Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating

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  • Improving Classroom Learning Environments by CultivatingAwareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a

    Randomized Controlled Trial

    Patricia A. Jennings, Jennifer L. Frank, Karin E. Snowberg, Michael A. Coccia,and Mark T. GreenbergPennsylvania State University

    Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE for Teachers) is a mind-fulness-based professional development program designed to reduce stress and improveteachers performance and classroom learning environments. A randomized controlledtrial examined program efficacy and acceptability among a sample of 50 teachersrandomly assigned to CARE or waitlist control condition. Participants completed abattery of self-report measures at pre- and postintervention to assess the impact of theCARE program on general well-being, efficacy, burnout/time pressure, and mindful-ness. Participants in the CARE group completed an evaluation of the program aftercompleting the intervention. ANCOVAs were computed between the CARE group andcontrol group for each outcome, and the pretest scores served as a covariate. Partici-pation in the CARE program resulted in significant improvements in teacher well-being, efficacy, burnout/time-related stress, and mindfulness compared with controls.Evaluation data showed that teachers viewed CARE as a feasible, acceptable, andeffective method for reducing stress and improving performance. Results suggest thatthe CARE program has promise to support teachers working in challenging settings andconsequently improve classroom environments.

    Keywords: teacher stress, teacher efficacy, mindfulness, burnout, classroom climate

    The U.S. policy agenda to improve studentacademic outcomes has begun to focus attentionon teacher quality (Wilson et al., 2008). Fur-thermore, the public recognizes that a good ed-ucation should enhance academic achievementand students character, social-emotional com-petence, and civic engagement (MetLife, 2002;Public Agenda, 2002; Rose & Gallup, 2000).The Collaborative for Academic Social and

    Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines socialand emotional competence (SEC) as involvingfive primary skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationshipskills, and responsible decision-making (Col-laborative for Academic, Social and EmotionalLearning, 2003). Cultivating teachers SEC andwell-being may be an important component infulfilling this agenda (Jennings & Greenberg,2009). However, little research has been de-voted to exploring methods for promoting theseskills among teachers. Here we test the effec-tiveness of the Cultivating Awareness and Re-silience in Education (CARE) model of profes-sional development on teachers well-being,classroom efficacy, burnout, stress, and health.

    The prosocial classroom theoretical modelemphasizes the significance of teachers socialand emotional competence (SEC) and well-being in the development and maintenance ofsupportive teacherstudent relationships, effec-tive classroom management, and social andemotional learning (SEL) program effective-ness (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). These fac-

    This article was published Online First September 9, 2013.Patricia A. Jennings, Jennifer L. Frank, Karin E. Snow-

    berg, Michael A. Coccia, and Mark T. Greenberg, Preven-tion Research Center, Pennsylvania State University.

    Funds for the research reported in this article were pro-vided by a grant from the U. S. Department of EducationInstitute of Educational Sciences #R305A090179. Thanksto the Garrison Institute for providing support for the de-velopment of the CARE program. Also, special thanks toChrista Turksma and Richard Brown, who developedCARE with the corresponding author.

    Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-dressed to Patricia A. Jennings, Ph.D., Prevention ResearchCenter, Pennsylvania State University, 308B BBH Build-ing, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail: paj16@psu.edu

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    School Psychology Quarterly 2013 American Psychological Association2013, Vol. 28, No. 4, 374390 1045-3830/13/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/spq0000035

    374

  • tors, as well as teachers classroom manage-ment and instructional skills contribute to cre-ating a classroom climate that is conducive tolearning and that promotes positive develop-mental behavioral and academic outcomesamong students (see Figure 1). The model alsorecognizes that teachers well-being and SECare also affected by the school and communitycontext. For example, supportive school culture,strong principal leadership and collegiality pre-dict teachers job satisfaction (Johnson, Kraft,& Papay, 2012). Although the model suggeststhat well-being and social and emotional com-petence should benefit teachers at every level,effects on student outcomes may vary by grade,due to differences in time students spend withone particular teacher. Because students at theelementary level spend most of their day withone teacher, the relationship between a teach-ers well-being and SEC and student academicand behavioral outcomes may be stronger at theelementary level than the secondary level. How-ever, the model proposes that teachers well-being and social and emotional competence arealso important contributors to the quality oftheir performance that have been overlooked in

    previous research. An extensive review of theliterature supporting the links in this model canbe found elsewhere (Jennings & Greenberg,2009). The following is a brief review of thisresearch.

    The bidirectional relationship between class-room improvement and student improvementproposed in this model is well documented inthe literature (see Allen, Pianta, Gregory, Mi-kami, & Lun, 2011; Crosnoe et al., 2010; Kane& Staiger, 2008; Mashburn, Downer, Hamre,Justice, & Pianta, 2010; Mashburn et al., 2008).Furthermore, there is evidence that teacherstudent relationships (Merritt, Wanless, Rimm-Kaufman, Cameron, & Peugh, 2012; Wang,Brinkworth, & Eccles, 2012), effective class-room management (Marzano, Marzano, & Pick-ering, 2003), and the effective implementationof social and emotional learning (SEL) pro-grams (Brock, Nishida, Chiong, Grimm, &Rimm-Kaufman, 2008; Durlak, Weissberg,Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011) are re-lated to both classroom climate and studentoutcomes.

    For example, supportive teacherstudent re-lationships play an important role in students

    Figure 1. A Model of Teacher Well-Being and Social and Emotional Competence, Support,and Classroom and Student Outcomes. From Jennings, P. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). Theprosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student andclassroom outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 79, 491525. Reprinted with permis-sion from SAGE Publications, Inc.

    375IMPROVING CLASSROOM LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

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  • feelings of connectedness to school and boththeir academic and social-emotional outcomes(Abbott et al., 2002; Gambone, Klem, & Con-nell, 2002; McNeely, Nonnemaker, & Blum,2002; Osher et al., 2007). When teachers holdpositive attitudes toward students and build astrong sense of community among their stu-dents, problem behaviors decline and on-taskbehaviors increase (Battistich, Schaps, Watson,Solomon, & Lewis, 1997; Solomon, Battistich,Watson, Schaps, & Lewis, 2000). Furthermore,evidence suggests that this link is bidirectional(Houts, Caspi, Pianta, Arseneault, & Moffitt,2010).

    Research has also demonstrated links be-tween teachers psychosocial characteristicsand the critical elements of the prosocial class-room model. Several studies have found signif-icant relationships between teachers psychoso-cial characteristics and classroom climate. Forexample, in a study that examined 730 kinder-garten classrooms, teacher psychological vari-ables were stronger predictors of classroomquality than were teacher educational attain-ment and experience (La Paro et al., 2009).Furthermore, de Schipper, Riksen-Walraven,Geurts, and Derksen (2008) reported thatteacher positive mood was positively related tohigh quality caregiving among a sample of 238early childhood educators. In our previouswork, we found relationships among depressivesymptoms and all three dimensions of theCLASS measure of classroom climate (Pianta,La Paro, & Hamre, 2003) among a sample of 35preschool teachers (Jennings & Snowberg,2009). Depressive symptomology was signifi-cantly negatively correlated with emotionalsupport, organization, and instructional support.Positive affect, self-compassion, depersonaliza-tion, teaching efficacy, and mindfulness werepositively correlated with emotional climate.Other research has found support for the bidi-rectionality of this link (Byrne, 1994).

    Teacher Stress

    Teachers must employ a high degree of SECto successfully manage the social and emo