Identifying Common Practice Elements to Improve Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes of Young Children in Early Childhood Classrooms


Educators are increasingly being encouraged to implement evidence-based interventions and practices to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of young children who exhibit problem behavior in early childhood settings. Given the nature of social-emotional learning during the early childhood years and the lack of a common set of core evidence-based practices within the early childhood literature, selection of instructional practices that foster positive social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes for children in early childhood settings can be difficult. The purpose of this paper is to report findings from a study designed to identify common practice elements found in comprehensive intervention models (i.e., manualized interventions that include a number of components) or discrete practices (i.e., a specific behavior or action) designed to target social, emotional, and behavioral learning of young children who exhibit problem behavior. We conducted a systematic review of early childhood classroom interventions that had been evaluated in randomized group designs, quasi-experimental designs, and single-case experimental designs. A total of 49 published articles were identified, and an iterative process was used to identify common practice elements. The practice elements were subsequently reviewed by experts in social-emotional and behavioral interventions for young children. Twenty-four practice elements were identified and classified into content (the goal or general principle that guides a practice element) and delivery (the way in which a teacher provides instruction to the child) categories. We discuss implications that the identification of these practice elements found in the early childhood literature has for efforts to implement models and practices.

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Correspondence to Bryce D. McLeod.

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Preparation of this article was supported in part by a grant from the Institute of Education Science (R305A140487; McLeod and Sutherland).

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

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McLeod, B.D., Sutherland, K.S., Martinez, R.G. et al. Identifying Common Practice Elements to Improve Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes of Young Children in Early Childhood Classrooms. Prev Sci 18, 204–213 (2017).

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  • Practice elements
  • Early childhood
  • Social-emotional learning
  • Problem behavior