University of Kansas

Eight-Week SEL Intervention Improves Behavior

Project LAUNCH, which is part of the University of Kansas School of Education, evaluated the Second Step curriculum in an intensive summer program.

The summer program, which served 106 children from ages 3 to 16, was an eight-week intensive psychosocial intervention, during which the children were taught the Second Step program. The children who participated in the study all had a diagnosis of social-emotional disturbance and had been referred to Compass Behavioral Health in southwest Kansas.

The children were given the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment—Second Step Edition (DESSA-SSE), which is specially designed to evaluate the Second Step program. The Project LAUNCH evaluation team combined the DESSA-SSE with behavioral observations from service providers and parents. The service providers did both assessments at the beginning of the program, halfway through (four weeks), and at the end (eight weeks). Parents’ assessments took place before and after.

Students Showed More Empathy

The results were quite promising. Parents noted that, at the start, their children only showed empathy “occasionally”—2.1 on a 5-point scale. After eight weeks of Second Step, that number jumped to 4.1, meaning that students were now showing empathy “very frequently.” Similarly, when asked about their children’s improvement in the social-emotional composite—that is, their social-emotional skills in general—parents observed that their children displayed these skills more frequently. The number on the 5-point scale jumped from 2.1 at the beginning to 3.2 at the end (eight weeks). Parents’ assessments took place before and after.

Physical Aggression Disappeared

Teachers, too, observed gains in social-emotional skills over the program’s eight weeks. They found that children’s emotion-management skills, which include the ability to not only cope with strong emotions, but to share them in an appropriate manner for a given context, started out at an average of 3.1. That number had jumped to 3.9 at the program’s conclusion. And although teachers observed physical aggression in their students at 1.3 at the beginning, the number plummeted to 0 at the end.