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Circle Time for Social and Emotional Learning in Primary School.


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This paper discusses the findings and implications of a semi-randomised control trial study on the effectiveness of circle time (CT) on primary school students’ social and emotional learning, as well as classroom teachers’ and students’ experience of CT. A social and emotional learning programme was delivered through CT by trained classroom teachers across the years in one primary school, with other classrooms serving as control groups. The classroom teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) at pre- and post-intervention, while the CT teachers also completed a questionnaire on their experience of implementing CT in the classroom. The CT students also completed a questionnaire on their own experience of CT. The SDQ scores suggest that CT students showed less internalised difficulties when compared to their control peers, while the qualitative data from both teachers and students suggest that the CT students also exhibited less behaviour problems and more prosocial behaviour. The study identifies various strengths and weaknesses of the programme and makes recommendations on how it could be organised more effectively in the classroom. The paper concludes that rather than taking CT as the default option for nurturing such values as student empowerment, inclusion and equity, there is a need for further rigorous studies on the impact of CT not only on students’ social and emotional learning and behaviour but also on the classroom relationships and climate.
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Pastoral Care in Education: An
International Journal of Personal,
Social and Emotional Development
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Circle time for social and emotional
learning in primary school
Carmel Cefaia, Erika Ferrariob, Valeria Cavionic, Audrey Carterd &
Tracy Grechd
a University of Malta, Malta
b University of Bicocca, Italy
c University of Pavia, Italy
d Education Directorate, Malta
Published online: 16 Dec 2013.
To cite this article: Carmel Cefai, Erika Ferrario, Valeria Cavioni, Audrey Carter & Tracy Grech
(2014) Circle time for social and emotional learning in primary school, Pastoral Care in Education:
An International Journal of Personal, Social and Emotional Development, 32:2, 116-130, DOI:
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Circle time for social and emotional learning in primary school
Carmel Cefai
*, Erika Ferrario
, Valeria Cavioni
, Audrey Carter
and Tracy Grech
University of Malta, Malta;
University of Bicocca, Italy;
University of Pavia, Italy;
Directorate, Malta
(Received 19 August 2013; nal version received 9 October 2013)
This paper discusses the ndings and implications of a semi-randomised control trial
study on the effectiveness of circle time (CT) on primary school studentssocial and
emotional learning, as well as classroom teachersand studentsexperience of CT. A
social and emotional learning programme was delivered through CT by trained class-
room teachers across the years in one primary school, with other classrooms serving
as control groups. The classroom teachers completed the Strengths and Difculties
Questionnaire (SDQ) at pre- and post-intervention, while the CT teachers also com-
pleted a questionnaire on their experience of implementing CT in the classroom. The
CT students also completed a questionnaire on their own experience of CT. The SDQ
scores suggest that CT students showed less internalised difculties when compared
to their control peers, while the qualitative data from both teachers and students sug-
gest that the CT students also exhibited less behaviour problems and more prosocial
behaviour. The study identies various strengths and weaknesses of the programme
and makes recommendations on how it could be organised more effectively in the
classroom. The paper concludes that rather than taking CT as the default option for
nurturing such values as student empowerment, inclusion and equity, there is a need
for further rigorous studies on the impact of CT not only on studentssocial and
emotional learning and behaviour but also on the classroom relationships and climate.
Keywords: circle time; primary school; social and emotional learning; behaviour;
whole school approach
Circle time (CT) is one of the most widely used universal interventions in the promo-
tion of social and emotional learning in schools. In CT, children are encouraged to
develop their social and emotional learning in a safe and caring environment through a
child-centred and child-directed approach. CT provides a safe base where children can
learn and practice social and emotional learning skills such as listening, expressing one-
self, respecting others and problems solving within a caring, inclusive and democratic
environment (Mosley, 2009). As the teacher takes a more facilitative role, students take
a more active role in their learning within a structure facilitating and encouraging
respect for one another, listening to each other, appreciating each others views and per-
spectives, and collaborative problem solving. Learning is experiential, making use of
such strategies as games, role plays, small group work, singing and physical activities.
In such an environment, students do not only learn targeted specic skills, but the
process itself is a powerful social and emotional learning experience.
*Corresponding author. Email:
© 2013 NAPCE
Pastoral Care in Education, 2014
Vol. 32, No. 2, 116130,
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There is a paucity of rigorous studies on the effectiveness of CT in schools (Cooper
& Jacobs, 2011; Lown, 2002; Mosley, 2009), while in some instances it may also lead
to undesirable effects, such as serving as a medium for behaviour control, particularly
with untrained teachers (Taylor, 2003; Watson, Emery, & Bayliss, 2012). At a more
general level, there is an ongoing debate on the rise of therapeutic education, pro-
moted by such initiatives as SEAL in the UK, CASEL in the USA and KidsMatter in
Australia. Concerns have been expressed about the potential labelling and stigmatising
of vulnerable children through the introduction of social and emotional learning pro-
grammes, particularly programmes targeting specic groups of children (Ecclestone &
Hayes, 2009; Watson et al., 2012). It is also argued that education is not about mental
health and well-being, and that teachers are educators and not surrogate psychologists
or mental health workers (Craig, 2009). This is a particularly salient point in contexts
where teachers face increasing pressure to ensure ever higher levels of pupil academic
performance. Social and emotional learning, however, does not equate with mental
health difculties or with turning schools from learning communities into therapeutic
centres (Ecclestone & Hayes, 2009). The traditional decit discourse may have hijacked
the idea of what social and emotional learning in school is about, namely promoting
well-being and maximising growth and potential for all children, including those facing
risks in their development (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013). CT is a universal intervention seek-
ing to promote social and emotional learning as well as academic learning amongst all
students in the classroom, with the teacher assuming the dual role of effective and car-
ing educator.
Another issue with social and emotional learning is that it may detract from aca-
demic learning and lead to lower academic achievement (Benninga, Berkowitz, Kuehn,
& Smith, 2006). The evidence shows, however, that social and emotional processes are
at the heart of teaching and learning, providing a foundation upon which effective learn-
ing can be built and socio-emotional competence developed. They enable pupils to regu-
late their emotions, cope better with classroom demands and frustration, solve problems
more effectively and relate better and work more collaboratively with others (Durlak,
Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Greenberg, 2010; Greenberg &
Rhoades, 2008). A dual focus on academic and social-emotional learning promotes aca-
demic achievement, engagement, positive behaviour and healthy relationships (Dix,
Slee, Lawson, & Keeves, 2012; Durlak et al., 2011; Payton et al., 2008) and prevents
the development of internalised and externalised problems (Battistisch et al., 2004;
Blank et al., 2009; Waddell, Peters, Hua, & McEwan, 2007).
Despite the lack of rigorous studies on the effectiveness of CT in schools, there are
promising indications about the usefulness of CT from a number of small-scale projects
and studies. Mosley (2009) reports on the evaluation of a CT project with 300 children
in 16 primary schools in Ireland, mentioning a number of positive academic and behav-
iour outcomes, including improved concentration, listening and motivation, enhanced
communication and collaboration, higher self-esteem and better behaviour. Mosley
(2009) refers to two unpublished studies exploring the views of the Heads of primary
school on CT in the UK by Dawson and McNess (1997)andTew(1999) respectively;
in both studies, the Heads reported that CT had a positive impact on the students such
as enhanced self-esteem, and increased social skills and communication. In a study with
over 500 primary school children in the UK, Miller and Moran (2007) reported that CT
helped to create a climate where pupils felt valued and respected contributing to
enhanced self-worth. In another study with eight schools in one local educational
authority in the UK, Lown (2002) found that both teachers and pupils were positive
Pastoral Care in Education 117
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about CT, reporting improvements in pupilsemotional literacy and social skills; teach-
ers also said it helped them to understand their pupils and the difculties they were fac-
ing. In a study with ve primary school classrooms in Ireland, Collins (2011) reported
that classroom relationships and climate improved as teachers sought to to enhance the
childrens condence and self-esteem, develop their social and emotional learning, and
ensure all children have a voice in the classroom.
Another study with 20 early years groups in the UK reported positive impact on
both learning and behaviour goals in preschool (Wood, 2001). A number of studies in
secondary schools found similar positive effects for secondary school students, including
enhanced self and social awareness and more positive attitudes towards learning (e.g.
Aguis, 2011; Hennessey, 2007; Kulchy, 2009; Tew, 1998). Other studies which made
use of a multi-strategy approach, including CT, similarly reported improvements in
emotional literacy and social skills such as listening and speaking (Coppock, 2007;
Doveston, 2007).
Of particular interest to this publication is a recent qualitative case study on a whole
school approach to CT in a small Maltese primary school (Pace, 2012). The study
examined the views of teachers, students and parents on the introduction of CT for a
whole term with all the groups at the school. Six classes, from Year 1 to Year 6, partici-
pated in the study, with a student population of 150 children and 14 members of staff.
Staff, students and parents viewed CT as a positive experience for the whole school
community. They mentioned such benets as better teacherpupil relationships, posi-
tive classroom climate and various social, emotional and academic benets for the stu-
dents, including enhanced motivation and engagement in academic learning such as
listening, speaking and problem solving, positive behaviour and social and emotional
learning, such as listening skills, communication skills, self-esteem and sharing of expe-
riences. The staff also mentioned that it helped them to maintain positive student behav-
iour at both whole school and classroom levels, and reported less challenging behaviour
and bullying at the school and more compliance with school and classroom rules. The
teachers argued however, that issues such as time constraints and a heavy loaded curric-
ulum were potential barriers to the effective implementation of CT in their classroom.
The study was based on participantsperceptions and underlined the need for more rig-
orous investigations.
The present study carried out a semi-randomised controlled trial study on the effec-
tiveness of CT on primary school studentssocial and emotional competence, making
use of both quantitative and qualitative data. Its objective is to examine the effectiveness
of CT by the classroom teacher in the students promoting social and emotional learning,
identify the processes that facilitate and hinder its effectiveness, and explore the teach-
ersand studentsexperience of CT.
A relatively large primary school in the centre of Malta was identied to participate in
the pilot study. The school staff agreed to take part in the project led by the University
of Malta. The project was spread across one scholastic year (20102011), with the rst
term dedicated to planning and identication of particpants, the second term training of
classroom teachers in CT and the start of the implementation, and the third term the
completion of the implmentation and evaluation. Originally it was planned to recruit
two classes from each year (Year 1Year 6) in a randomised control trial design, with
the classes being randomly assigned to experimental or control groups. However, due to
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lack of volunteers and in consultation with the Head of School, a semi-RCT was con-
sidered more feasible. Year 6, the nal year in the primary school, was not included as
students were sitting for their nal examinations and would be less likely to attend regu-
larly during the last term of the scholastic year.
Five classroom teachers, one from each year (Year 1Year 5) volunteered to implement
CT in their classroom, while another corresponding ve teachers agreed to participate as
controls. The CT teachers received one session of training in the use of CT in the class-
room by two qualied CT facilitators. The training session included a presentation on
the benets of CT in general, followed by a more detailed practical session on how to
use CT in the classroom. Participants were provided with a resource pack which
included detailed lessons plans to be used in the classroom. The topics included self-
awareness and self-esteem, understanding and managing feelings, belonging, friendship
and cooperation, and challenges and solutions. They were also offered mentoring during
the implementation process, but no teacher made use of this service. Implementation by
the teachers occured over a period of 10 weeks with one 3045 min CT session per
The Maltese version of the teachers Strengths and Difculties Questionnaire (SDQ)
(Goodman, 1997) was used as a measure of the studentssocial, emotional and behav-
iour difculties as well as prosocial behaviour. The SDQ is a brief questionnaire which
has been used by many researchers as a screening tool to measure social, emotional and
behaviour difculties and prosocial behaviour, and identies the prevalence of mental
health difculties among children and young people. Both the CT and the control teach-
ers completed the SDQ teachersversion on a sample number of students in their class-
room before the start of the CT programme and once again at the end of the
programme. All 10 teachers completed the pre- and post-SDQ on a random sample of
their children, namely every third name on the class register, with an average of seven
students per class. In all, there were 74 students equally divided into the CT and control
groups, 40 males and 34 females.
The CT teachers also completed a questionnaire at the end of the implementation,
including open-ended questions on the practical aspects of the implementation, such as
training, resources, support, logistics, delity and challenges faced. Another section
dealt with the perceived student experience of CT and student outcomes in terms of the
skills learnt. All ve CT teachers completed the questionnaire.
The students attending Years 35 were also invited to complete a brief, child
friendly questionnaire on their experience of CT at the end of the implementation. A
quantitative section asked how much the students enjoyed and learnt from CT, and the
specic skills they learnt, with ve possible responses from Not at allto A great
deal. The second section of the questionnaire asked open-ended questions on what they
learned and what they liked and disliked during CT. Of the three classes, only two par-
ticipated, namely Year 3 and Year 4, making up 43 students (20 males and 23 females).
Parental consent was obtained for all the students who participated in the study.
The SDQ scores were analysed via Anova repeated measures while descriptive sta-
tistics and one way analysis of variance were used to anlayse the quantitative data from
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the studentsquestionnaires. The teachersquestionnaires and the second part of the stu-
dentsquestionnaires were anlaysed qualitatively, identifying the key themes emerging
from the participantsresponses.
Pre- and post-SDQ scores for CT and control groups
Table 1shows a clear pattern in the means of the two groups, with a decrease of dif-
culties in the CT group from pre- to post-intervention, and a corresponding increase in
scores in the control group. Signicant interaction effects were found for the emotional
symptoms subscale [F(1, 73) = 4571, p= .036; η
= .059], the peer relationships sub-
scale [F(1, 73) = 7553, p= .008; η
= .094] and the total difculty subscale [F(1,
73) = 6963, p= .010; η
= .087], suggesting that the main impact of the programme
was more on internalised difculties, but with little apparent effect on externalised dif-
culties or prosocial behaviour (see Figures 13).
CT teachersquestionnaire
Four of the ve teachers felt well prepared for the implementation, with two recom-
mending more peer support and mentoring. This has clear implications for effectiveness
as belief in ones competence and condence is a key factor in programme effectiveness
(Greenberg, 2010). All the teachers were actively engaged in the implementation of the
programme in their classroom, and with one exception, they implemented the pro-
gramme faithfully and regularly and found no particular difculty in doing so, even if
it was our rst experience. They also found the resources provided adequate, but some
added some resources and activities themselves. This also helps the teachers to own
more the programme and increase their self-efcacy as they feel they have more control.
One of the teachers found difculty in implementing the programme regularly as s/he
needed more support and more resources, and had problems in tting the programme in
the timetable.
One of the issues mentioned by the teachers was nding a regular time in the time-
table for CT, with one teacher for instance, doing it instead of the creativity lesson.
Clearly, it will be easier for the teachers to implement CT regularly and faithfully if
there is a place for it in the regular curriculum. Another issue mentioned by the teachers
was the number of children in their classroom and the physical space available. For
instance, one teacher complained that with 20 kids, each session took much longer than
planned, while another said that because I had a big number of children (25), some of
them felt frustrated waiting for their turn to nish a statement. Having adequate space
at the school for the organisation of CT is a key factor in the successful implementation
of CT. Teachers may also need to use particular strategies when they have large groups,
such as 25, such as using smaller group work and recruiting the support of the LSA
when one is present in the classroom.
When asked what sort of assessment they used when implementing CT, only one
teacher used the evaluation sheet provided with the guidebook, while another two
observed studentsbehaviour and engagement during the sessions. One teacher under-
lined the need for monitoring and mentoring the teacher in this process.
All the teachers wrote that they reinforced the learnt skills during other lessons and
classroom activities, making use of different strategies: Especially when things came
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Table 1. Means and standard deviations of SDQ scores for both groups at pre and post test.
Circle time (N= 37) Control group (N= 38) Total (N= 75)
SDQ subscale Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
Emotion 2.16 (2.048) 1.32 (1.415) 2.53 (2.227) 2.66 (2.184) 2.35 (2.134) 2.00 (1.952)
Conduct 2.05 (2.449) 1.78 (2.188) 1.97 (2.388) 2.18 (2.940) 2.01 (2.402) 1.99 (2.586)
Hyperactivity 4.68 (2.759) 4.73 (3.034) 4.29 (2.700) 4.66 (2.783) 4.48 (2.718) 4.69 (2.890)
Peer rel. 2.05 (1.870) 1.65 (1.457) 1.92 (1.683) 2.32 (1.960) 1.99 (1.767) 1.99 (1.751)
Prosocial 6.68 (2.615) 6.46 (2.683) 6.71 (2.525) 6.89 (2.153) 6.69 (2.552) 6.68 (2.423)
Total difculty 10.95 (6.425) 9.49 (5.824) 10.71 (6.563) 11.82 (6.998) 10.83 (6.452) 10.67 (6.508)
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up in the classroom where I could make the link,I used to discuss what weve learnt
in the following daysand when a problem arises we ask what would Toby (soft toy)
do or how he would feel. One teacher used slogans from the balloon sessioncreating
Figure 1. Interaction effect for emotional symptoms subscale.
Figure 2. Interaction effect for peer relations subscale.
Figure 3. Interaction effect for total difculty subscale.
122 C. Cefai et al.
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a common languagewith the students (e.g. Dont burst your balloon,Release a bit
of air).
On the other hand, parents were not involved in the implementation. This is a limi-
tation for CT effectiveness, because skills learnt at home could not be reinforced at
home. Teachers mentioned the relatively short period of the implementation, but again
this underlined the need for monitoring and mentoring during the implementation.
All the teachers believed that CT was an enjoyable learning experience and students
were highly engaged in the sessions: they enjoyed every CT session;they loved it!
The activities that worked really well included visualisation, calming down, energisers
and group work. When asked what skills the students learned, listening skills was the
main outcome according to most of the teachers; other skills mentioned include team-
work and better peer relationships, and improved attention and communication. In terms
of overall outcome, the teachers suggest that in general CT impacted studentsbehav-
iour but had little impact on their academic achievement.
When asked whether they will be willing to do CT again next scholastic year, all
the teachers expressed interest in doing so and saw it as an important area in the pri-
mary school curriculum. They made various suggestions on how it could be organised
in a more effective way, such as having more songs, visualisation exercises, drama,
video clips and energisers, as well as more training, adequate space and more promotion
of CT at whole school level.
Quantitative data
The vast majority of the students enjoyed CT (Figure 4), would like to see it again (Fig-
ure 5), and believed that they had learnt a great deal during CT (Figure 6). When asked
about the specic skills they learnt during CT, (Table 2), studentsanswers suggest that
they learned all the mentioned skills quite well, without distinguishing between one skill
or set of skills and another. There was no signicant difference between the eight skills
nor any signicant gender differences.
Figure 4. How much did you enjoy CT?
Note: No students ticked Not at allor Only a little.
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Table 2. Skills learned during CT (N= 39).
Behave better in class 3.49 1.144
Understand myself better 3.44 1.021
Express myself better 3.64 .843
Control my emotions
3.51 1.121
Make more friends 3.69 .950
Understand peers better 3.62 .935
Make good decisions 3.64 .707
Solve problems better 3.51 1.144
Figure 5. Do you wish to do CT again?
Note: No students ticked Not at allor Only a little.
Figure 6. How much have you learnt during CT?.
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Qualitative data
When asked what they liked in CT, most of the students mentioned practical activities
such games (most liked activity), followed by singing and movement activities such as
dancing, running or sports. These are also the things they would like to see more in CT.
When asked what they did not like, most students mentioned peersmisbehaviour such
as ghting, talking out of turn and interrupting others. The most important set of skills
learnt concern social awareness and management: how to make friends,how to know
peers, followed by listening to others, playing together without ghting and helping
peers. This is followed by self-awareness and self-management skills, such as how to
behave,how to wait,how to show hands,saying thanksand know what hap-
The overall conclusion from the data is that CT contributed to studentssocial and emo-
tional learning and to reduced social, emotional and behaviour problems. CT students
showed less internalised problems and total difculty scores at post-test when compared
to their peers in the control group. There was no signcant difference, however, in ex-
ternalised behaviour problems or in prosocial behaviour. One possible explanation could
be that while the process of CT itself made children feel safer in thier classroom (hence
less internalised difculties) and helped them to work and relate better together, a longer
intervervention was needed to reduce externalised behaviour problems and promote
more prosocial behaviour. The data from the teachersinterviews, however, suggest that
CT had a positive impact on the studentssocial and learning behaviours, such as listen-
ing, collaboration, better relationships with peers and attention. Similarly, the great
majority of the students said they had learned a lot during CT, such as better peer rela-
tionships, making friends, improved behaviour and emotional regulation. Their
responses suggested that their learning was spread across all the areas of self- and social
awarness and management. These ndings, however, need to be treated with caution,
rst as teachersperceptions on the benets of CT may not provide an accurate picture
of the actual impact of CT on their own (Collins, 2011) and secondly because the stu-
dentsresponses could have been somewhat biased due to social desirability (Leach &
Lewis, 2013).
An interesting observation is that CT could be particularly helpful to reduce the dif-
culties of students with social, emotional and behaviour difculites (SEBD). Both the
SDQ results and the teachersinterviews seem to suggest that there was an improvement
in student behaviour, with the SDQ underlining a reduction in internalised problems,
and the qualitative data both in internalised and exteranlised probolems. This may indi-
cate that CT as a universal programme may be particulalry effective for students with
SEBD, hence underlying the need for inclusive universal interventions for students with
SEBD besides targeted interventions (Greenberg, 2010). This is only a tentative conclu-
sion but we believe it warrants further investigation (cf. Lee & Wright, 2001).
The great majority of the students enjoyed CT and would like to have in it their cur-
riculum; the teachers also conrmed that the students highly enjoyed the CT sessions
(cf. Aguis, 2011; Camilleri, Caruana, Falzon, & Muscat, 2012; Collins, 2011; Lown,
2002; Pace, 2012). The teachers themselves found CT a useful and meaningful experi-
ence and would like to do it again next year (cf. Lown, 2002). When asked what
aspects worked well, both teachers and students underlined the experiential, practical
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and enjoyable aspect of the sessions, such as energisers, visualisation, games, singing
and play. This resonates with the students in Paces study (2012) who menioned such
activities as the use of the speaking object, starter sentences, changing places, games
and relaxation exercises as being key process in CT. The teachers mentioned that CT
also helped in the classroom climate and in the learning proces, and they applied CT
skills during the other areas of the curriculum.
When asked what did not work or could have worked better, students mentioned
peersmisebahviour during CT, such as peers not following rules or ghting. This sug-
gests that students were not yet used to CT, and it may have taken some time for them
to get used to, and follow, CT rules, such as waiting for their turn and talk only when
they have the speaking object. The indications from the other data, however, such as
the SDQ (less emotional problems and less peer relationship difculties) and qualitative
data from both the teachers and the students themselves did not suggest that students
felt unsafe during CT. The studentsanswers, however, do raise concern that if not facil-
itated well, CT may create a climate conducive to bullying and behaviour problems in
the classroom (Leach & Lewis, 2013).
Teachers, on the other hand, mentioned more structural and organisational issues
such as lack of time, lack of space and large number of students in class. On the one
hand, teachers saw CT as a useful and worthwile initiative, but on the other, they
expressed the need for more support in its planning and implementation. Having a place
on the timetable, being promoted at the whole school level, involving the parents and
providing classroom teachers with adequate training, mentoring and resources are some
of the factors that would ensure that CT would be more likely to make an impact on the
school community. The difculties and challenges faced by the Maltese teachers reso-
nate with those identied in other local and international research (Collins, 2011; Cre-
min, 2002; Lown, 2002; Pace, 2012). Cremin (2012) mentions such challenges as lack
of time due to crowded curriculum, lack of adequate training and rescources, lack of
belief in studentsability to take charge of their learning and lack of a whole school
approach in the use of CT. The Maltese teachers in Paces(2012) study similarly men-
tioned lack of time and overcrowded curriculum as being the main problems which may
compromise the effective implementation of CT.
The main complaint of the teachers was the lack of time and overloaded curriculum.
Such concerns may reect the lack of value in SEL by educational systems when com-
pared to academic learning, and the concern that SEL will take precious time away from
academic learning. Yet, there is evidence that SEL contributes to academic motivation
and engagement, enhancing skills essential for learning such listening, concentration,
speaking and problem solving, as well as improves academic learning (Durlak et al.,
2011; Payton et al., 2008). In order for CT to be effective, it thus needs to have a rm
base in the curriculum with a specic regular slot in the classroom timetable. There
needs to be also more awareness on the importance of SEL and CT at the whole school,
with the whole school community being on board before CT is implemented at the
school (Mosley, 2000). The staffs, studentsand parentsmotivation and readiness to
embark on this initiative is crucial if CT is to become a meaningful and successful inter-
vention (Cremin, 2002; Mosley, 2009). Moroever, CT needs to be embedded within a
whole school supportive and caring climate, with the values being nurtured in the class-
room resonating with those promoted at the whole school level (Cooper & Jacobs,
2011). At the same time, however, schools needs to be clear on what CT is really about,
namely that rather than providing therapy or counselling (Ecclestone & Hayes, 2009), it
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is about social and emotional learning and problem solving within a caring classroom
learning process (Mosley, 2009).
Another clear implication from the study is that the whole school staff will need
adequate training in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the CT
programme. Untrained teachers may engage in practices which go against the humanis-
tic principles underlying CT, such as pupil empowerment, democracy, equity and uncon-
ditional positive regard (Doveston, 2007; Taylor, 2003). Staff will need to be convinced,
for instance, of student empowerment, if they are to engage in good practice with stu-
dent-directed learning (Cefai & Cooper, 2010; Cremin, 2002; Leach & Lewis, 2013).
During CT, staff also need to be prepared to take a less directive and more facilitative
role than in traditional teaching. The issue of adult power and children empowerment is
one of the main issues in CT (Collins, 2011; Leach & Lewis, 2013) and we will return
to the conclusion.
Staff also need to be directly involved in collaborative planning of the programme
and resource development, so that they will organise CT in a way that addresses the
particular needs of their students and school community while owning the initiative
themselves (Cremin, 2002; Pace, 2012). The staff may make use of CT themselves dur-
ing the planning. This would boost their competence and consequently enhance their
condence in doing CT. They would need, however, adequate resources and support in
the process, participating in a community of practice which includes monitoring, peer
mentoring and support from specialist teachers. Taylor (2003), for instance, found that
lack of monitoring led to some staff not respecting basic ground rules in CT, such as
non-judgmental positive regard and equity.
The teachers in the study were provided with an assessment sheet as part of the
resource pack but most of them did not make use of it. It could be the teachers did not
see CT as a area that needs to be assessed (Collins, 2011). Assessment is a crucial part
of the learning process, but it needs to avoid the trappings of the traditional academic
achievement assessment. CT assessment will be formative and developmental, with
feedback from both the teachers and the children themselves on the competencies being
learnt. It needs to be teacher-friendly, namely without burdening the teachers with fur-
ther unnecessary paperwork and checklists, as well as student friendly, such as making
use of illuminative techiques.
The parents were not involved in this study, but parental involvement will not only
support the learning taking place during CT at the school but reinforce the development
of the skills being learnt with further practice at home. CT may thus include take-home
tasks which students would do with their family. Pace (2012) reported that the parents
were highly appreciative of CT and saw it as an important part of their childrens educa-
tion, with one parent even suggesting CT sessions for the parents themselves.
CT needs to take into consideration, and address the needs, of students with individ-
ual educational needs. Cooper and Jacobs (2011) argue that students with autism and
ADHD may not benet from a traditonal CT without due modications and support.
Teachers in this study did not report any difculties in engaging students with individual
educational needs during CT while Pace (2012) reported that one group had a student
with autism who participated actively during CT. Lee and Wright (2001) found CT pro-
moted self- and social awareness and social skills such as listening amongst students
with social, emotional and behaviour difculties. The classroom teacher and the Learn-
ing Support Assistant, however, would need to work collaboratively together to ensure
the maximum benets of CT for such students (cf. Lown, 2002; Miller & Moran,
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2007). In some cases, additional support in terms of smaller circles of support may also
be indicated (Mosley, 2009).
The students greatly enjoyed CT, but the things they liked most have more to do
with the process of learning during CT, than with the actual content itself. This has clear
implications for the overall teaching and learning processes, putting the onus on the
classroom teachers to organise learning around studentsneeds and interests. Active par-
ticipation, practical activities, games, songs, physical activity and small group work
could be organised in any content area of the curriculum. CT may thus serve as a useful
medium of instruction for the classroom teacher, not only for social and emotional
learning but for the other areas of the curriculum as well. Learning as fun addresses one
of childrens basic psychological needs, namely the need for fun, adventure and enjoy-
able experiences, and feeds into their other basic needs, namely competence, autonomy
and relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
This was a small-scale study in one particular school and care needs to taken about
making generalisations across schools and contexts. The CT programme itself was
restricted to just one school term, with only some members of staff participating; more-
over, those participating had volunteered to do so, with possible implications on the
ndings and conclusions of the study. Longer term, whole school intiatives are more lik-
ley to have an impact (Cooper & Jacobs, 2011; Lown, 2002; Miller & Moran, 2007).
The monitoring of the programme was also limited, with some of the teachers asking
for more support. The parents themselves were not involved in the study nor in the pro-
gramme evaluation. Only two out of ve groups of students participated in the study;
use of illuminative techniques with the early years students could be used to capture
their experiences as well. The small numbers also did not allow for examination of
mean differences between one year group and another.
In both parts of the studentsquestionnaire, the responses are skewed with the likeli-
hood that the students may have completed the questionnaire as a whole group with the
class teacher. Although the questionnaires were completed and returned anonymously,
there is the possibility that the students, or some of them, discussed the questions with
their peers, and also that they wrote those answers they believed were expected by their
teachers. Although this study sought to capture pupilsexperience of CT through both
quantitative and qualitative questions, the potentially biased answers may throw some
doubt on the authenticity of such responses, and underline the need for more reliable
and child-friendly methods of exploring childrens real thoughts and feelings. In a
small-scale study on childrens experiences during CT, Leach and Lewis (2013) postu-
late that rather than serving as a vehicle for student voice and empowerment, CT may
actually operate as another medium for maintaining adult control and power in the class-
room. During CT, children are encouraged to open up and reveal personal issues and
problems, and if issues of condentiality and participation are not handled properly, CT
may lead to a sense of insecurity and exposure and potential bullying. The authors
underline the need for more rigorous research to capture the real lived experience of
children during CT and the impact of such experiences on their psychological well-
CT is deemed to be a useful tool for schools in their effort to foster empowerment,
inclusion, equity, democracy, agency as well as social and emotional and academic
learning, amongst their students. It seeks to create a safe and caring classroom climate
128 C. Cefai et al.
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which promotes such values as sharing, supporting one another, listening and respecting
each others opinions, and enjoying and appreciating each others company. It is also a
time for fun and enjoyment during learning. There does not appear to be enough robust
evidence, however, to substantiate such claims unequivocally, particularly that by default
CT will operate as a medium for student empowerment, inclusion and equity (Collins,
2011; Cooper & Jacobs, 2011; Leach & Lewis, 2013; May, 2005). There is also the
danger that if not handled well by the teacher, CT may inadvertently lead to undesirable
outcomes such as isolation and bullying. These issues call for further rigorous scientic
studies on the impact of CT not only on studentssocial and emotional learning and
behaviour but also on the classroom relationships and climate. Such evidence would
also serve to address the current challenges posed by the anti-therapeutic education
movement on one hand and the raising academic standards in education (cf. OECD
PISA) on the other.
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... Building safe connections to help with mindfulness endeavors may be easier if community circles are incorporated to ensure a safe place for students to share their thoughts and experiences while building character and strong student-teacher relationships [43,44]. Classroom community circles constitute a practice of sitting in a circle with the classroom community while a teacher facilitates safe and engaging conversations [43]. ...
... A safe environment is a key part of helping students with trauma to reduce their hypervigilance and improve their ability to focus on relevant tasks. Similar results were found in a semirandom controlled trial, in which children in the experimental condition felt safer in the classroom than did children in the control condition, which is important for traumatized children [44]. Elementary school children can relate better to each other, which helps with communication [44]. ...
... Similar results were found in a semirandom controlled trial, in which children in the experimental condition felt safer in the classroom than did children in the control condition, which is important for traumatized children [44]. Elementary school children can relate better to each other, which helps with communication [44]. A study that examined the use of community circles in high schools found that the interaction creates opportunities for teachers and students to become acquainted with each other and gain a sense of community [46]. ...
Full-text available
Mental health conditions related to trauma among American children are a concern, particularly because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children, as students, carry the trauma they encounter with them into the classroom. Students impacted by trauma learn differently due to effects on the brain that relate to several impairments, causing them to perform poorly in school. However, teachers may not always understand this issue. This case study shows how certain dynamics within the EST layers impacted one school during the pandemic. The purpose of this study was to examine how teachers at the school experienced a trauma-informed online PD and SEL program intended to improve student outcomes, teacher perceptions, and teacher–student relationships. The six participants included teachers in a K-8 low-income, minority population charter school. The assessment tools used were the Teacher–Student Relationship Scale, Teacher Perception Scale, and Student Outcomes Survey. The teachers’ outlook on SEL improved, particularly online. This improvement helped the teachers implement community circles and SEL infused with mindfulness in their online classrooms, which may have helped them maintain their relationships with the students and may have helped the students with academic and stress outcomes. During unprecedented times, the maintenance, rather than the deterioration, of student outcomes and teacher–student relationships is an accomplishment and an area that necessitates further research.
... It is an inclusive intervention, where all students can participate in a series of interactive and experiential activities (Evanovich et al., 2020;Hromek & Roffey, 2009;Lown, 2002;Tew et al., 2007). This group interaction develops self and group awareness, connectedness, enhanced emotional and social well-being, collaborative decision-making, problem-solving and conflict management skills (Cefai et al., 2014;Collins, 2011;Noble & McGrath, 2008;Roffey, 2006;Tew et al., 2007). 'Circles can thus be used to build relationships, teach empathy, teach academic content' and deal with issues that constantly arise within classes and schools (Evanovich et al., 2020, p. 34). ...
... The literature on circle use is largely positive since it is perceived as an emotionally safe space within which teachers can help students with the social, emotional and communicative aspects of learning (Evanovich et al., 2020;Cefai et al., 2014;Collins, 2011;Barton et al., 2011;Roffey, 2006;Mosley, 1996;. However, Cooper and Jacobs (2011) counter argues that the 'circle's time apparent simplicity may be deceptive and may create problems' (p. ...
... 106) especially when untrained teachers fail to properly implement the rules of equity and unconditional positive regard. This can inadvertently lead to students feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable, isolated or judged, making it difficult for them to share their feelings or concerns (Cefai et al., 2014;Collins, 2011;Falzon et al., 2018;Leach & Lewis, 2013;Roffey & McCarthy, 2013). Other students tend to conform to what the other members of the group are saying and are not assertive enough to share their ideas and beliefs (Janis, 1972(Janis, , 1982. ...
There is greater awareness of the importance of social and emotional learning especially within a pedagogy that adopts the circle configuration. Circle use in the Maltese Islands is a research area which needs further exploration. This paper presents qualitative and quantitative results about the perceptions of Personal Social and Career Development teachers about the use of the circle in the subject. This study indicates that there are various benefits when the circle pedagogy is used both with primary and secondary students. Some of the benefits mentioned by teachers include the improvement of relationships within the classroom and the development of intra and interpersonal competencies of students. The study also highlights the challenges that such a setting presents to the teachers and the importance of adequate training so that teachers have the necessary skills to facilitate lessons within this pedagogical context.
... • Active learning environments were often described in the literature as enjoyable, fun, and positive, (Burris, 2011;Cefai et al., 2014) generating empathic teacher-learner and peerlearner relationships (Castano, 2008;Sinnema, Sewell & Milligan, 2011). ...
... • Social and emotional skills: A simple active learning strategy, Circle Time (Cefai et al., 2014), was examined in Italy, where learners and teachers sit in a circle and use an object to determine speaking order, to solve problems, discuss events, play a game, talk about feelings and tell stories. This strategy was found to foster improvements in prosocial behaviours such as listening, collaboration, and peer relationships, and reduce behavioural problems among Grade 1-5 learners. ...
... • Even simple activities like Circle Time (Cefai et al., 2014) require time in the curriculum, physical space in which to conduct the activity, and planning to ensure they are implemented in a way that generates positive outcomes. ...
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The research is an outcome of a scoping study commissioned by the LEGO Foundation’s Centre for Creativity, Play and Learning, to understand the role and impact of learning through play at school. We identified eight pedagogical approaches, which we collectively term ‘integrated’, for the evidence of how they combine child-directed, teacher-guided, and teacher-directed learning and align with the characteristics of playful learning experiences. They were also selected based on the breadth and depth of available evidence regarding their effectiveness as strategies for educating children in primary school across children engagement, holistic skills and traditional learning outcomes. The research maps the territory of these integrated pedagogies. It defines and describes them, offers evidence of their impact, and presents the factors that make them work. It details the broader education system factors that underpin pedagogy and its relation to curricula, teacher education and professional development, learners, parents and caregivers, and communities. It concludes with directions for future research.
... .1.1 Les pratiques rejetéesLe programme Circle Time(Cefai, Ferrario, Cavioni, Carter et Grech, 2014) a pour objectif de réduire les problèmes sociaux, émotionnels et comportementaux des élèves en réduisant les problèmes internalisés et les difficultés globales des élèves. L'étude recensée consiste à examiner l'efficacité du Circle Time en classe ordinaire pour promouvoir le développement social et émotionnel, identifier les processus qui favorisent ou nuisent à l'efficacité du programme et explore l'expérience des élèves et des enseignants. ...
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Les élèves en difficulté ou en trouble de comportement (EDTC) sont ceux pour lesquels l'intégration est le plus souvent considérée inappropriée par les intervenants scolaires, car elle constituerait une contrainte excessive et porterait atteinte aux droits des autres élèves. Pourtant, l'intégration en classe ordinaire des EDTC est considérée comme un facteur de protection pour ces élèves autant pour leur développement social que scolaire. Puisque le climat de classe influence directement l'apprentissage des élèves et le rendement scolaire, si l'élève intégré le perturbe, il pourrait y avoir un impact sur le rendement scolaire des pairs. L'utilisation de pratiques enseignantes efficaces qui favorisent un climat de classe propice à l'apprentissage en contexte d'intégration d'EDTC en classe ordinaire au primaire permettrait de diminuer la probabilité que l'élève inclus ait un impact négatif sur climat de classe, ce qui favoriserait leur intégration. Cette recension répertorie les études ayant des données probantes sur les pratiques efficaces dans ce contexte. Le principal constat de l'étude est que les pratiques qu'un enseignant peut utiliser seul et sans aide extérieure ou formations additionnelles sont limitées, sans être inexistantes. Une liste de pratiques enseignantes efficaces à utiliser est présentée, mais la recherche souligne l'importance de l'accessibilité à la formation, de la présence des professionnels et de l'implication de l'équipe-école pour favoriser l'utilisation de ces pratiques.
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The presented article focuses on two main objectives. On the one hand, it presents the complex and multifaceted issues of migrant children’s education from a theoretical perspective, which have a significant impact on the course of their integration process, their quality of life and their chances of a better future in the country of migration. We draw attention to the importance of migrant children from the perspective of a child-centred approach, which emphasises children’s agency and subjectivity, the importance of their voice, their experiences, as well as the mission of the school and the roles of the professionals (teachers, cultural mediators, social workers) working with them and influencing their integration success. We show the school as a space that is not only institutional, formal and oriented towards intercultural education, but also a relational space in which informal processes take place to shape the future of children, dependent on significant others but also on the educational system. On the other hand we refer mainly to the contribution of the research project Children Hybrid Identity (CHILD-UP) to formulate theoretical explanations about the visibility of migrant children, their agency in school, and to uncover empirical findings about their achievements, barriers, challenges. Although these are in various locations, in different schools and educational programmes, they nevertheless bring about changes in the structure of a class and the occurrence of important processes due to their ethnic and national, cultural, religious, and language context.
The main purpose of this paper is to offer important insights into both immigrant and native students’ experiences on interculturalism as well as identifying their inputs regarding the ways in which intercultural school development could occur. Interviews were carried out with 48 children; 24 Cypriots and 24 immigrants from 4 primary schools in Cyprus. Based on their perspectives regarding the improvement of culturally diverse schools, three thematic categories emerged from the data analysis; the structural and school organisational level; the socio-personal level; and the didactic and curricular level. Arguably, on the basis of the data analysis, sub-factors underpinning these levels were found to have implications for educational policy and practice aiming at the promotion of cultural awareness, intercultural competence, inclusion and respect in schools.
How do children exercise peer-play and peer-cultures when faced with teacher-imposed rules and pedagogical structures? Video-observations and interviews with children and their teachers from three junior primary classrooms in Aotearoa-New Zealand are used to address this question. Specifically we investigate times when the teachers interact with large groups of children on the mat given that this is likely to be a time characterised by high teacher control. Our study uses symbolic interactionism and peer culture studies as orienting concepts to make sense of the data. In this chapter, we focus particularly on how certain child sub-groups exert pressure to counter teachers’ expectations and demands at mat time. Often, these pressures arise from the children’s peer and play sub-cultures. Moreover, specific children appropriate or resist the teachers’ rules and norms in order to create, reproduce, and sometimes disrupt peer group relations and power dynamics.
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This study focuses on “circle time,” an innovative technique to promote classroom organization in primary schools across Germany and the rest of the world. Unlike previous research which primarily emphasizes on the functional and instrumental dimensions of circle time, the current study examines the non-cognitive aspects that emerged “in the middle” of circles. Since 2013, an ethnographic study has been conducted in a progressive pedagogy (Reformpädagogik) primary school in Berlin, Germany. The empirical data from this study contain observations from the ethnographic videotaping of students aged 6 to 9 years old. The findings suggest that three aspects are crucial to generating and handling heterogeneity in a circle: symbolic construction, bodily movement, and ludic interaction. In addition, it is indicated that in a pluralistic, multi-cultural society, a teacher’s authority becomes conditional rather than automatic.
Self-diagnostics and prognostics in multi-agent processing systems is explored in the context of self-soothing concepts in neuropsychology. This is one of the first steps to facilitate systems-level thinking in AI. Autonomous or semi-autonomous system must be able to understand, at a system-wide level, how every part of the system is influencing the other parts of the system. This drives the need for complete self-assessment within the AI system. The use of emotional memory and autonomic nervous state recall can be used to provide contextual cognition for system-level diagnostic and prognostics in large-scale systems. The use of an artificial cognitive neural framework with intelligent information software agents can be utilized to emulate emotional learning to facilitate self-soothing, which equates to self-healing in artificial neural systems. This chapter describes the architecture and specifications of software agents that are used to provide self-soothing and self-healing constructs for intelligent systems (Flexible object architectures for hybrid neural processing systems, Las Vegas, NV, 2010).
Identify the theoretical reasons behind the link between social support and education, especially related to teaching and learning in the classroom;
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The concept of pupil voice is widely employed in research from across the world when claiming children and young people have a genuine, legitimate right to be heard on matters they consider important, and when considering ways of engaging them as important ‘influencers’ of policy and decision-making. This article is concerned with problematic issues around power and pupil voice during circle-time. It is argued that the space in which children and young people are ‘allowed’ a voice is prescribed by adults and is frequently located within interventions for improving schools, pupil behaviour and promoting their social and emotional development. Based on a rigorous analysis of the findings from a small case study about children’s experiences during circle-time, and using the concepts of social identity and social representation, this article highlights the dangers of inadvertently creating a climate within which children can feel isolated and threatened, and bullying can thrive. Increasingly, it would seem children are being invited and expected to reveal things in circle-time that will need careful and experienced handling from the point of safeguarding the child’s well-being, offering the required support and ensuring the child’s protection and confidentiality. It is argued these findings highlight the need for a robust research-informed debate about children’s lived experiences during circle-time, and the impact of those experiences in terms of children’s identities and self-esteem.
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The field of school‐based prevention of behavioral problems and promotion of caring and competence has grown dramatically in the past decade. This article provides a brief summary of current progress in the field and a discussion of future challenges and directions in research and practice. The article presents four future directions for research in the field of school‐based prevention and health promotion: building the science of implementation and sustainability, building greater integration between educational policy and prevention, understanding factors influencing program integration with ongoing programming in schools, and the continued development and refinement of new programs and models. These future directions are driven by two significant research‐to‐service challenges faced both by practitioners and researchers that involve systems integration across developmental stages and levels of care. There is little question that further advances in the development and application of effective prevention practices and policies with schools and communities will require a much greater degree of collaboration in which researchers learn from educators and vice versa. A central part of this collaboration includes greater attention to the important role that prevention programs and policies can play in both increasing academic performance and resilience, and improving the quality of life of communities.
This book challenges the concept of wellbeing as applied to children, particularly in a school-based context. Taking a post-structural approach, it suggests that wellbeing should be understood, and experiences revealed, at the level of the subjective child. This runs counter to contemporary accounts that reduce children's wellbeing to objective lists of things that are needed in order to live well. This book will be useful for academics and practitioners working directly with children, and anyone interested in children's wellbeing.
This book synthesizes concepts, findings, and best practices for a complete guide to planning, implementing, and evaluating social and emotional education (SEE) programs. Emphasizing "caught" as well as taught lessons, it offers a whole-school framework for SEE, with content, rationales, assessment tools, and age-appropriate strategies. Interventions are also included for use across subjects, to engage learners and assist students with behavioral and emotional difficulties. And the lessons travel beyond the classroom, involving the whole school, families and communities. Key areas of coverage include: How SEE can be taught and assessed as a core competence. Classroom and whole school frameworks to enhance SEE. Examples of targeted interventions for at-risk students. Techniques for enlisting parents and communities in supporting SEE. A complete online set of SEE class and homework activities. Social and Emotional Education in Primary School is an essential resource for scientist-practitioners, educators, and other professionals as well as researchers and graduate students in special and general education, child and school psychology, educational psychology, social work, positive psychology, and family-related fields.
Abstract This paper warns of the dangers of adopting holistic, universal, taught approaches,to social and emotional,skills (SEAL). It presents new,thinking which shows,that depression,estimates,are grossly inflated and also questions,the idea of ʻpsychological immunisationʼ.It questions,the credibility of ʻemotional literacyʼ and shows,that SEAL is not supported,by rigorous evidence. The only real parallel to SEAL ‐ a mass,psychological,intervention ‐ is the self-esteem movement,in the USA which has undermined,academic standards,as well as young peopleʼs resilience and well-being. Happiness classes could have the same,effect as they too will unwittingly reinforce the idea of a ʻfeel goodʼ ethic. The paper also looks at the dangers,of putting feelings into the taught curriculum. Policy makers,may,think they need,to make,sweeping,reforms,because,of the inflated depression,statistics and the UKʼs poor performance on the UNICEF report on child well-being. However, this data points to family break-down,and poverty as the main,reasons. The paper concludes,by arguing that what teachers,can do to enhance,young peopleʼs well-being is mainly within the realm of ʻgood teachingʼ and that they should,not be encouraged,to become,surrogate,psychologists. 3
Claims that emotional well‐being is synonymous with successful educational practices and outcomes resonate with contemporary political portrayal of well‐being as integral to ‘social justice’. In Britain, diverse concerns are creating an ad hoc array of therapeutic interventions to develop and assess attributes, dispositions and attitudes associated with emotional well‐being, alongside growing calls to harness subject content and teaching activities as vehicles for a widening array of affective outcomes. There has been little public or academic debate about the educational implications of these developments for the aspirations of liberal humanist education. This article addresses this gap. Drawing on philosophical, political and sociological studies, it explores how preoccupation with emotional well‐being attacks the ‘subject’ in two inter‐related senses; the human subject and subject knowledge. It argues that it is essential to challenge claims and assumptions about well‐being and the government‐sponsored academic, professional and commercial industry which promotes them.
One hundred fifty-four fourth graders took part in an investigation of the Open Circle Program (OCP), an intervention model that encourages students, teachers and administrators to learn and practice communication, self-control and social problem-solving skills. Eight classrooms, two in each of four schools, were sampled. Two of these schools were located in middle to upper-middle class suburban areas and two served more diverse populations. Half the classrooms were headed by teachers well versed in OCP curriculum. The other half was not implementing a social competence program. Participants completed the student version of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) once in the fall and again in the spring. Teachers also rated the social competence of students at these same two points in the school year. Doubly-repeated measures mixed-design MANOVA analyses revealed that across the school year, OCP participants showed significantly greater teacher-reported improvements in both social skills and problem behaviors than did control group members. Although the largest gains were made by OCP children in urban areas, significant positive effects of program participation were shown by all students, regardless of school setting.