Areas: Clinical Psychology / Intradisciplinary Health
Phone: 848-445-2444 / 5-2056
Building: Tillett Hall 431 / 402, 404
The unifying themes in my action-research, clinical work, and policy/advocacy are the development of positive, constructive life paths for children and youth and the organization of opportunities to allow this to happen in equitable ways. This has brought me into areas such as social-emotional learning (SEL), its more recent variation, social-emotional and character development (SECD), emotional intelligence, social competence promotion, character education, primary prevention, school-based, evidence-based intervention, and socialization of identity. It has also brought my work increasingly into the areas of implementation and sustainability of interventions, and cutting edge issues such as the link of SECD and academics and the distinguishing features of sustainable, versus well-implemented, empirically supported innovations. Finally, I have most recently begun to work in the area of promoting civic engagement among Rutgers University students via the creation of a Collaborative for Public Scholarship, Civic Engagement, and Community Wellness.
I have worked to establish the field of prevention, school-based preventive intervention, an social competence promotion as a credible, important, and rigorous area of research, practice, and public policy. To accomplish the latter, collaborative models are necessary, as are programs of longitudinal, synergistic action-research with an explicit eye to practice and policy. Thus, I have organized my work within the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab (http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~melias/ and www.teachSECD.com). The Lab is dedicated to conducting action-research in public, private, and religious school settings for the purpose of building children’s skills for facing the tests of life, and not a life of tests. It focuses on understanding the relationship of academic achievement, social-emotion competencies, and the development of character and a core set of life principles, and the development of school-based interventions to strengthen social-emotion skills , character, and one’s Laws of Life, and prevent bullying, violence and victimization, substance abuse, and related problem behaviors.
Projects of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab focus on students and their school, family, and community environments. We employ a project-based, constructivist and inquiry-oriented social-learning approach to pedagogy and a developmental ecological-community psychology approach to understanding settings and designing, delivering, and evaluating interventions. In addition, we carry out applied research related to bullying/youth violence, victimization, character development and identity, spirituality, purpose, and forgiveness, social-emotional and social decision making skills, social support, classroom organization, management, and discipline, test anxiety and motivation, menschlekheit development in schools and families, Jewish education, emotional intelligence, and the design, implementation, and sustainability of preventive interventions.
Current projects include:
1. Developing Safe and Civil Schools
2. Improving School Climate for Academic and Life Success
3. Laws of Life and Social-Emotional Learning in the Schools: A Longitudinal Action-Research Project
4. Implementation and Sustainability of School-Based Interventions
5. Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving Curriculum and Computer Lab in Highland Park, NJ
6. Jewish Adolescent Identity Project
7. Assessment and Improvement of Civic Engagement
8. Social-Emotional Learning and Academic Achievement/Closing Achievement Gaps Project
9. Empowerment , Leadership, and Service-Learning Groups for At-Risk Girls and Boys
Please find below a description a major area of focus in the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab. Both graduate and undergraduate students play a significant role in these and related projects and they are conceptualized as action-research projects, which means there is a field component as well.
Thanks for your interest!- Maurice J. Elias
The Development, Implementation, and Dissemination of Laws of Life and Related Empowerment-Oriented Interventions around Promoting Youth Competence, Purpose, and Voice
Brief History and Mission:
The Laws of Life (LOL) program is a process that challenges young people of all ages to discover for themselves the core values and moral principles that will guide them throughout life. LOL activities emphasize reflection and writing. They encourage students to think about the people and experiences that have helped to shape their values in positive ways. Students are challenged to take a stand for what they believe in and then build the skills needed to communicate their beliefs in a clear and compelling manner. Plainfield, NJ, an Abbott district, was the first in NJ to carry out LOL, via an essay. Over seven years, working with a research team from Rutgers, Plainfield has developed and implemented variations of LOL designed to tap into the multiple intelligences of high-risk students. Working through different modalities (such as art, dance, poetry, music, as well as writing), all of the LOL programs encourage students to think deeply about their values and character, critical to developing the social and emotional learning (SEL) skills to help students be successful in school and in life. Plainfield has been a national leader in developing programs to provide high-risk, urban students in elementary, middle, and high school with ways to get in touch with, express, and live their Laws of Life. These programs continue to be developed, with projects under way in Israel and at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. In addition, we have a large data base of student Laws of Life essays awaiting innovative analysis, both in terms of their own linguistic, values, and affective content and, in some cases, as can be linked to students’ behavioral and academic data.
Current efforts include an active collaboration with colleagues in Israel to bring Laws of Life interventions, known in Hebrew as “Meaning and Purpose of Life,” to schools for Jewish and Israeli Arab students in Israel. We are working with data from the 2-year pilot study and seeking funding to substantially expand this work, involving Arab students outside of Israel. We welcome collaborators in this action-research innovation.
Relatedly, we have undertaken small group in-school and after-school strengths-oriented interventions focused around community service/service learning as a vehicle for youth skill building, competence enhancement, empowerment, leadership development, problem behavior prevention, and risk reduction, using a constructivist and CBT-oriented theoretical and pedagogical structure. Our signature program is “GLO”—Girls Leading Outward, named by the youth involved in the program. In 2011, we began a version for boys, with the acronym SHINE. (Seeking Higher Intelligence Now Empowered). Here, there are many action-research opportunities.