Youth who participate in after-school programs that feature evidence-based training methods and content to improve personal and social skills show considerable progress when compared to their peers, according to new study from a research group based at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The report produced by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) showed that youth programs were most successful at improving youth outcomes when their activities were sequenced, active, focused, and explicit, or SAFE.
“These results are important because they show that some, but not all, after-school programs are beneficial,” said Roger P. Weissberg, UIC professor of psychology and education and director of CASEL, and the study’s co-author. “Our systematic review identifies the importance of promoting students’ personal and social skills as part of these efforts.”
Weissberg and co-author Joseph A. Durlak, professor of clinical psychology at Loyola University Chicago, also found youth who participate in after-school programs that feature each component of the SAFE program improve significantly in three key areas: feelings and attitudes, indicators of behavioral adjustment, and school performance.
“Participation in well-run and well-designed after-school programs improved children’s positive social behavior, attitudes about school, grades, and achievement test scores. It also reduced problem behaviors like aggression and drug use,” Weissberg noted.