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Theoretical Foundation for the Lesson One School Cultural Development Ecosystem

SCHOOL CLIMATE

Education specialists identify school climate as the sense of acceptance, safety, and contentment experienced among both teachers and students within a school setting (Freiberg, 1998; Peterson & Skiba, 2000; Marshall, 2004; Jones, Yonezawa, Mehan, & McClure, 2008). Positive school climates provide an environment where students feel comfortable, valued, and respected by their peers and educators. The National Center on Response to Intervention (2010) identifies positive school climate as possessing four key components: 1) creating a caring school community, 2) teaching appropriate behavior and social problem-solving skills, 3) implementing positive behavior support, and 4) providing rigorous academic instruction. Furthermore, research and practice in comprehensive school reform and school safety planning regularly demonstrate the need for developing a positive school climate characterized by consistency, tolerance, respect, clearly communicated behavior norms, problem solving and conflict resolution (Learning First Alliance, 2001; McDaniel, 2000; Tolan, 2002; USDOE, 1998). Lesson One has developed a model that directly addresses these issues and sets a new benchmark for how to teach children healthy life skills.

Jones, Yonezawa, Mehan, and McClure (2008) found that "all research on school climate finds a positive correlation between better school climate and increased student learning and achievement." Providing students with a supportive learning environment setting that emphasizes not only classroom instruction, but the development of social and emotional skills either directly or indirectly promotes desirable academic outcomes (Peterson & Skiba, 2000; Marshall, 2004; Jones, Yonezawa, Mehan, & McClure, 2008). While there are gaps in the literature that indicate a causal relationship between school climate and academic performance, the subcomponents of positive school climate have a scientifically proven effect on improved student learning (RTI, 2010). Lesson One offers a whole school culture change that is easily integrated into each classroom's existing academic curriculum; the intervention promotes a positive school climate by teaching life skills conducive to self-control, self-confidence, responsibility, conflict resolution, and cooperation. These life skills encourage trusting interactions between students and teachers, foster a sense of physical and emotional safety within the school, and encourage a sense of academic pride in students.

CONNECTING SOCIAL AND ACADEMIC LEARNING

In response to the research that has linked classroom behavior with academic performance, Lesson One provides teachers with tools to effectively diminish the prevalence of classroom disruptions. A review of the literature by Hoge and Luce (1979) indicates that patterns of positive classroom behaviors (attention, positive peer interaction, lesson participation, and rule compliance) are correlated positively with academic achievement. Lesson One instills classroom norms that value self-control, positive peer relationships, on-task behavior, and students' pride in their own learning; all of which are scholastic attitudes that have been associated with the reduction of classroom misbehavior (Kaplan, Gheen, & Midgley, 2002). Fewer classroom discipline problems allow teachers greater opportunities to educate, while providing students with a stress-free atmosphere in which to learn. Interventions designed to promote social-emotional awareness and decrease discipline problems in elementary students result in reduced instances of office referrals, fewer whole-school discipline problems, increased teacher satisfaction in student behavior, and significantly improved reading and mathematics percentile rankings, all of which contribute to the promotion of positive school climate (Luiselli, Putnam, Handler, & Feinberg, 2005).

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Education Psychologist, Dr. Howard Gardner (1993) names seven different intelligences and presents the case that schools traditionally teach to only two of them - math and verbal. He identifies two other intelligences that form the basis of social and emotional literacy: intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences. Intrapersonal intelligence involves the knowing and managing of one's own feelings. Interpersonal intelligence comprises interactions and effective communication with others. Gardner's model is calling attention to the need to actively promote curriculum that enhances these skills. Daniel Goleman (1997) emphasizes the importance of emotional illiteracy in maturing students and prescribes the need for schools to teach self-control, persistence, and zeal. In response to Gardner and Goleman, the Lesson One intervention trains teachers to implement strategies that help children not only learn the meaning of skills such as self-control and persistence, but internalize them for use in and out of school.

Lesson One's social-emotional theoretical foundation supports the development of prosocial attitudes and behaviors in young children. Most social-emotional awareness interventions tend to overlook elementary-aged populations and instead focus on middle and high school students (Schwartz, 2000 & Taub, 2001). Children develop conflict resolution strategies far before adolescence, and there is a strong need for Lesson One's social-emotional awareness intervention targeted at students in grades K- 6. Schwartz (2000) describes effective school social/emotional curriculums as teaching critical social competencies: understanding and recognizing the emotions of oneself and others, predicting the consequences of personal acts, staying calm in order to think before acting, and replacing aggressive impulses with self-control and positive behavior. The Lesson One skills of self-control and self-confidence extend across theories to support the development of intrapersonal intelligence that helps children manage their own feelings. Responsibility, problem solving, and cooperation support interpersonal intelligence that helps children get along with others and care for the world around them. These skills help students develop social and emotional literacy, which provides the foundation for personal and academic success.

IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING SELF-CONTROL

Self-control is proving to be a crucial skill for all children to learn at a young age. A paper published last January in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences touted self-control as the main predictor of future success. Children in the study that showed self-control throughout their childhood were more likely to be healthy, financially stable, and law-abiding as adults. Click here for link to the study. Another recent study in the Journal of Personality showed that the highly self-controlled show a distinct difference from those with less discipline over their lives. They tended to avoid creating situations in which their goals would conflict, and reported fewer instances of having to choose between short-term pleasure and long-term pain. The result? They experienced fewer negative emotions and were happier overall. The authors write that "one interpretation of this finding is that people use self-control to set up their lives so as to avoid problems." Lesson One puts a major emphasis on teaching self-control and helping children take ownership of their actions as they learn and grow into successful adults.

STRESS REDUCTION

Lesson One consultants train teachers through various methods to assure that they can communicate with their students and effectively manage a classroom. One of Lesson One's unique components is the introduction of Self-Control Time, a breakthrough approach developed by Lesson One, which is a tool that gives children the opportunity reduce stress. Self-Control Time is a simple breathing exercise that lasts three minutes, allowing children to calm themselves and refocus before starting the next classroom activity. Teachers use Self-Control Time three times a day (e.g. the start of school, after recess, and following lunch) to help children retain their self-control, get rid of stress, and refocus their energy. It is also used as a strategy that individual children may employ if they happen to lose their self-control. By teaching students to use self-control, Lesson One's teachers are able to create stress-free atmospheres that provide a sense of academic safety and support a positive school climate (Schwartz, 2000).

According to Stephens (1998), a calm classroom environment "alleviates fears that provoke bad behavior, and promotes good behavior by all." When students experience high levels of stress within the classroom, they become distracted and unable to concentrate. While a state of agitation and distraction impairs students' cognitive learning and memory processes, scientists have found the opposite to also be true; calm, stress-free classroom environments improve cognitive function and allow students greater ability for rational thoughts, creativity, and self-control (McCraty, 2005). In addition to deleterious effects on classroom concentration and learning, student stress has been linked to the prevalence of anger and violent behavior in youth (Barnes, Bauza, & Treiber, 2003; Johnson, et al., 2009; & McCraty, 2005). In response to the literature, Barnes, Bauza, and Treiber (2003) have recommended implementing interventions similar to that of Lesson One that teach skills in stress reduction.

CONNECTION TO BRAIN RESEARCH

Brain research reinforces that by incorporating skills such as self-control, children's brains function on a higher level. When children are feeling negative and stressed, executive functions, which provide cognitive control, are inhibited. When information stays in the amygdala; it doesn't flow into the prefrontal cortex for executive processing. Instead, it’s processed right on the spot as fight, flight, or freeze. In this way, fear and anxiety effectively shut down higher order thinking. It’s this higher order thinking that helps children cope while providing a foundation for success as they learn and grow. The book, Mindset, by Carol Dweck, PhD, presents research on the importance of having a "growth mindset," in essence a brain that is open, forward thinking and ready to take on new challenges. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe their talents and abilities cannot be improved through any means. They feel that they are born with a certain amount of talent and typically do not wish to challenge their abilities due to the possibility of failure. Challenges are frequently viewed negatively, instead of as an opportunity for personal growth. People that practice a “growth mindset” believe abilities, such as athleticism and mathematical capacity, can be improved through hard work and persistence. When presented with an obstacle, those practicing a growth mindset tend to rise to the challenge. Often, people of the growth mindset do not fear failure; instead, they view it as a chance to improve themselves.

TEACHER TRAINING AND MODELING

Many social-emotional programs offer teacher and whole school support, yet very few offer this support in a dosage that is conducive to the integrity of the intervention (Joyce & Showers, 1982; Selman & Dray, 2005). “Quite often teachers who attend relatively weak training sessions and then try to apply what they have learned report that it doesn't work. With weak training, the product could never work.”(Joyce & Showers, 1982). Most unique about the Lesson One intervention is the comprehensive, high-dosage training it provides to teachers and administrators. While many interventions rely on in-service trainings and workshops, Lesson One offers direct-service, in-classroom training. Lesson One Educational Consultants provide modeling in every K- 6 school classroom, in order to demonstrate the intervention’s components for all teachers and students. By coaching teachers on-site, educators learn how to implement the Lesson One intervention first-hand and are provided with immediate feedback. Educational researchers have extensively studied professional development techniques and have found that teachers' skill development increase significantly when opportunities for practice and feedback are provided (Joyce & Showers, 2002).

Researchers have found that providing teachers with direct training and performance feedback is a significant way to ensure intervention integrity (Feinberg, Dunn, & Pace, 2005; Mautone, Luiselli, & Handler, 2006; Morris, Raver, Lloyd, & Millenky, 2009; Noell, Witt, Gilbertson, Ranier, & Freeland, 1997). Multiple surveys reviewed by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) found that teachers "consistently emphasize their need for professional development and other support" that assists them with instructional and classroom management strategies (Morris, Raver, Lloyd, & Millenky, 2009). MDRC's Foundations of Learning (FOL, 2009) found evidence that intervention strategies, mirroring those of Lesson One, where classroom consultation and modeling is provided during instructional time are linked with the following benefits:

  • Improved teachers' ability to effectively support children's behavior and emotional development.
  • Increased instructional time and created a positive climate for learning in classrooms.
  • Reduced conflictual and acting-out behaviors by children.
  • Improved children's ability to focus their attention, to curb their impulsivity, and to show engagement in the classroom.

The FOL concluded that the presence of consultants to coach and model instructional strategies within the classroom setting can significantly improve the quality of teaching, behavioral management techniques, and engagement of children in the classroom.

Lesson One's teacher training and feedback techniques are rare and needed (Feinberg, Dunn, & Pace, 2005; Mautone, Luiselli, & Handler, 2006; Morris, Raver, Lloyd, & Millenky, 2009; Noell, Witt, Gilbertson, Ranier, & Freeland, 1997). In a study that reviewed teacher treatment integrity, researchers found that the less frequently teachers received consultation and feedback, the more likely the deterioration of the intervention's intended format (Noell et al., 1997). Noell and colleagues (1997) suggest that prompt feedback and teacher modeling will increase correct teacher implementation of interventions. Teacher feedback and classroom demonstrations provided by Lesson One's consultants are proven strategies that improve the implementation and lasting effects of academic interventions (Feinberg, Dunn, & Pace, 2005). According to Joyce and Showers (1982) the conditions of a classroom are vastly different from the conditions of a teacher training workshop locale. This discrepancy in environments can be problematic when the teacher attempts to implement newly learned strategies within a classroom setting. Lesson One eliminates this transference dilemma by training its teachers within their actual classrooms. The presence of Lesson One consultants within the classroom offers teachers the opportunity to observe intervention strategies within the environment for which the curriculum is intended. By modeling for both the teacher and the students, Lesson One provides students with the opportunity to become better acquainted with the skills and behaviors that are expected of them. This technique decreases the chance of student and teacher confusion, and smoothes the pathway of transition from consultant to teacher curriculum implementation.

Lesson One provides a comprehensive residency to ensure that its intervention strategies are thoroughly presented to both students and staff. The Lesson One residency begins with an experiential and activity oriented workshop that introduces the skills to the staff, which places an emphasis on the integration of knowledge, technique, effective communication, discipline, and creativity. The skills are then integrated into the school culture through a series of interactive games and activities. Lesson One provides educators with the instructional tools required to successfully integrate the intervention into the school culture. Hands-on games, literature, and classroom discussions enable students to practice the skills in an enjoyable and tangible way.

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

The Lesson One intervention includes engaging activities that give students the opportunity to practice important life skills. For example, one of the intervention’s activities uses a bubble game to teach children to practice their own self-control. This is one of many hands-on activities that have been designed according to research that supports David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (1999). Based heavily on the earlier works of Dewey (1938) and Piaget (1953), Kolb’s experiential learning is a learning style that focuses on allowing the student to learn by participating in a specific activity or action. Researchers have found that experiential learning is a powerful way for students to absorb, internalize, and retain knowledge (Dewey, 1938; Piaget, 1953; Mabie & Baker, 1996; Kolb, Boyatzis, & Mainemelis, 1999). This learning by doing approach is common among Lesson One activities. When engaging students in the Lesson One self-control activity, the teacher blows bubbles and asks the children to resist their temptations to pop the bubbles. By being active participants in this simple activity, students learn that they are capable of resisting spontaneous impulses.

When reviewing social emotional interventions one may discover a multitude of options, yet few curriculums are able to compare to the quality of Lesson One. Lesson One ensures intervention integrity by providing all of its teachers with consistent, on-site modeling and consultation. The intervention is easily adapted into all classroom lessons and is designed for use in grades K- 6. This full-time, whole school exposure allows the curriculum to become integrated into the culture of the school. Students are consistently reminded of healthy actions and are afforded the opportunity to adopt the ABCs of Life into their natural daily behavior. By targeting both younger and older elementary aged children, Lesson One is reaching a population of students that are often overlooked, yet can absolutely benefit from social emotional instructional support.

 

 


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