Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Fall 1-8-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Ann Cale Kruger

Second Advisor

Namisi Chilungu

Third Advisor

Joel Meyers

Fourth Advisor

Maggie Renken

Fifth Advisor

Brian Williams


This two-part paper considers the relationship of research to practice when developing and implementing school-based social-emotional learning (SEL) programs.

The first chapter reviews conventional implementation values for SEL. Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, educators have been tasked with bringing research findings to the classroom (Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 2015). The emphasis on research-informed instruction has brought teaching into the arena of implementation science, a field typically associated with interventions in health care (Bauer, Damschroder, Hagedorn, Smith, & Kilbourne, 2015; Biesta, 2007). The migration of implementation science concepts to education is evident in federal and state documents where terms like fidelity and response to intervention (RtI) describe teaching and learning (ESSA, 2015; NCLB, 2003; Georgia Department of Education SST Resource Manual, 2011). But for educators adopting SEL interventions—interventions which are value-laden, occur in messy environments, and can be difficult to reliably measure—fidelity may be an ill-equipped guide.

I propose reciprocity is an alternative to fidelity, based on its congruence with a complex systems framework of learning, and the growing field of improvement science (Bryk, 2016; Jacobson, Kapur, & Reimann, 2016; Lewis, 2015). With the understanding that successful collaborations require structures that maximize the expertise of both researchers and educators, I offer markers (and risks) of reciprocity to stimulate conversation about implementation integrity for SEL.

The second chapter is a case study (Stake, 1995) of an unscripted SEL intervention led by two Black men for ten adolescent Black boys. The case offers a naturalistic picture of how resistance and accommodation to stereotypes permeate reasoning about social competence for Black boys and men (García Coll et al., 2006; Rogers & Way, 2018). There is scant attention in traditional SEL programs to how adults interpret and pass on particular social competencies that grow up around experiences of bias. The intervention presented here offers an example. It was developed to address concerns about sexualized behavior among boys and girls at a middle school, using a Participatory, Culture-Specific Intervention Model (PC-SIM) (Varjas et al., 2006). Following Gilligan and Eddy’s (2017) Listening Guide, I found the men's talk focused on concern for the boys’ safety. Their talk was characterized by survival-oriented resistance to stereotypes about Black male criminality (Ward, 2018) and an embrace of traditional masculinity, to the detriment of considering alternative ways of relating to girls. As an example of a collaborative SEL intervention, the case offers a foretaste of blind spots and questions that may arise when university-driven research interacts with event-sensitive, community-generated goals.


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