By Sooyeon Byun, Johns Hopkins University
A well-known SEL program, First Step to Success, conducted an efficacy validation study of their updated intervention for preschool children, called First Step Next. A total of 160 classrooms within 50 Head Start and preschool programs in the United States were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control groups. Teachers in the intervention group received a one-day training on the intervention and the general principles of classroom management. Teachers provided the intervention to one selected child in each classroom screened to have high externalizing problems. A behavioral coach supported with modeling of implementation for the first 10 days, consultation, and supervision. Teachers in the control group received a 4-hour training on the general principles of classroom management and positive behavior support. There was a 104-day period on average between the collection of baseline data and the post-intervention data for the intervention group. Control teachers received training for the intervention in the following academic year.
In the post-intervention assessment, children in the intervention group showed greater prosocial behaviors (ES=+0.34 and +0.91 for parent and teacher reports, respectively), reduced problem behavior (ES=+0.34 and +0.63 for parent and teacher reports, respectively), and lower relational aggression (ES=+0.41) and conflicts (ES=+0.80) in their relationships with teachers, compared to children in the control group. The findings show the effectiveness of a targeted SEL intervention on high-risk children in preschool settings. As a side note, it is interesting to see that the effect sizes reported by teachers are generally higher than parental report, given that the intervention was delivered by the teachers.