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Improving Elementary Students Social-Emotional Health through an After-School Mentorship Physical Activity Program

Roberts, Lisa Marie (2022) Improving Elementary Students Social-Emotional Health through an After-School Mentorship Physical Activity Program. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Children’s poor social-emotional functioning has been an increasing concern prior to and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Childhood and adolescence are critical stages of life where they acquire key cognitive and social-emotional skills that shape their future mental health. When a student’s social-emotional health suffers, so do their relationships, academics, and physical health. The theory of improvement hypothesized that students’ social-emotional health can be improved via fostering trusting relationships, boosting self-esteem, and promoting healthy role models and positive adult-child relationships. To address the problem of practice, the primary investigator implemented a social-emotional learning (SEL)-infused, 8-week physical activity after-school program with a strong mentor/role model component. The following inquiry questions guided this dissertation in practice project: 1) How does students’ social-emotional health change after participating the after-school social-emotional learning-infused physical activity program? And 2) What are faculty, staff, and parent perceptions of the impact of a social-emotional learninginfused physical activity program on third grade students? Measures included time sample observations during the program of n=7 at-risk students with behavioral or emotional challenges, field notes compiled by the primary investigator throughout the program, and focus groups with key stakeholders (i.e., n=8 teachers, n=8 parents, and n=12 mentors) conducted post-program. The patterns in changes of student behavior over time were reported as case-study narratives for each observed student. Focus group transcripts and field notes were coded using content analysis v method and analyzed for key categories and themes. Overall, students’ time sample data showed positive improvements in social-emotional health as well as on-task behavior. Three themes were identified in the qualitative data, including: 1) Growing and thriving together: benefits of the afterschool program 2) Trial and error: reflecting on what went well and didn’t go well in the program and 3) Onward and upward: Fine tuning the program for the future. This program demonstrated initial success for improvements in 3 rd grade children’s social-emotional health. Implications for practice include improved training for all stakeholders in social-emotional learning, inclusion of mentorship, and additional administrative buy-in, including logistical support and funding. Future research can investigate the effect on mentor and student overall mental health and academic achievement.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Roberts, Lisa Marielmr103@pitt.edulmr103
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRoss,
Committee MemberFarmer,
Committee MemberCoughenour,
Date: 2 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 July 2022
Approval Date: 2 September 2022
Submission Date: 8 August 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 91
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Health and Physical Activity
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social-emotional health, mentoring, physical activity, socialization
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2022 18:56
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2022 18:56


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