We propose to implement the RCT in Mexico through the NGO Jóvenes Ayudando a Niñas y Niños A.C. JANN is an organization that manages a free tutoring program that connects about K-12 students, with grades ranging from 1st to 9th, with university students that provide Math tutoring online. Tutors and students meet twice weekly for one hour from 12 to 24 weeks. We are concerned with measuring the impact of a social and emotional learning intervention on math learning. The intervention consists of 8 modules of social and emotional learning material based on RULER (Hoffmann, Brackett, Bailey Willner,2020).
In a previous RCT we documented learning gains in math associated with receiving the additional SEL curriculum.
This RCT follows up and aims to answer two policy relevant research questions.
What is the opportunity cost of devoting instruction time to SEL rather than other subjects, for example Math. The intervention comes at the cost of sacrificing instructional time that would have been devoted to math in the absence of the intervention. Do the benefits brought by SEL outweigh the costs?
What channel is driving the effects in learning derived from the SEL intervention? This can help understand the optimal delivery of SEL content to obtain the maximum benefits derived from SEL.We hypothesize that there may be three channels driving the effects observed, each of which has different policy implications for better implementation.
H1 SEL activities yield higher learning through the change they cause in the tutor-student relationship. Creating a climate of trust in the class, improving the relationship between the tutor and the students, and potentially increasing rapport. This is important because SEL would benefit most if taught by teachers who also teach other classes instead of specialized SEL teachers.
H2 SEL activities yield higher learning through the change they cause on the tutors' skills. The tutors who learned SEL improved their emotional intelligence. By improving these skills, they became more aware of their students’ needs, and thus, they became better teachers. In this case, SEL interventions could be delivered directly to teachers through professional development and would not need to reduce instruction time devoted to other subjects.
H3 SEL activities yield higher learning through the change they cause in the students. The students under the SEL condition, improved their emotional intelligence, and made the class easier to teach. This allowed the tutor to enjoy the class more and thus invest more effort. This would imply that teaching kids socioemotional skills can benefit them in Math learning regardless of who teaches SEL and that there are possibly spillover effects in other disciplines. In this case, the opportunity cost is more likely to be outweighed by the benefits observed in other classes.