Most Social-Emotional Learning companies advertise their programs as grounded in empirical research. After all, curricula based on obsolete, discredited evidence – or informed by none at all – are a gamble. With scarce resources and high expectations, schools don’t want to take chances on programming that isn’t backed by the latest findings. But what lies beneath the marketing copy of “evidence-based” and “data-driven” curricula varies dramatically.

When Respectful Ways describes its practices as “research-based,” we’re committing ourselves to purposes, personnel, processes, and pedagogies that follow scientific research and best practices in education.

Purposes: We support a holistic approach to social emotional learning that integrates creativity, discussion, play, and social involvement. Following the moral ecology FACETS framework developed by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture along with work from Ron Miller, we seek transformation over mere transmission of information. To accomplish this, we design activities that develop responsibility and respect within a classroom community and outside it.

Personnel: Our curriculum writers are all teachers trained in educational theory and seasoned by classroom experience. They bring this expertise to bear on their lesson planning. As they design activities, they anchor their programming in the latest scientific research and pedagogical strategies. Each module includes resources for educators to explore the topic further.

Processes: We are dedicated to developing curriculum that works for our schools. That’s why we test our modules in pilot institutions, have them evaluated by researchers (most recently by a group from Georgia State University), request teacher feedback after every module is taught, and then respond to teacher feedback by updating modules and supplements when needed. The benefit of an online program is that we’re constantly updating and improving our product – for you – based on what we’re hearing – from you. We take the time and effort to respond to the gathered data to ensure that our product has proven effectiveness.

Pedagogies: The heart of our program is lesson planning structured to promote ease of use and student discovery in the classroom. Using a variety of media, our curriculum engages all the senses and intelligences. We carefully calibrate it to meet curricular standards and integrate with initiatives like PBIS. Every unit includes an interactive, multi-media e-course, classroom signage, teacher’s supplements to guide instruction, and resources for further education in the subject matter.

Activities have a clearly-articulated objective and rationale, an introduction (usually consisting of interactive Q&A, a short video and/or discussion) and an activity to galvanize learning. A “wrap” puts the activity in perspective, prompting meta-cognitive reflection. Each activity concludes with students reciting the unit’s promise together, creating resolve and solidarity in the class.

Respectful Ways Activities:

Because we seek to transform habits of students and not just transfer information to them, we use three practices to design all our activities, helping students to internalize their own motivation:

1. Analysis – What does this mean?
2. Accountability – What have I experienced like this before?
3. Action – How can I use this in my life?


Sources used in our research:

Clark, Jr., Edward. Designing and Implementing an Integrated Curriculum: A Student-Centered Approach. Brandon, VT: Holistic Education Press, 1997.

Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.

Gardner, Howard. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds. Cambridge: Harvard Business Review Press, 2006.

Gay, Lorraine R. and Geoffrey E. Mills. Educational Research: Competencies for Analysis and Applications. 11th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2011.

Kist, William R. The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2009.

Miller, Ron.What Are Schools For? Holistic Education in American Culture. Brandon, VT: Holistic Education Press, 1999.

Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. 2006. New York: Berkeley Books, 2006.

Tough, Paul. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Boston: Mariner, 2013.