What does our Student Behavior Research Team study?

Photo of frustrated students

Our team studies emotional, social, and behavioral issues that are critical for students’ well-being and success in school. More than one of every five students has, or is at risk for, an emotional or behavioral disorder, such as depression or ADHD, which can adversely affect a student’s learning and relationships. Students may also face certain stressors, trauma, or other problems in their daily lives. Educators may not be aware of such risks and challenges. Students experiencing such challenges often find it difficult to focus on schoolwork or engage with their school community. So when a student is showing academic challenges or behavior problems at school, they may be dealing with a larger underlying issue.

Nevertheless, with proper support, students with these challenges can still experience success at school. In recent years, educators have demonstrated that explicitly helping students improve their coping skills and increase appropriate behaviors can lead to improvements in school outcomes like attendance, student achievement, and graduation. However, many questions remain about which supports and programs work best for specific school environments and student populations.

We do our work in classrooms and schools

Our SRI Student Behavior Research Team conducts evaluations of school-wide and classroom-based programs that promote positive school climate, appropriate behavior, and student well-being. Because students spend a lot of time at school interacting with a range of adults, peers, and environments, we believe classrooms and schools are places where we can help to facilitate powerful and robust changes.

In order to do this in efficient, effective, and culturally competent ways, we aim to build strong and lasting partnerships with school administrators, teachers, program developers, and mental health practitioners. These partnerships are critical to ensuring that we focus on high-priority issues and develop practical solutions that meet the needs of students. In doing so, we hope to address the following kinds of questions:

  • What types of emotional and behavioral supports are most effective at helping students cope with daily frustrations and obstacles?
  • What interventions are most effective in ameliorating the effects of emotional and behavioral disorders?
  • Which students benefit most from certain interventions, and which students benefit least (or not at all)?
  • What are some things that teachers and administrators do to get the best results from a particular intervention?
  • How can schools sustain high-quality programs and positive outcomes over time?
  • How much do programs cost? What are the financial costs to schools to implement programs? The human resource costs?

The top 5 types of programs that our team studies

We study several types of school-wide and classroom-based programs to support students with emotional, social, and behavioral issues, and these are the most common types that we study…

1. Social-emotional learning (SEL) programs

What are they? SEL programs teach students the skills to understand and regulate emotions, build positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. For example, social-emotional skills help students cope when they are feeling angry or frustrated. Read more about social-emotional skills in one of our blog posts. SEL programs and approaches we’ve studied:

  • The Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) program
  • Check & Connect dropout prevention program
  • Bounce Back (trauma intervention) and Second Step (violence and bullying prevention) programs in Project SECURE
  • Tools for Getting Along (TFGA) social problem-solving curriculum
  • Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District Safe Schools Initiative (PSJA) for violence prevention and safety
  • First Step to Success elementary school behavior program for students who are at risk for developing or demonstrate antisocial or aggressive behaviors

2. School climate programs

What are they? School climate refers to the quality and character of school life. A positive school climate helps students and staff feel safe and engaged. Positive school climate it has been linked to positive outcomes such as higher attendance and graduation rates. School-wide programs that focus on establishing clear and consistent rules and routines can help to improve school climate. These kinds of school-wide approaches that target all students are referred to as Tier 1 supports of a multi-tiered framework, such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). For more information, see our blog posts on: tiered approaches, why and how we measure school climate, and our evaluation of a school-wide program to improve school climate. School climate programs and approaches we’ve studied:

  • Foundations, a positive and proactive approach to school-wide discipline
  • Discipline in the Secondary Classroom (DSC), a positive and proactive approach to classroom management
  • Check & Connect dropout prevention program
  • Bounce Back and Second Step programs in Project SECURE
  • Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District Safe Schools Initiative (PSJA)
  • First Step to Success

3. Trauma-informed programs

What are they? Students who have witnessed or experienced traumatic events such as abuse, poverty, or family/community violence or substance use, are at increased risk for developing behavioral, social-emotional, and academic difficulties. These students often report depression, anxiety, and even somatic symptoms that can be extremely disruptive to their school life. Trauma-informed programs integrate knowledge about trauma and its impacts with skill and resiliency-building so that students can address and manage their trauma-related symptoms in and out of school. Trauma-informed programs and approaches we’ve studied:

4. Bullying/violence prevention programs

What are they? Aggressive and violent behaviors cause physical and emotional harm and interfere with academic functioning for both victims and perpetrators. Fighting and violence among students also contribute to an unwelcoming and unsafe school climate. Effective school-wide anti-bullying programs often take a multi-pronged approach, targeting administrative (e.g., school discipline and supervision), classroom (e.g., bullying discussions and activities), and individual (e.g., anger and conflict management approaches, parent involvement) components. Violence-prevention programs and approaches we’ve studied:

  • Second Step program in Project SECURE
  • First Step to Success

5. Drop-out prevention programs

What are they? Academic failure and ongoing social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties ultimately can lead to a student dropping out of school. Drop-out prevention programs provide support early on for at-risk students by engaging them in the school and surrounding community, improving academic and social skills (e.g., conflict resolution, problem-solving), and providing a caring adult role model or mentor to prepare for a successful college and career life. Dropout prevention programs and approaches we’ve studied:

  • Check & Connect
  • Unconditional Education (UE)



To learn more about our projects or how to work with us, please contact us at studentbehaviorblog@sri.com!


Topics: Research design

Tags: Collaboration Evaluations Partners Partnerships Projects Research Priorities Research Topics Student Behavior Research Team