Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Improving School Behaviors Through Mentoring

A recent study from the University of Rochester Medical Center looked at the impact that mentoring by adults had on elementary students with early signs of behavioral and social/emotional difficulties in school.

The students, who were in kindergarten through the third grade in urban schools, met individually for 25 minutes each week for 14 weeks with trained adults who were given background on each student and who met with the student's teacher to devise ways to reinforce newly learned skills in the classroom. The results of the study were profound; students who participated had 46% fewer disciplinary referrals and 43% fewer suspensions than a control group. Teachers noted improvement in all aspects of classroom functioning and girls (but not boys) had improvements in social skills. Researchers noted that all of the mentors were female but could not otherwise account for the differences in social skills improvement.

Mentors taught the students to recognize and monitor emotions in themselves and others and how to measure the level of their feelings. Students learned techniques to help them control strong feelings and to step back from intense situations. After the study was completed, the same skills training was given to the control group.

Key to the study was the fact that the mentors were not mental health professionals. In the kind of urban schools looked at in this study there is limited access to mental health services and this study was a step to looking at the efficacy of utilizing nonprofessionals to assist in building mental health resilience.

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