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Differential Effectiveness of a Middle School Social and Emotional Learning Program: Does Setting Matter?


There is a lack of studies in the literature addressing the differential effectiveness of Social and Emotional Learning according to their implementation setting. This study compared the effectiveness of an upper middle school Social and Emotional Learning program applied in two different settings: within school and after-school hours, while controlling for individual and class-level variables. There were 837 students (Mage = 12.70; SD = 0.98; 47.6% were female): 246 in the control group, 319 in the after-school intervention group and 272 in the within school schedule intervention group, assessed at pretest, post-test and follow-up seven months later. Multilevel analyses identified more positive intervention results in on self-esteem, self-control, and social awareness for students in the within school schedule groups. Girls gained more in social awareness in both program settings. This study highlights the importance of analyzing Social and Emotional Learning program´s differential effectiveness in order to optimize it.

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We would like to thank Richard Inman for his English revision; Ana Maria Romão, Marta Marchante, and Patrícia Brás for collecting and organizing the data. We would also like to thank the students who took part in this study.

Authors’ Contributions

V.A.C. conceived the study and its design, drafted the manuscript, and performed the statistical analysis; V.S. conceived the study, drafted the manuscript, and participated in the interpretation of the data. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Project Positive Attitude is funded by Municipality of Torres Vedras.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Vítor Alexandre Coelho.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The current study was approved by the Psychology for Positive Development Research Center. The present study was conducted following the national professional code of ethics for psychologists (OPP), following national legislation.

Informed Consent

All school directors agreed to the implementation of the programs and schools used passive informed parental consent, because the program could be considered part of the school offering.

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Coelho, V.A., Sousa, V. Differential Effectiveness of a Middle School Social and Emotional Learning Program: Does Setting Matter?. J Youth Adolescence 47, 1978–1991 (2018).

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  • Social and Emotional Learning
  • Program effectiveness
  • Program setting
  • Classroom-level variables