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A research–practice partnership
SEL: The history of
RCCP (like other SEL efforts) can benefi t
from rigorous evaluation so that funders,
schools, teachers, and children can know
whether it “works.”
a research-practice
Phase 2
Next, we sought and received funding to
conduct a quasi-experimental evaluation
of RCCP, which we conducted in 15 schools.
From 1998 to 2003 we published our results
in top-tier scientifi c research journals
describing the somewhat complicated story
of the infl uence of RCCP on children. In
Lawrence Aber, Joshua Brown, Stephanie Jones, and Tom

During the elementary school years,
Roderick describe a commitment to social and emotional
children grow in their tendency to
learning research that has spanned almost two decades
interpret the world in a hostile fashion,
resort to aggressive strategies to resolve
confl icts, and become more disruptive in
THIS ARTICLE TELLS THE STORY of a long example, the work grew out of Morningside school and also more depressed.
collaboration in the service of developing, Center’s practice-based insights from

Children who received more lessons from
testing quasi-experimentally, revising, diverse fi elds of pedagogy (e.g., peace the RCCP curriculum become hostile,
testing experimentally, and now scaling education, violence prevention, school- aggressive, disruptive and depressed at a
efforts to promote children’s social, based strategies to prevent mental health much slower rate.
emotional, and academic learning in problems, and social and character

Children who showed more positive
schools. The collaborators are (1) an development programs). These practice- outcomes in these SEL measures learned
education reform organization in New York based insights were placed in the context of math faster!
City – Morningside Center for Teaching theory and research by the university-based All of this sounded great. But here is the
Social Responsibility, led by Tom Roderick; researchers. Looking back now, our work to problem: We could not be sure whether
(2) university-based researchers at New York date has unfolded over three phases: the positive results were due to the RCCP
University – Larry Aber, Joshua Brown (now
at Fordham University), and Stephanie Jones
Our work grew out of a shared belief that schools should
(now at Harvard University); and (3) New
York City schools, teachers, and students.
and can educate the whole child, not just cognitively and
Our work grew out of a shared belief that
academically, but also socially and emotionally
schools should and can educate the whole
child, not just cognitively and academically, Phase 1 lessons or to unmeasured characteristics
but also socially and emotionally. Arguably, In the early 1990’s we focused on co- of the teachers who taught more RCCP
all schools teach social and emotional constructing a common (practice and lessons. Was it the teacher, the program, or
learning (SEL), but the question is whether theory-based) understanding of how various most likely, some combination of the two?
it is taught intentionally, effectively, and risk factors infl uence children’s learning This constraint troubled us as we could not
positively; or unintentionally, ineffectively, and development, what processes might defi nitively tell whether RCCP “worked” or
and negatively. Consider students who bully link those risk factors to their trajectories not. Perhaps it was just a way of identifying
and are ignored or isolated versus students through school and life, how teacher- effective teachers, NOT actually changing
who bully but are systematically assisted initiated classroom experiences can redirect teachers’ effectiveness.
in becoming positively engaged in their trajectories, and what institutional and
school community. Consider harsh, punitive, professional supports and resources were Phase 3
reactive, and ineffective discipline versus necessary to help teachers develop the tools As we engaged in our collaborative
engaged, developmentally appropriate, necessary for the job. evaluation of RCCP, the worlds of education
proactive, and refl ective discipline. SEL is We also had to ask whether RCCP was a practice and education research were
fundamental to the basic work of schools social movement. Started in 1985, it spread changing. In education practice, reform
and schooling; it is in every school, for from two schools in Brooklyn to hundreds of efforts were increasingly standards-
good or ill. schools in New York City, and then beyond. based. Schools were directed to focus
We were brought together by the William Or was RCCP a set of educational practices more intensively on improving academic
T. Grant Foundation, which aspired to link that aspired to be evidence-based, proven achievement as measured by high-stakes
creative social entrepreneurs (like Roderick) to be effi cacious, and then scaled? How national testing, particularly in reading and
with researchers interested in real world much should practice be revised on the math. This meant schools felt they could
issues in education (like Aber, Brown, and basis of teacher feedback versus rigorous allocate less time to SEL programs. As a
Jones). Specifi cally, we were invited to research results? SEL may well be a social creative social entrepreneur, Tom Roderick
rigorously evaluate their Resolving Confl ict movement, but at its heart it is a set of saw the need to adapt to these changes. He
Creatively Program (RCCP). Several major grounded educational practices designed created a new curriculum that fused reading,
infl uences from the SEL movement are to enhance children’s social, emotional, writing, listening, and speaking with SEL
refl ected in our collaborative work. For and academic learning and development. skills, essentially new and improved versions
14 Better: Evidence-based Education winter 2010
Better(US)Win10 pp14-15 Research.indd 14 23/2/10 17:04:48
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