur vey as well as researcher in data collection. Data from the survey were entered into a spreadsheet prior to analyses. The dependent variable, comfortability with SEL (originally collected as 1 7: ranging from 1 being most comfortable to 5 being most uncomfortable) was re coded into 1 (Comfortable with SEL) and 0 (Absence of comfort with SEL), as follows: 1= Yes/ 0= No. Independent variables were dummy coded as follows: years in education coded as 1 5: (1 = 1 5 years in the field of educa tion to 5 = 26+ years experience ) ; education level was coded as 1 4: with 1 = associates degree to 4 = PhD ); ethnicity was dummy coded as 1 4 : with the following ethnicities represented: Latin x , White, Asian and Native) ; and age (coded a s 1 = 18 to 25; to 5 = 57+ years of age ). Teacher gender was originally considered as a variable in this study. However, due to the low number of male teachers responding to the survey, this variable was discarded.

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24 CHAPTER IV RESULTS Demographics Table 1 presents the demographic data for the sample. A total of 44 elementary school teachers participated in the study. The sample was predominantly female (93%; n = 40) and the majority identified as Caucasian (59%; n=26). Fourteen participants were Lat inx (31%), two were Asian, and two were Native American. More than h alf of the sample identified as age 46 or older and most had a bachelor's or graduate degree. However, seven participants reported they had not yet earned a four year degree and/or were cu rrently enrolled in an "alternative pathways" degree. Almost half of the participants were relatively new to teaching with 47% indicating they had 1 5 years of experience. And finally, most (70%) survey respondents teach general education. Table 1: Sample Demographics ______________________________________________________________________________ Teacher Characteristic Total (n) Percentages Gender Female 40 93% Male 4 7% Race White 26 59% Latin x 1 4 31% Asian 2 0.04% Native 2 0.04% Age 18 25 1 0.02% 26 31 14 31% 32 45 3 0.06% 46 56 15 34% 57+ 11 25% Level of Education Associates 7 15% Undergraduate 23 52% Masters 13 29%

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25 Table 1 Cont'd Doctorate/PhD 1 0.01% Years in Education 1 5 21 47% 6 10 4 0.9% 11 15 10 22% 16 25 4 0.09% 26+ 5 0.2% Type of Teacher General Education 31 70% Special Education 13 30% Teacher Beliefs About SEL In addition to gathering information about teacher demographics, teacher attitude and beliefs surrounding SEL were measured . Questions from this section of the survey aligned with the Education Week Research Center's National Social Emotional Learning Survey and assess teacher beliefs about the importance of SEL and student achievement. Table 2 reveals teacher opinions related to how school safety, social emotional learning, parental support, family background, school climate, teacher quality, school discipline , and student engagement impact student achievement. Interestingly, teachers reported school discipl ine and teaching qualities to be the highest contributors to student achievement. Teachers also reported social emotional learning and stud ent motivation to be the lowest contributing factors to student achieve ment. Table 2: Descriptives for Teacher Beliefs about SEL and Student Achievement Q: On a five point scale (where 1 is "extremely important" and 5 is "not at all important" ) , how important do you feel the following factors are in student achievement: Table 2 Cont'd on next page

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26 Question Minimum Maximum Mean Std Deviation N S chool safety 1 2 1.27 0.45 44 S ocial emotional learning 1 4 1.41 0.65 44 P arental support and engagement 1 3 1.5 0.58 44 F amily background 1 4 1.5 0.72 44 S chool climate 1 3 1.48 0.62 44 T eaching quality 1 4 1.59 0.68 44 S chool discipline policies 1 4 1.82 0.98 44 S tudent engagement and motivation 1 3 1.41 0.58 44 Table 3 includes data related to items assessing the importance of teaching SEL skills as it relates to improving school climate, reducing discipline problems , and improving student achievement. The majority of teachers surveyed (83%) strongly agreed that teaching social emotional skills is an effective way to improve school climate. The majority of teachers (76%) also strongly agreed that teaching social emotional skills reduced school discipline problems . Similarly, the majority of teachers (90%) reported that teaching social emotional skills can improve student achievement . Across the board, teachers reported to believe that teaching social emotional skills can have a positive impact on school climate, discipline and achievement . Table 3 : Descriptives for Teacher Beliefs re: T he Importance of Teaching SEL Skills Q: T o what extent do you believe teaching social emotional learning skills is an effective way to : Question Strongly agree Somewhat agree Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree N Improve school climate 83.33% 14.29% 2.38% 0 0 42 Reduce discipline problems 76.74% 20.93% 2.33% 0 0 43 Improve student achievement 90.70% 9.30% 0 0 0 43

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27 Table 4 presents descriptive data related to teacher general beliefs around school learning climate , student and staff safety, engagement and bullying. The majority of teachers (72%) strongly agree that the school's climate is conducive to teaching and learning. The distribution between teachers who strongly agree and somewhat agree that the school ' s climate fosters social and emotional le arning was a bit more dispersed, with 59% of teachers strongly agree ing that it is and 33% of teachers somewhat agree ing that the environment is conducive to fostering SEL. The majority of teachers (70%) reported that students and staff feel safe at school . The results around student behavior indicate that most teachers agree to some degree that students in the school are well be haved (see Table 4) . The majority of teacher s (53%) reported to somewhat agree that students are engaged and motivated. And finally, the majority of teachers (53%) reported to some agree ment that bullying rarely occurs, closely followed by 23% of teachers who are neutral that bullying occurs . Table 4: Descriptives re: Teacher Beliefs About School Climate Q: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school? Question Strongly agree Somewhat agree Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongl y disagre e N My school's learning climate is conducive to teaching and learning 72.09% 25.58% 2.33% 0 0 43 My school's climate fosters social and emotional well being for students and staff 59.52% 33.33% 2.38% 4.76% 0 42 Students and staff feel safe at my school 70.45% 27.27% 2.27% 0 0 44 Student's are well behaved at my school 45.45% 36.36% 15.91% 2.27% 0 44 Student's are engaged and motivated 34.88% 53.49% 11.63% 0 0 43 Bullying of students rarely occurs 21.43% 52.38% 23.81% 2.38% 0 42

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28 Teacher Characteristics and Level of Comfort with SEL Two way contingency table analyses were conducted to evaluate whether comfortability with SEL differed significantly as a result of various demographic variables. Significant differences were observed by teacher education level ( X 2 = 22.90, df = 9, p < .01 ), with teachers who have higher level s of education reporting higher levels of comfort with using SEL . Years in education was also significantly related to teacher comfort with using SEL in the classroom ( X 2 = 33.76, df = 12, p < .001) . Teachers with fewer years of experience as teachers reported more comfort with using SEL, while teachers with more years of experience as educators reported to generally be less comfortable with SEL . No other significant differences were observed. These data are present ed in Table 5. Table 5 . Descriptives for Comfort with SEL by Teacher Demographic Characteristics N Extremely Very Moderately Slightly Comfortable Comf. Comf. Comf. Level of Education* 1= Associates/Some 7 0 0 2 5 2= Undergraduate 23 1 9 5 8 3= Masters 13 3 10 0 0 4= PhD/ Doctorate 1 0 1 0 0 Total 44 4 20 7 13 Years in Education ** 0= 1 5 21 3 14 3 1 1=6 10 4 1 2 1 0 2=11 15 10 0 2 0 8 3=16 25 4 0 1 0 3 4=26+ 5 0 1 3 1 Total 44 4 20 7 13 * <0.01; ** <0.001

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29 CHAPTER V DISCISSION Th e purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between teacher characteristics and comfort in the use of social emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. This is important because r esearch suggests that students with better social emotional skills fair better not only academically, but also in terms of overall life succes s Greenberg et al. , 2003 ). Research indicates that students learn the majority of social emotional skills through teachers and adults (Waajid, Garner & Owen, 2013) . Research also suggests that teachers' attitudes, backgrounds, commitment to service delivery, confidence, and perceptions all can affect SEL program implementation (Brackett et al., 2012). Teachers participating in the present study overwhelmingly reported the belief that teaching social emotional skills can have a positive impact on school climate, discipline, and achievement. In addition, findings from the present s tudy indicate that teachers with fewer years of experience in education feel significantly more comfortab le incorporating SEL in the classroom than teachers with more years of experience. In other words, working in t he field of education longer does not equate to higher comfort levels with SEL . This may be related to when these teachers were trained and the evolution of teacher education programs. According to Waaji d et al. ( 2013 ), most undergraduate teacher preparation programs today have adopt ed a model of instructing perspective teachers that involves some instruction in social emotional wellbeing and classroom management . A lthough limited, newer teacher programs tend to discuss social emotional iss ues more so than teacher training programs did in the past .

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30 R esearch in this area also indicates an overall increase in professional development and improved implementation of SEL programs when training programs allow for both teacher collaboration and the ability to contribute to the development of the curriculum ; characteristic s of more recent graduate teacher training programs ( Orphinas & Horne, 2004 ). According to Waajid et al. , (2013), teachers educated in prior decades generally received no formal training on social emotional competencies beyond the scope of classroom management strategies. While th e trend in teacher education programs is promising, due to lim itations of time and money, most undergraduate training programs still neglect to fully ad dress issues of social emotional and classroom management ( Waajid et al., 2013). Clearly, there is still much work to be done in this area Indeed , Onchwari (2010) reported that 66% of teachers still admit to being moderately or poorly prepared to deal with students' emotions , mak ing this research with teachers in the schools even more relevant. T h e present study confirms what the previous research has indicated: that teachers a) are open to learn ing more about social emotional teaching ; b ) believe social emotional learning is an important factor in improving school climate and wellbeing ; and c) believe SEL is an area of professional development that is lacking and could be improved upon. T his present study found that teacher level of education was significantly related to comfortability with SEL . None of the teachers surveyed who had not yet earned a bachelor's degree or who pursued an alternative teaching licensure program reported to be comfortable with using formal SEL tea ching techniques in their classrooms. In contrast, 100% of teachers with a graduate degree reported h igh levels of comfort with SEL . The se findings are generally consistent with the existing literature. Hammond, Chung and Frelow (2002) found that of the 3000 new teachers surveyed throughout New York City, the teachers who were educated through

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31 formal teacher training programs felt significantly more prepared across 39 d imensions of teaching , including the ability to teach social emotional competencie s and the ability to meet the ir students' academic and emotional needs than their counterparts who entered the teaching profession through alternative programs. The link between years of experience in education and teacher comfortability with SEL fits wel l within research from CASEL which suggests that teachers with fewer years of experience in education enter into the workforce with an eagerness to make an impact on the emotional wellbeing of their children (CASEL, 2017) . Unlike veteran teachers, teachers directly out of university tend to possess a blindness towards bureaucratic boundaries and limitations that allows them to explore the connection between social emot ional functioning and academics (CASEL, 2017). A nother study out of Sweden , conducted b y Sandell, Skoogb , and Kimber (2013) , presented an analysis of teacher training program that involved social and emotional learning curricul a . The results from this study found that training programs that include development in social emotional competencies generates increased personal and professional development, more positive classroom climate and higher degrees of collaboration amongst staff . These implicatio ns are important and relevant to this current study, as they sug gest that teacher training programs that devote resources to the study of SEL usually produce teachers with a higher comfort level with delivering SEL in the classroom (Sandell et al., 2013). Th e current study generally confirms that t eachers who graduat e from university programs enter into the education workforce with an eagerness to put their new ly acquired skills into action. Research from Ransford and colleagues ( Ransford , Greenberg, Domitrovich, Small, & Jacobson, 2009 ) also align with the fi n dings f rom this current study . They found that higher

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32 levels of teacher perceived support fro m school administration resulted in an increased use of SEL curriculum and an increase in SEL quality. This is relevant to our current understanding of the use of SEL in the classroom because both veteran teachers and new teachers alike believe in the importance of SEL ; however, perceived support from the building level is necessary to carry out effective SEL instruction . Similar research from Kaur and Luxmi (2013) is also consistent with the findings from this study . These researchers found that years of teacher experience has an impact on teachers' class room management approaches. More specifically, an increase in teacher experience is correlated to higher amounts of student conflict in the classroom. This research has several implications within the context of using SEL as it has been related to lower levels of disruptive classroom behavior and increased academic performance (CASEL, 2017). T eachers with more years of experience in education are less likely to use their knowledge of social emotional development and are more likely to use punitive classroom management styles (Kaur & Luxmi, 2013). And, more importantly, newer teachers are more l ikely to be trained in the areas of conflict resolution and classroom management (Kaur & Luxmi, 2013). Wh ile the results from this study did not yield adequate dat a to examine the potential association of gender and the use of SEL in the classroom, previo us studies have found that teacher gender does play a significant role in the use of SEL in the classroom. A study conducted by Drugli (2013) found that f emale teachers reported less conflict and a higher degree of student teacher relationships than male teachers . According to this research, decreases in classroom conflict and increased student teacher relationships are correlated with the use of SEL in the classroom (Drugli, 2013) . Similar research found that male teachers typically display controlled, au thoritarian , ri gid, impersonal , and assertive personality traits which are correlated with

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33 decreases in the use of SEL (Martin & Yin, 2003) . As such, male teachers should be provided with SEL related professional development opportunities. Overall, there is conclusive evidence from the existing body of research that suggests teacher demographic variables can impact the use of SEL in the classroom. T he current research found that newer teachers are more comfortable with using SEL than more veteran teachers. T eacher training programs that include curriculum on developin g social emotional competencies have been shown to be successful in developing these traits across teachers. Therefore, no matter what the teacher's age, gender, level of education, or experie nce in education ; all teachers have the ability to cultivate social emotional competencies that contribute to their students' overall success years down the road. Limitations The current study has several limitations that need to be considered when exami ning the results. First, a convenience sample was used to collect data for this study . Due to the sampling methodology, the findings from this study are only representative of a fraction of the population . Participants were teachers from a single elementary school in a rural school district. Consequently, the results cannot be generalized to urban or suburban contexts. Further more , the elementary school in which the study was conducted is in the process of i mplementing a new social emotional learning curriculum. This transition towards implementing a new SEL curriculum may have impacted the likelihood that teachers responded favorably to the question s related to their comfortability with using social emotional learning curriculum. Another limitation to this study was the lack of diversity in teach er gender. The sample was 97% female and thus differences related to teacher gender could not be examined.

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34 Another limitation of this study was that only elementary school teachers participated in the in the stu dy. According to Winnie & Perry (2000) , secondary school teachers are more likely to report lower levels of comfort with school wide SEL due to the rotating nature of classes and the increased a cadem ic demands . This also raises an interesting question about whether or not secondary level teachers are equipped to meet teenager's social emotional needs within the context of the typical school day . Moving forward, it will be necessary to devote resources to supporting secondary level teachers in the implementation of SEL. There are also limitations regarding the survey itself. The use of self reported data is known to skew results. Teachers were s urveyed about their demographics and beliefs through a self report system which in of its elf poses difficulties regarding validity (Winne & Perry, 2000). Further more , the survey only obtained information regarding the participants' level of comfort in the use of SEL in the classroom and did not examine actual SEL related practices. More methodologically rigorous studies should examine the relationship between teac her variables, level of comfort , and the use of SEL in the classroom. In addition, considerati on should be given to other relevant factors including teacher gender and grade level. Conclusion and Implications This study examined the relationship between teacher variables and level of comfort with using social emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. The study found that years in education and education level are related to the level of comfort in the use of social emotional learning in the classroom. Teachers with fewer years of experience and those with higher levels of education reported higher levels of comfortability with using SEL in the classroom. These findings have implications for both pre service training programs and professional development for practicing teachers. Although previous research has indicated that most teach er preparation

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35 programs do not prioritize SEL in their training (Waajid et al., 2013), results of this study suggest that might be changing. The results also suggest that veteran teachers need additional training and support in becoming comfortable in usin g SEL in their classrooms. Schools should provide professional development opportunities in this regard , as teacher perceived school support is related to the use of SEL in the classroom (Ransford et al., 2009). The body of research in this area aligns wit h these finding s, with teachers modeling SEL and time spent as an educator being major factors for the use of SEL in the classroom. Th e present study contributes to the existing body research but also illuminates many more questions. More research needs to be conducted around system level implementation of SEL. Research suggests that social emotional competencies are not fixed personality traits (CASEL, 2017). Therefore, there is always room to cultivate and nurture these skills across settings. Equipping t eachers with the skills needed to bring SEL into their classrooms and supporting their efforts in this regard has the potential to decrease inter personal conflict and increase positive educational outcomes (CASEL, 2017). Many teachers have some knowledge about social emotional learning, but taking this one step further by absorbing SEL into the larger educational school system at the district level, and ensuring all teachers attend trainings and professional developments will help ensure more universal us e of SEL in schools (CASEL, 2017).

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36 REFERENCES Bear, G. G., & Watkins, J. M. (2006). Developing self discipline. In G. G. Bear , & K. M. Minke (Eds.), Children's needs III: Development, prevention, and intervention 29 44. Bitel, M. (200 4 ) National evaluation of the restorative justice in schools. London: Youth Justice Board for England and Wales. Youth Justice Board for England and Wales Blood, P. ( 2005 ) . The Australian context Ð restorative practices as a platform for cultural change in schools . P aper presented at XIV World Congress of Criminology, August 7 Ð 11, in Philadelphia. Brackett, M. N., Reys, M.R., & Rivers, S. E. (2011). Assessing teachers' beliefs about social emotional learning, Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 30 , 219 236. Ca talano, R. F., Berglund, M. L., Ryan, J. A. M., Lonczak, H. S., & Hawkins, J. D. (2002). Positive youth development in the United States: Research findings on evaluations of positive youth development programs. Prevention & Treatment, 5 (1) , 15. Collaborat ion for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning [Web log post]. (2012, January 5). Retrieved May 6, 2018, from http://www.casel.org/history/ . Comer, J. (1968). Comer School Development Program. Child Study Center: Community Partnerships . Retrieved from https://medicine.yale.edu/childstudy/communitypartnerships/comer/ Collie, R.J., Shapka , J.D. , Perry, N.E ., & Martin, A.J., (YEAR). Teachers' beliefs about social emotional learning: Identifying teacher profiles and their relations with job stress and satisfaction, Learning and Instruction, 39 , 148 157. Drewery, W . (2004) . Conferencing in schools: Punishment , restorative justice and the productive importance of the process of conversation. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology 14 , 332 Ð 34. Drugli, M. B. (2013). How are closeness and conflict in student Ð teacher relationships associated with demogr aphic factors, school functioning and mental health in Norwegian schoolchildren aged 6 13. Scandinavian Journal o f Educational Research , 57 (2) , 217 225. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. , & Schellinger, K. B. (2011) . The impact of enhancing students' social and emotional learning: A meta analysis of school based universal interventions. Child Development , 82 , 405 Ð 432 .

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37 Editorial Projects in Education, Inc. (2015). Social and Emotional Learning: Perspectives from America's Schools . Bethesda, MD: Education Week Research Center. Available at: https://secure.edweek.org/media/ewrc_selreport_june2015.pdf Edutopia. (2011). Social and emotional learning: A short history. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/social emotional learning history Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., Haynes, N. M., & Shriver, T. P. (1997). Promoting social a nd emotional learning: Guidelines for educators . Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Fixsen , D. L, Naoom, S. F. Blase, K. A., & Friedman, R. M. (2005) Wallace Implementation research: A synthesis of the literature University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florid a Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network , 231 Foster, S., Rollefson, M., Doksum, T., Noonan, D., Robinson, G., & Teich, J. (2005). School mental health services in the United States, 2002 2003. DHHS , 05 4068. Fox, R. (2003) . Food and eating: an anthropological perspective. Social Issues Research Centre , 1 21. Goleman, D. ( 1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ . New Yo r k, NY: Bantam Dell Gottfredson, D. C., & Gottfredson , G. D. (2002). Quality of school based prevention programs: Results from a national survey. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 39 , 3 35. Greenberg, M. T., Weissberg, R. P., O'Brien, M. U., Zins, J. E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., & Elias, M. J. (2003). Enhancing school based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58 , 466 474. Greenberg , M.T., Domitrovich , C. E., Weissberg , R.P., & Durlak J.A., (2017) . Social and emotional learning as a public health approach to education . The Future of Children, 27 (1), 13+. Guerra, N. G., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2008). Linking the prevention of problem behaviors and positive youth development: Core competencies for positive youth dev elopment and risk prevention. In N. G. Guerra & C. P. Bradshaw (Eds.), Core competencies to prevent problem behaviors and promote positive youth development. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 122 , 1 Ð 17. Hammond, L., Chung, R., & Frelow , F. (2002). Variation in teacher preparation: how well do different pathways prepare teachers to teach? Journal of Teacher Education, 53 (4), 286+. Hurd N., & Deutsch N., (2017). SEL Focused after school programs. Journal of Social and Emotional Learning , 27 (1), 95 115.

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38 Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M. (2015). Early social emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American J ournal of P ublic H ealth , 105 (11), 2283 2290. Kasler J., & Elias M.J. (2012) Holding the Line: Sustaining an SEL Driven Whole School Approach in the Time of Transition. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 22 (3), 227 246 . Kaur, S., & Luxmi, M. (2013). Conflict handling styles of sc hool teachers: An empirical study of Ludhiana. IPE Journal of Management, 3 (1) , 168 180. Martin, N., & Yin, Z. (2003) Beliefs regarding classroom management style: Differences between urban and rural secondary level teachers . Journal of Research in Rural Education , 15 (2), 101 105. Meyers, D. C., Katz, J., Chien, V., Wandersman, A., Scaccia, J. P. , & Wright, A. (2012) . Practical Implementation Science: Developing and Piloting the Quality Implementation Tool. American Journal of Community Psychology, 50 , 48 1 496. Meyers, D.C Domitrovich, E.C., Dissi, R., Trejo, J., & Greenberg, M.T. (2018). Supporting systemic social and emotional learning with a schoolwide implementation model . Evaluation and Program Plann ing , 73 , 53 61 Onchwari , J. (2010). Early childhood inservice and preservice teachers' perceived levels of preparedness to handle stress in their students. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37 , 391 Ð 400. Philibert, T.C. (2016) . Everyday SEL in Elementary School: Integrating Soci al Emotional Learning and Mindfulness into Your Classroom . Ransford, C. R., Greenberg, M. T., Domitrovich, C. E., Small, M., & Jacobson, L. (2009). The role of teachers' psychological experiences and perceptions of curriculum supports on the implementatio n of a social and emotional learning curriculum. School Psychology Review, 38 (4) , 510 532 . Sandell, R., Skoogb, T., & Kimber B., (2013) Teacher Change and Development during Training in Social and Emotional Learning Programs in Sweden. International Journ al of Emotional Education , 5 (1), 17 35. Scheirer, M.A. ( 2005 ). Is sustainability possible? A review and commentary on empirical st udies of program sustainability. The American Journal of Evaluation , 26 (3) . 320 347, Shechtman, Z., & Yaman, M.A. (2012) . SEL as a component of literature class to improve relationships, behavior, motivation and content knowledge. American Education Research Journal, 49 , 546 567.

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39 Sheinman, N., Hadar, L., Gafni, D., & Milman, M. (2018) . Preliminary investigation of whole sch ool mindfulness in education programs and children's mindfulness based coping strategies. Journal of Child and Family Studies, Original Paper, 1 13 . Stillman, S.B., Stillman P., Martinez L., Freedman J., Jensen A.L., & Leet C. (2018) . Strengthening social emotional learning with student, teacher, and schoolwide assessments. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 55, 71 92. Taylor, R. D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A. & Weissberg, R. P. (2017) . Promoting p ositive y outh d evelopment t hrough s chool % b ased s ocial and e motional l earning i nterventions: A m eta % a nalysis of f ollow % u p e ffects. Child Dev elopment , 88 , 1156 1171. Waajid, B., Garner, P.W., & Owen, J.E. (2013). Infusing s ocial e motional l earning into the t eacher e ducation c urriculum. The I nternational J ournal of E motional E ducation, 5, 31 48. Waldemar, J. O . C ., Rigatti, R ., Menezes, C . B ., Guimar‹es, G ., Falceto, O ., & Heldt, E . (2016). Impact of a combined mindfulness and social emotional learning program on fifth graders in a Brazilian public school setting. Psychology & Neuroscience; Rio de Janeiro , 9 (1), 79 90. Winne, P. H., & Perry, N. E. (2000). Measuring self regulated learning. In M. Boekaerts, P. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of S elf R egulation . Orlando, FL: Academic Press Weissberg, R. P., & Caplan. , M. (1994). Promoting social competence and preventing antisocial behavior in young urban adolescents. Unpublished manuscript. Zinsser K. M., Shewark E. A., Denham S. A., & Curby T. W. (2014) . A m ixed % m ethod e xamination of p reschool t eacher b eliefs a bout s ocial Ð e motional l earning and r elations to o bserved e motional s upport . Child Dev elopment 23 , 471 Ð 493

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40 Appendix Survey Questions Social Emotional Learning Survey Start of Block: Social emotional Learning Definition: Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions Q1 Which of the following best describes your current professional role? o ! General education teacher in a K 12 public school (1) o ! Special education teacher in a K 12 public school (2) Q2 How long have you worked in K 12 education? o ! 1 2 years (1) o ! 3 5 years (2) o ! 6 10 years (3) o ! 11 15 years (4) o ! 16 20 years (5) o ! 21 25 years (6) o ! 26 30 years (7) o ! more than 30 years (8)

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41 Q3 On a five point scale (where 1 is "extremely familiar"), how familiar are you with the concept of social and emotional learning? o ! 1 Extremely familiar (1) o ! 2 Very familiar (2) o ! 3 Moderately familiar (3) o ! 4 Slightly familiar (4) o ! 5 Not familiar at all (5)

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42 Q4 On a five point scale (where 1 is "extremely important" and 5 is "not at all important", how important do you feel the following factors are in student achievement? 1 Extremely important (1) 2 Very important (2) 3 Moderately importa nt (3) 4 Slightly important (4) 5 Not at all important (5) school safety (1) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! social emotional learning (2) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! parental support and engagement (3) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! family background (4) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! school climate (5) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! teaching quality (6) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! school discipline policies (7) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! student engagement and motivation (8) o ! o ! o ! o ! o !

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43 Q5 To what extend do you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Teaching social and emotional learning skills to students is an effective way to..." Strongly agree (1) Somewhat agree (2) Neither agree nor disagree (3) Somewhat disagree (4) Strongly disagree (5) Improve school climate (1) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! reduce discipline problems (2) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! improve student achievement (3) o ! o ! o ! o ! o !

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44 Q6 To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school? Strongly agree (1) Somewhat agree (2) Neither agree nor disagree (3) somewhat disagree (4) Strongly disagree (6) My school's learning climate is conducive to teaching and learning (1) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! My school's climate fosters social and emotional well being for students and staff (2) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! Students and staff feel safe at my school (3) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! Student's are well behaved at my school (4) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! Student's are engaged and motivated (5) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! Bullying of students rarely occurs (6) o ! o ! o ! o ! o ! Q7 On a scale of 1 5, how comfortable do you feel with implementing SEL curriculum in your classroom?

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45 o ! Extremely comfortable (1) o ! Moderately comfortable (2) o ! Slightly comfortable (3) o ! Neither comfortable nor uncomfortable (4) o ! Slightly uncomfortable (5) o ! Moderately uncomfortable (6) o ! Extremely uncomfortable (7) End of Block: Social emotional Learning Definition: Start of Block: Block 1 Q8 What is your highest level of education? o ! Associates degree (1) o ! Undergraduate degree (2) o ! Masters degree (3) o ! PhD or doctorate degree (5) o ! Click to write Choice 6 (6)

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46 Q9 What is your gender o ! Male (1) o ! Female (2) o ! Other (3) Q10 How would you describe yourself? o ! American Indian or Alaska Native (1) o ! Asian (2) o ! Black or African American (3) o ! Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (4) o ! White (5) o ! Latino/a (6) Q11 What is your age? o ! 18 25 (1) o ! 26 32 (2) o ! 33 45 (3) o ! 46 52 (4) o ! 53 60 (5) o ! 65 75 (6) o ! 75+ (7)