Meet the Makers of Our New Middle School Program

Tia Kim, PhD Vice President of Education, Research & Impact

middle school, SEL, social emotional learning, online learning, second step

Creating social-emotional learning (SEL) programs that deliver positive outcomes for large numbers of students requires (1) user-friendly lessons that teachers can easily fit into their schedule and deliver without extensive training, and (2) content that is engaging for students and based on the latest research.

If we’re going to create positive impacts for students, our programs have to be both widely used and effective.

For programs to be adopted and used at scale, they have to be school-friendly. That means programs that are designed with a deep understanding of the realities of schools and classrooms and the challenges that teachers face. As a result, we at Committee for Children are constantly evolving our delivery methods and lesson design. The latest result of that process is the new digitally delivered Second Step Middle School Program.

But digital delivery that makes the curriculum easy to teach at scale is only part of the challenge. Even when another part of the challenge is making sure those lessons also successfully engage student interest, the job is not done. The final key piece to achieving student impact at scale is effective content.

How do we figure out what content will positively impact students and achieve the social and emotional aims of the program? Simply put, the most reliable guide is science.

The first edition of the Second Step Middle School Program was released in 1990. In the 26 years since then, research on adolescent development, social-emotional learning, and school-based interventions has grown immensely. Studies have shown that the content in older and current versions of the Second Step Program improves student outcomes. But our goal in revising the Second Step Program is always to improve the program, not just give it a face-lift.

Creating an effective new version of the Second Step Program requires surveying, translating, and synthesizing new research, then boiling that knowledge down into simple strategies and content that can be delivered through engaging lessons.

What’s that process like? Scientific research papers are typically written for other researchers and often conclude by suggesting what the next research project should be. Sometimes the process seems like searching for actionable needles in haystacks of basic science. But search we do, and the new Second Step Middle School Program incorporates cutting-edge research across a range of topics.

Want to know more? Keep an eye out for the next blog on the making of the new Second Step Middle School Program.