The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based interventions – facilitated by Senior Research Fellow Rae Thomas.

Methodological Question: How could meta-analyses convey meaningful results regarding effective interventions in child mental health to clinicians?

Reference: Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based interventions. Child Development, 82, 405-432.

Abstract: This article presents findings from a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. Compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement. School teaching staff successfully conducted SEL programs. The use of 4 recommended practices for developing skills and the presence of implementation problems moderated program outcomes. The findings add to the growing empirical evidence regarding the positive impact of SEL programs. Policy makers, educators, and the public can contribute to healthy development of children by supporting the incorporation of evidence-based SEL programming into standard educational practice.

A lack of evidence-based treatments in child mental health

In 2002 reported 90% of publicly funded child mental health services didn’t use EBTs (Hoagwood & Olin, 2002)
2012 research reported clinicians could identify less than 2/5 expert nominated EBTs from a list of 15 (Allen et al, 2012)
2013 research reported 58% of clinicians could defined an EBT using broad criteria and indicated use but 24% identified broad frameworks (e.g., br management)
AND of those 58% of actual EBTs in use, 88% of clinicians said they modified the EBTs (Thomas et al., 2013)

How have previous meta-analyses considered intervention effectiveness?

Some recent meta-analyses have considered other variables including individual interventions
Individual interventions (Geeraert et al., 2004)
Settings (e.g., clinic vs home; Selph et al., 2013)
Components of interventions (Kaminski et al., 2008)
Components and Implementation of interventions (Durlak et al., 2011)

Group Discussion

Because of intervention heterogeneity, often meta-analyses in these formats provide little information for clinicians about what intervention is most effective for which population, even so, cost to implement an intervention may be prohibitive for some organisations. In this paper effects of social and emotional learning programs were moderated by how the program was implemented.
A meta-regression of studies to consider the unique contributors to effective interventions may provide more useful information to clinicians (i.e., quality of studies, components of effective interventions). However, if possible, clinicians should be given both options (i.e., an effective intervention and components of effective interventions).