Prevention Science

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 77-87

First online:

Improving the Social and Emotional Climate of Classrooms: A Clustered Randomized Controlled Trial Testing the RULER Approach

  • Susan E. RiversAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yale University Email author 
  • , Marc A. BrackettAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yale University
  • , Maria R. ReyesAffiliated withYale Child Study Center, School of Medicine, Yale University
  • , Nicole A. ElbertsonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yale University
  • , Peter SaloveyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yale University

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The RULER Approach (“RULER”) is a setting-level, social and emotional learning program that is grounded in theory and evidence. RULER is designed to modify the quality of classroom social interactions so that the climate becomes more supportive, empowering, and engaging. This is accomplished by integrating skill-building lessons and tools so that teachers and students develop their emotional literacy. In a clustered randomized control trial, we tested the hypothesis that RULER improves the social and emotional climate of classrooms. Depending upon condition assignment, 62 schools either integrated RULER into fifth- and sixth-grade English language arts (ELA) classrooms or served as comparison schools, using their standard ELA curriculum only. Multi-level modeling analyses showed that compared to classrooms in comparison schools, classrooms in RULER schools were rated as having higher degrees of warmth and connectedness between teachers and students, more autonomy and leadership among students, and teachers who focused more on students’ interests and motivations. These findings suggest that RULER enhances classrooms in ways that can promote positive youth development.


Emotional literacy Social and emotional learning Positive youth development The RULER Approach