$3.5 million grant helps teachers help students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Improving the well being of teachers so they can better support their students is the goal of a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences to a Penn State researcher.

The study will test a professional development program, called CARE for Teachers (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education), developed, in part, by Patricia Jennings, research assistant professor in the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development at Penn State and the current project's principal investigator.

According to Jennings, emotional stress is a growing problem among teachers.

"Teachers often have problems managing their behavior when they get upset by challenging student behaviors," said Jennings. "When this happens, they may resort to punitive and harsh responses, which can lead to power struggles with children and derail learning."

She noted that about 50 percent of teachers leave the profession after only five years, often because they are frustrated by the time they spend dealing with behavior problems in the classroom. "Through the CARE program, we are helping teachers become more self-aware so they can better handle their students," Jennings said. "We hope this intervention will lower the number of teachers leaving the profession and increase the number of positive role models in our education system."

CARE provides teachers with emotion skills instruction, mindfulness/stress reduction practices to promote self-regulation of attention and non-judgmental awareness, and caring and listening practices to promote empathy and compassion. The goal is to enhance teachers' social and emotional competence, teaching efficacy and mindfulness, resulting in better-organized classrooms that provide both instructional and emotional support to students.

Jennings and Mark Greenberg, director of the Prevention Research Center will use teacher self-report questionnaires, observational ratings of teachers and classrooms, teacher reports on students and student school records to test the direct effects of the CARE program on teachers and classrooms as well as on students' behavior and academic achievement. The researchers will include approximately 256 teachers and approximately 20 students per teacher/classroom in 32 New York public elementary schools in its study.

CARE for Teachers is part of the Garrison Institute's Initiative on Contemplation and Education of which Jennings is a senior director. More information about the Garrison Institute is available at: www.garrisoninstitute.org/education.

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Last Updated April 26, 2012