Following is a discussion of the measurement tools we used in our Peace of Mind Pilot Schools Study for the school year 2017-2018. Thanks to Dr. Laura Feagans Gould for her excellent work in guiding the study and analyzing results. The discussion of each measure below is excerpted from her summary report.
Student Surveys: Early Childhood
Teachers completed the Student Behavior Rubric by Kinder Associates, LLC (2007) which assesses four areas or domains of student behavior regulation in the classroom: Mental (e.g. paying attention), Emotional (e.g. self-calming and control), Physical (e.g. self-regulation & physical participation in activities), and Social (e.g. care and respect for others). We chose this brief measure because it aligned with PoM areas of focus and has been used in previously published studies of school-based mindfulness programs (see Black & Fernando, 2014) while respecting the competing time demands of teachers.
Student Surveys: Grades 3-5
Survey Administrator Script for Grades 1-5
Core SEL Competencies. Students in grades 3-5 self-reported on several core SEL competencies that PoM targets: their ability to notice and manage emotions (emotion regulation), their ability to pay attention and refocus their attention when needed (mindful attention), and their ability to solve conflicts constructively (conflict resolution). In addition, students reported on their understanding of the related neuroscience (brain knowledge) and their perception of a compassionate school climate (measured by a school kindness scale). We provide further rationale for and detail of each measure below.
Emotion Regulation. Emotion regulation is multi-faceted and has been defined as one’s ability to successfully regulate or manage emotions (particularly negative ones) in order to be able to stay on-task or get along with others (Cakins & Fox, 2002). There are no validated scales for children in elementary school (below 4th grade) and younger because it is difficult for children to reflect on and express knowledge of their own regulatory abilities. Although teacher- or parent-report or lab tasks provide higher quality direct assessments of self-regulation in children (Raver et. al, 2012), Peace of Mind did not have the resources to administer such time consuming and costly measures. Given the centrality of emotion regulation to PoM’s theory of action, however, we chose to co-create six items that captured students’ perceived ability to notice and manage emotions in simple language.
Mindful Attention. Typically thought of as open or receptive awareness of and attention to what is taking place in the present moment (Brown & Ryan, 2003), mindful attention is a core skill PoM trains. We had limited choices given there are no validated measures of mindful attention for children below grade four. Therefore, we used 5 items from the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale adapted for Children: MAAS-C (Lawlor et al., 2014) because it is one of two mindful measures that has been validated on children in grades four through seven. We adapted the 5 items from the MAAS-C with the highest factor loadings that are relevant to what POM targets to make language more simple and adjusted response scale to make less gradated for younger kids. Students rated on a scale from 0 “Disagree” to 4 “Agree” how much they are able to pay attention and refocus their attention. We dropped one item at post-test to shorten the survey and because it was not correlating well with other items.
School Kindness. We chose the School Kindness Scale (Binfet et al., 2016), a 5-item measure validated for grades four through eight, which assesses student perceptions of kindness in school. Students rated on a scale from 0 “Disagree a lot” to 4 “Agree a lot” how much indicators of kindness occur in their school.
Teacher Survey Instruments
Teachers completed a voluntary, online survey at the beginning and end of the school year.
Rating of School Engagement and Level of Support Received
Because the quality of program implementation is so important across all SEL curriculum (Durlak & Dupre, 2008), we categorized new schools into High, Moderate, and Low levels of Engagement and Support based on how engaged they were with POM staff and how much support and training they received during the school year. We created a rubric with four indicators of engagement and four indicators of support based on objective activities that occurred throughout the school year.