Examining the Efficacy of RULER on School Climate, Teacher Well-Being, Classroom Climate and Student Outcomes


The RULER research study examines the efficacy of the RULER program in elementary school grades K-6. The RULER program teaches emotional intelligence skills by providing instruction in Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotion. The program embeds four essential anchor tools into school routine practices: 1) a charter based on how adults and children want school to feel, 2) a mood meter to support emotional awareness, 3) the meta-moment meant to help teachers and students handle strong emotions and 4) the blueprint, an approach to resolving conflict. RULER is unique compared to most social and emotional learning (SEL) programs in that it is designed to improve the SEL competencies of the adults in schools before working to improve student SEL skills. RULER recognizes that teaching involves “emotional labor” and offers support for teachers and other adults in schools to improve adult well-being. 

Starting in 2018, the University of Virginia will conduct the largest study of RULER to date. The research, led by Jason Downer (PI) and Sara Rimm-Kaufman (co-PI), will be conducted as a randomized controlled trial of 60 schools—involving more than 800 classrooms and 5,000 students over four years—in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse school district. This will help the research team to examine the extent to which RULER is more effective for some students than others.

The study will address the following key research questions:

  • Does RULER improve school climate, teacher well-being, classroom climate and students’ social, emotional and academic outcomes?
  • Does RULER matter more for some students than others? For instance, does the impact of RULER differ depending on the demographic characteristics of the schools?
    • Is RULER more effective at schools with more students from poor families?
    • Does RULER matter more at schools with a high percentage of students learning English?
    • Does RULER matter more at schools with more students initially low in their social and emotional skills?
  • If RULER works, how? What role does school climate, teacher well-being and/or classroom climate play in producing student gains?

Project Status: 2018 - 2023

Funding Source: U.S. Department Of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Percent Federally Funded: 100%

Principal Investigators: Jason Downer (PI), Sara Rimm-Kaufman (Co-PI)