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Teacher training program can help children regulate their emotions, MU study finds

Researchers find that the program also helps students become more socially competent, which can lead to academic success

Nov. 14, 2018

Story Contact(s):
Cailin Riley, rileyci@umsystem.edu, 573-882-4870

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Most adults know that failing to control your emotions can wreak havoc at work and at home. Likewise, for young children, emotional outbursts can have negative consequences at school.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that when teachers participated in a training program focused on pro-social classroom behavior, their students became more socially competent and better able to regulate their emotions than students in classrooms without trained teachers. Past research shows that students who are able to regulate their emotions are more likely to be academically successful.

Wendy Reinke and Keith Herman, professors in the College of Education, studied more than 100 teachers and 1,817 students from kindergarten to third grade to see if teachers could support students’ emotional and behavioral growth through the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Program. The program uses videos and training sessions, along with role-playing and coaching, to help teachers learn proactive management strategies such as using behavior-specific praise, building positive relationships with students and considering proximity to reduce disruptive behavior. The study found that teachers in the training group increased their positive interactions with students by 64 percent versus 53 percent for teachers in the control group without the training.

“Emotional regulation is the ability to recognize what behavior is appropriate in the current situation,” Reinke said. “For example, a student might have difficulties controlling feelings of anger if he or she gets frustrated with another student. But under this program, the teacher might encourage them to move to a different spot in the classroom, effectively teaching them that sometimes stepping away and taking a breather is a good way to calm down and manage those feelings.”

After one school year of implementing the program in classrooms, students had improved their social abilities and ability to regulate their emotions. These improvements resulted in an increase in student competence from the 50th to the 56th percentile for students in Incredible Years classrooms versus students in control classrooms.

“It shows that this classroom management approach can help mitigate risk for struggling learners early on, which could help prevent more intensive support needs in a child’s future,” Reinke said.

Reinke suggests that teachers or parents wishing to learn more about the Incredible Years program look into future training sessions to attend on the Incredible Year’s website here, or look for similar programs in their area. Reinke also created a classroom check-up resource for teachers that can be found here.

“The Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Program: Outcomes from a Group Randomized Trial,” was published in Prevention Science. The study’s co-author is Nianbo Dong, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Funding for this study was provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education (R305A100342). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency.

Editor’s note: Dr. Wendy Reinke’s last name is pronounced RAIN-KEE.

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