Supporting Students with Behavioral and Emotional Needs: A Conversation with Carl Sumi

Teacher and students working together

Student behavioral challenges aren’t a new phenomenon. For generations, educators and researchers have sought better approaches and interventions to support students with behavioral and socio-emotional needs. In recent years, however, those needs have grown.

In a national survey, more than 8 in 10 public schools reported that students’ behavioral and socioemotional development had been stunted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and educators have also observed increases in student misbehavior, including classroom disruptions and tardiness, since the onset of the pandemic.

Photo: Carl SumiSenior Principal Education Researcher Carl Sumi

These developments have shined new light on the need for effective, evidence-based supports for students dealing with behavioral challenges.

In the latest episode of The SRI Homeroom podcast, Senior Principal Education Researcher Carl Sumi joined host Kori Hamilton Biagas to discuss strategies, interventions, and recommendations for educators, schools, and researchers hoping to meet that need head-on.

Find some key takeaways here, or listen to the full podcast below.

Building Better Bonds in the Classroom

Effective support relies on strong teacher-student relationships, according to Sumi. With the right tools, teachers can build connections in the classroom and establish a more supportive learning environment that can not only improve student behavior and educational outcomes, but improve their own classroom experience as well.

“These children need a positive teacher-child relationship, and we’re giving the teacher strategies to build a better relationship”
– Carl Sumi

Research in Action

Not all interventions are created the same. Effective interventions, like BEST in CLASS, are based on solid evidence and rigorous research, enhancing teachers’ use of proven practices to prevent and address behavior problems and support student learning.

Context Matters

Implementing research findings comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. Sumi highlighted the importance of replication studies that verify whether interventions remain effective outside of controlled research settings and in the everyday realities of public school classrooms.

The Research/Practice Gap

While districts and schools should consider effective, evidence-based and context-appropriate interventions, education researchers can make that process easier. By disseminating findings in accessible, educator-friendly formats, researchers can help practitioners, administrators and other stakeholders find the information they need. Some valuable resources include the What Works Clearinghouse, the National Center for School Mental Health, and the Student Behavior Blog’s Resources Page.

“There are lots of programs, strategies, and interventions out there that don’t work that are used all the time… Our job is to help them understand what works well.”
– Carl Sumi

A Human-Centered Approach

Beyond data and quantifiable outcomes, education is ultimately about people, Sumi said. Effective interventions can support not only academic growth, but socioemotional development and mental wellbeing. He and his colleagues approach their work with a central focus on students, families and educators, asking questions like “What do these children need?” and “What do these educators and schools need to be effective?”

Listen to the full episode:

Access a transcript of the episode here.


Topics: Classroom-based intervention Early childhood Educator professional development and support Externalizing behaviors Internalizing behaviors Researcher-practitioner partnership Social-emotional learning

Tags: Behavior support BEST in CLASS Practice-based coaching