Document Type


Conference Title

2022 Central Valley Region Interdisciplinary Symposium on Education Research


UC Merced


Merced, CA

Conference Dates

July 22-24, 2022

Date of Presentation



Today’s elementary school students face myriad traumatic issues including poverty, violence, physical and emotional abuse, homelessness, and parental substance abuse.

These adverse childhood experiences are responsible for an increased risk of academic failure and behavioral problems in childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood. Social-emotional learning (SEL) programs, provided through school and community partnerships, attempt to address these needs in both school-based and out-of-school-time (OST) learning settings. The purpose of this action research study was to examine one northern California-based nonprofit organization’s OST SEL program for elementary students and determine actions and interventions for greater program effectiveness.

Students, parent/guardians, site administrators, school-staff, and community members engaged in focus groups, completed surveys, participated in validation groups, and acted as research associates throughout the iterative plan, act, observe, reflect cycle. Qualitative data included identified themes from authenticated and coded transcripts while quantitative data included descriptive statistical analysis of participant surveys.

Based on themes and data trends, as well as the application of self-determination theory’s basic psychological needs satisfaction mini-theory, findings demonstrate that student self-management skills improved during the 4-week action research cycle, as did their sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Findings also suggest growth opportunities in the areas of responsible decision-making and program improvement through development and implementation of integrated and universal SEL supports in classrooms, schools, families, and the larger community.

Recommendations for future action research cycles include age and developmental considerations regarding instruction and application of responsible decision-making skills, and integration of all five SEL competencies. There is also a call for implementation of partnerships between schools, families, and community organizations for resource coordination. By focusing on continuous improvement through an ongoing action research process, this study advances the work of the northern California-based nonprofit organization and its programs and offers a model for other organizations seeking positive youth outcomes.