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Study using the DECA Program highlights value of social-emotional feedback

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte using the Devereux Center for Resilient Children’s (DCRC) Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) Program highlights the value of providing teachers with social and emotional feedback about the children in their classrooms.

The study – “A data-guided approach to supporting students’ social-emotional development in pre-K” – was published in the American Psychological Association’s American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

“Since the inception of the DECA Program in 1999, the goal of DCRC has always been to support early child care and education providers, as well as parents, in understanding and strengthening children’s social and emotional skills,” said Devereux Center for Resilient Children Director Susan Damico. “Recognizing that these providers and parents often have limited time, resources and formal training, our goal was to create a research-informed, practical intervention that could be successfully implemented in typical early childhood classrooms and home settings. Several studies have shown that the DECA Program can help children build resilience, and this promising new research offers further support that the simple process of providing teachers with social and emotional feedback about their students is a valuable intervention.”

About the study …

Pre-K teachers who participated in the UNC study were asked to complete the DECA to measure their students’ social and emotional functioning. Teachers were then randomly assigned to two groups. One group received summaries of their students’ social and emotional strengths and needs, and were encouraged to work with coaches to interpret their classroom summaries; identify strategies to address students’ most pressing needs; and implement those strategies in the classroom. The other group did not receive any feedback.

At the end of the school year, teachers completed the DECA again. Researchers found that students whose teachers received feedback showed significantly greater social and emotional improvements over the course of the school year compared to students whose teachers did not receive feedback.

Benefits of the DECA Program

Damico says the DCRC team is “strongly encouraged” by the results of the study, noting the DECA Program incorporates the same components that UNC researches examined, including:

  • Raising teachers’ awareness about the importance of children’s social and emotional health
  • Providing educators with a standardized, valid, reliable and practical tool to understand children’s social and emotional strengths and needs
  • Connecting the results of the assessments to developmentally appropriate strategies that can improve areas of need and celebrate strengths
  • Supporting teachers so they can implement this process within a collaborative culture that values the overall health and well-being of all children and their adult caregivers

Damico shared, “The fact that researchers aligned strategies from one assessment system to the scales on the DECA illustrate how the DECA Program can be used in conjunction with other resources that support high quality programming. This also shows how teachers benefit from a laser focus on DECA results and aligned strategies that strengthen a child’s specific areas of need.”

Learn more about the Devereux Center for Resilient Children.


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