A new study from Housman Institute shows that begin to…ECSEL —an emotional, cognitive, and social early learning program for children from birth—quantifiably improves emotional competence, self-regulation, empathy and other critical emotional, cognitive and social skills that are foundational to emotional intelligence.
The study, published in the November issue of the International Journal of Emotional Education, comes amid a proliferation of research on the importance of promoting these critical skills in early childhood and a notable absence of evidence-based programs that quantifiably improve them from birth – until now.
"Publication of our study is very significant as it helps to inform what makes for quality early childhood education at a time when there is growing recognition globally around the vital importance of children's early years and the foundational skills young children need for school readiness, mental health, lifelong learning and success," says study lead author and clinical psychologist Dr. Donna Housman, founder of Beginnings School and Child Development Center and Housman Institute, an early childhood training, advocacy and research organization that trains educators, parents and caregivers in begin to…ECSEL.
Co-authoring the study with Dr. Housman are Dr. Howard Cabral, Professor of Biostatistics and Co-Director of the Biostatistics Graduate Program at Boston University School of Health, and Dr. Susanne Denham, Professor Emeritus at George Mason University and a leading expert on social and emotional development in young children.
The study compared end-of-year performance of students who received the begin to…ECSEL program at Housman Institute lab school, Beginnings Child Development Center against normative samples on measures of emotion knowledge, initiative, self-regulation, attachment, empathy and reactions to frustration. The study also examined the growth of Beginnings School students, aged 3 mos. to 6 yrs., from the start of the school year to the end to determine change in these constructs after receiving the intervention approach.
The study consisted of 100 children, and data was collected and assessed through a battery of valid and reliable psychometric measures. Among notable findings were significant outperformance of Beginnings students post-intervention against the national norm in self-regulation, relationships, initiative, and attachment and against normative samples addressing aggressive behaviors, pro-social skills such as empathy, and other skills associated with emotional competence. Also significant were improvements after intervention in emotion regulation/pro-social skills, self-regulation, attachment and initiative.
Relevance of Findings
Study results have both national and global early childhood education policy implications. Recent advances in neuroscience suggest that the foundational skills of emotional intelligence--which include self-regulation, empathy and other emotional and pro-social skills—are best promoted prior to age 6 during a period of neuroplasticity in which ninety percent of the brain is developed. These competencies are understood to improve learning outcomes globally, as supported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)'s recent introduction of the "Baby PISA" that measures 5 year olds globally on self-regulation, empathy, pre-literacy, and pre-numeracy.
The introduction of the "Baby Pisa" also follows findings collected through the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that shows that children who have attended high quality early learning programs tend to score higher at reading at age 15, are better prepared for school, and tend to perform higher academically. To Housman Institute's knowledge, begin to ...ECSEL is the first prevention, promotion, and intervention early childhood program that has been shown to quantifiably improve these critical foundational competencies.