Research in Brief: Pathways to Positive School Climates

By: Erica Wood

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a research article about restorative practices and the integration of social emotional learning as a path to positive school climates.
Source: Canva

This article highlights benefits of integrating Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practices with Restorative Practices (RP) and promoting educator buy-in, ultimately shifting school climates towards relationship building and away from punitive punishments. This synthesis of research offers alternative practices to racially discriminatory zero tolerance policies that promote RP through rebuilding relationships, repairing relationships, and affirming relationships through developing SEL skills. The article emphasizes the success of RP and looking towards the future by integrating RP and SEL development to create a more inclusive and sustainable restorative school culture.

Importance

  • Mental health professionals play an integral role in developing and fostering a comprehensive school climate while training teachers and other personnel on how to promote and educate students on SEL.
  • Understanding the positive correlation between RP and positive behavior outcomes perpetuates the work of reducing punitive punishment and discipline that is inherently racist.
  • Promoting the integration of SEL and RP provides students and faculty with the opportunity to build healthy relationships and foster SEL skills that can be used during conflict processing.
  • Using RP in schools and fostering teacher buy-in reduces discipline and overall creates a more equitable school environment for students.

Equity Considerations

It is important to recognize that the educational system is inherently racist and that current systemic discipline practices disproportionately punish black and brown students more than their white peers. When considering implementing RP, it is also important to consider other student identities such as students who identify as LGBTQ+, students with disabilities, and students with previous trauma. Implementing RP and SEL should be done with a holistic approach and should be student centered around building and fostering relationships.

Practitioner Tips

  • Those who are successful in implementing RP are student and human focused, trusting of colleagues and students, willing to recognize mistakes, and creative.
  • It is imperative to invest time and money into training educators in RP to promote buy-in and allow space and time for administrators to integrate RP into existing school structures…patience and persistence.
  • Relationship building is essential to school climate, student success, and teacher retention. Stronger relationships allow for hard and restorative conversations.
  • SEL and RP are rooted in PBIS and focus on tiered interventions and naturally incorporates trauma-informed care.
  • RP has been proven to reduce racial inequities in discipline.

Reference

Hulvershorn, K. & Mulholland, S. (2018). Restorative practices and the integration of social emotional learning as a path to positive school climates. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning, 11(1), 110-123. DOI 10.1108/JRIT-08-2017-0015


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Erica Wood is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Equitable, Culturally Responsive & Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Practice

By: Aloïse Phelps

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a research article situating equity in mindfulness practice within trauma-informed principles (i.e., safety, trust/transparency, & collaboration/mutuality) in the classroom.
Source: Canva

With the increase in research supporting the use of mindfulness in schools, educators have started implementing mindfulness interventions within their classrooms. However, limited research has investigated the intersection of mindfulness and trauma-informed care. As a result, teachers are implementing practices without centering equity and racial justice. Without recognizing the root cause of students’ distress, the authors argue educators can unintentionally inflict harm. This article highlights strategies for incorporating mindfulness into middle school classrooms in affirming, culturally-responsive, and trauma-informed ways. Specifically, the authors argue for situating equity in mindfulness practice within trauma-informed principles (i.e., safety, trust/transparency, & collaboration/mutuality) in the classroom.

Importance

  • School mental health professionals are in a unique position to help re-center the practice of mindfulness in the classroom.
  • In educating staff about the importance of culturally responsive practices, SMHPs are able to prevent harm through mindfulness.
  • Additionally, SMHPs are equipped to train school staff on improved practices that can be implemented in the classroom, which can create a more equitable environment for students.

Equity Considerations

  • Goal of shifting to trauma-informed, equitable, and culturally responsive approach is to allow students a safe space to process, examine, and heal.
  • SMHPs must use an intersectional approach when considering cultural identities.

Practitioner Tips

  • Invite students to tap into what makes them feel safe as a means of affirming and validating their experiences. Create a toolbox of these strategies with students that they can use when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Leveraging culture, by naming and engaging practices of finding peace used in a variety of cultures, can build trustworthiness and transparency into the practice of mindfulness.
  • Allowing students to opt-in (instead of opt-out) provides an opportunity to develop skills in autonomy and engage in mindfulness at a level they are comfortable with.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to collaborate and offer feedback on mindfulness activities and practices. This allows students to draw on their own cultural knowledge and creates a mutual effort to understand and practice mindfulness together. School mental health providers can encourage teachers to listen to the feedback with an open mind.  

Reference

Duane, A., Casimir, A. E., Mims, L. C., Kaler-Jones, C., & Simmons, D. (2021). Beyond deep breathing: A new vision for equitable, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed mindfulness practice. Middle School Journal, 52(3), 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1080/00940771.2021.1893593


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Aloïse Phelps is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Restorative Practices, Socio-Emotional Well-Being, & Racial Justice

By: Delaney Desman

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a research article about completing the circle by linking restorative practices, socio-emotional well-being, and racial justice in schools.
Source: Canva

The authors propose a three-part model to implement restorative practices in schools with efficacy. First, they recommend targeting student and faculty behaviors through restorative practices to help reduce stress, foster trust between students and teachers, & increase classroom engagement. Second, the authors argue for the integration of tier three mental health supports within restorative practices through community partnerships and collaboration. Finally, the authors highlight the importance of school staff recognizing and understanding the impact of structural and interpersonal racism, particularly for Black and Latinx youth. They recommend schools take a trauma-informed approach to bolstering student mental health supports and services. By focusing on these three actions, schools can better ensure restorative practices are benefiting students in an equitable way.

Importance

School mental health professionals must be cognizant and actively combat ways institutionalized racism impacts students, such as exclusionary discipline. When students are suspended they are not able to engage in school, maintain academic achievement, and have positive associations with their school community.

Equity Considerations

The article fails to address implications for students with disabilities, various socioeconomic statuses, or English language learners. This Western perspective is not explicitly addressed and raises concerns about whether or not restorative practices are culturally relevant or appropriate for all students.

Practitioner Tips

  • Schools should emphasize strengthening the tier 1 socio-emotional climate within the school. This approach supports students and staff, builds community, and strengthens relationships within schools.
  • Fostering a positive school climate and using a trauma-informed lens to support students is an important step to creating a positive school culture.
  • Ensure acute mental health needs of students are addressed through services and resources to allow for true restoration to take place.
  • Address systemic and interpersonal racism within schools (past and present) to ensure restorative practices benefit students equitably.

Reference

Huguley, J.P., Fussell-Ware, D.J., Stuart McQueen, S., Wang, M.T., & DeBellis, B.R. (2022). Completing the circle: Linkages between restorative practices, socio-emotional well-being, and racial justice in schools. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 30(2), 138-153. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/106342662210 88989


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Delaney Desman is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Mindfulness-Based Programs & School Adjustment

By: Karen Ko

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on mindfulness-based programs and school outcomes that used a randomized controlled design with students from preschool to undergraduate levels.
Source: Canva

In this systematic review and meta-analysis, 46 studies on mindfulness-based programs were selected an evaluated. Each of the selected studies used a randomized controlled design and consisted of students from preschool to undergraduate levels. Results of this analysis found that in comparison to control groups, there was a small effect for overall school adjustment outcomes, academic performance, and impulsivity; small to moderate effect for attention; and moderate effect sizes for mindfulness outcomes.

Importance

  • School mental health professionals are able to use proactive and preventative measures to support students’ mental health and help build resiliency skills.
  • To promote the use of mindfulness-based programs, school mental health professionals must act as advocates to help clarify the relationship between mindfulness and outcome data when consulting with decision-makers such as school/district administrators, school board members, policy makers, etc.

Equity Considerations

  • Need for more research, as many mindfulness-based programs are being offered across populations, but there is a lack of research investigating differences in programs across participant characteristics.
  • Need to examine the effects of mindfulness-based programs as a whole, as well as individual components, for specific populations.

Practitioner Tips

  • Mindfulness-based programs are encouraged to be implemented at a Tier 1 (school-wide) approach, focusing on helping students build skills in mindfulness
  • Rather than targeting psychopathology, it is important for school mental health professionals to take a strengths-based approach to build skills in students.
  • Incorporating a combination of research-designed mindfulness activities and yoga-based mindfulness activities have shown continued positive effects even after the intervention concludes.
  • Providing training and professional development opportunities in how to implement mindfulness can allow teachers to incorporate mindfulness strategies and practices into their classrooms.
  • Adaptation of an existing mindfulness program, such as MindUp, have shown significant effect on improving overall school adjustment and mindfulness.

Reference

Mettler, J., Khoury, B., Zito, S., Sadowski, I., & Heath, N. L. (2023). Mindfulness-based programs and school adjustment: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of School Psychology, 97, 43-62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2022.10.007


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Karen Ko is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Perspectives of Restorative Practices Classroom Circles

By: Anna Hukill

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes research on school staff and youth perspectives of tier 1 restorative practices classroom circles.
Source: Youth-Nex

In this qualitative study, researchers gathered perceptions from staff and students about the relationship between restorative practices, community-building circles, and social- emotional learning. Data included beginning- and end-of-year surveys about staff perspectives on implementation, semi- structured interviews with staff, and surveys about student participation. Results showed a strong association between community- building circles and social-emotional learning (SEL). The challenges mentioned included circle participation, equitable access, and conflict between discipline and restorative practices. This supports the idea that restorative practices need to be implemented school-wide.

Importance

School counselors, especially in elementary schools, often deliver short lessons and can incorporate community circles into their curriculum. This is an important opportunity to advocate for equitable access to classrooms. Community circles are a proactive way of building strong peer relationships and strategies for resolving conflict.

Equity Considerations

  • Ensure that all students have access to participate in the circle (e.g., alternative seating, multiple modes of participation).
  • Carefully consider opening and closing questions that all students can connect with.

Practitioner Tips

  • Community building circles have the potential to be a strong tool for improving social-emotional competence in students.
  • Teachers can seamlessly incorporate such circles into pre-existing group time by setting a clear routine (ex. greeting, opening question, SEL topic of the day, closing statement/activity).
  • Teachers and students report positive increases in student participation, communication, and sense of belonging.
  • Circles can be used among staff to develop a strong sense of school community.

Reference

Garnett, B. R., Kervick, C. T., Moore, M., Ballysingh, T. A., & Smith, L. C. (2022). School staff and youth perspectives of tier 1 restorative practices classroom circles. School Psychology Review, 51(1), 112-126. https://doi.org/10.1080/2372966X.2020.1795557


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Anna Hukill is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Counselor-Delivered Mindfulness & Social-Emotional Learning Intervention

By: Melinda Espinoza  

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes research on a mindfulness and social–emotional learning intervention that was delivered by counselors.
Source: Youth-Nex

This article explores the effectiveness of a counselor-led early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) intervention and its impact on the lived experiences of a small group of early childhood educators. The intervention consisted of 12 weeks of one-on-one counselor-teacher consultation using social emotional learning and mindfulness-based interventions. There was also a mindfulness intervention group-consultation component with the teacher participants. Participants reported feeling an increased ability to handle classroom related stressors while also experiencing changes in their beliefs towards themselves as educators and individuals. These beliefs extended beyond the classroom as participants also reported changes in their personal lives.

Importance

  • Work-related stress and lack of support can limit educators’ ability to be healthy and effective.
  • School counselors are able to supplement and promote mental health care for other educators.
  • Promoting mindfulness habits and emotional regulation skills, counselors can not only support fellow educators’ well-being but also positively impact students.

Equity Considerations

  • This study was conducted in urban schools with student populations consisting mostly of students from minoritized and low-income backgrounds.
  • Teacher participants largely identified as part of minoritized groups as well.
  • Participants (teachers) were provided with consultation on culturally-responsive practices.

Practitioner Tips

  • Mindfulness-based interventions have the potential to positively enhance inter-educator relationships. Educators may use the skills they learn to inform interactions with other colleagues.
  • Mindfulness skills helped participants learn to cope with and address workplace conflict.
  • Consultation influenced by mindfulness allows the educator to receive some mental health support while developing goals and problem-solving from a new approach.
  • Mindfulness practices helped teachers increase their self-awareness which allowed for changes in beliefs about teaching behaviors and in their personal lives.

Reference

Palacios, A. F., & Lemberger, T. M. E. (2019). A counselor‐delivered mindfulness and social–emotional learning intervention for early childhood educators. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 58(3), 184–203. https://doi.org/10.1002/johc.12119


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Melinda Espinoza is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.