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Title page for ETD etd-04102016-213308

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Marx, Robert Andrew
Author's Email Address robert.a.marx@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-04102016-213308
Title Theorizing Social and Emotional Learning: Key Mechanisms for Effective Programs
Degree Master of Science
Department Community Research and Action
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David Diehl Committee Chair
Douglas Perkins Committee Member
  • spoken word poetry
  • social and emotional learning
  • mechanisms
  • qualitative case study
Date of Defense 2016-04-06
Availability unrestricted
Social and emotional learning (SEL) programs have been hailed as important tools to combat the rising tide of violence and victimization in schools, as well as means of cultivating healthier classrooms, more emotionally aware students, and improved interpersonal relationships. Although researchers have documented the many benefits they provide and established logic models that provide associations between elements of the program, the specific mechanisms by which SEL programs bring about proximal outcomes have been undertheorized. Drawing on a qualitative case study of a spoken word poetry residency in five high schools, this research advances a theory for how SEL programs' core competencies can effect improved student-teacher and peer-to-peer relationships. I identify three key mechanisms within successful SEL programming that demonstrate the pathway between classroom-level changes, individual behaviors, and the aggregation of interactions that effective SEL programs follow: the expansion and alteration of roles for teachers and students, the finding of commonality among seemingly diverse groups, and the modification of behaviors and interactions to reflect new respect and understanding. The theory provides a testable framework for the mechanisms that support improved SEL competence and offers the causal mechanisms that bring about the associations between SEL programs and proximal benefits. Bringing mechanistic thinking to the study of SEL in order to understand the underlying causal mechanisms provides practitioners with clearer guidelines for how their programs may be more successful, offers educators a broader framework for improving the structure of their classrooms, and guides researchers in the measurement and examination of specific SEL programs.
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