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Support for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) in mainstream primary school classrooms: a systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions

What do we want to know?

Supporting children who are deemed to have 'emotional or behavioural difficulties' (EBD) or 'social, emotional and behavioural difficulties' (SEBD) within mainstream classrooms raises interesting issues for the intersection of behaviour management policies, inclusive schooling and the drive for raising academic standards.  This review assesses the effectiveness of different strategies for supporting children with EBD in mainstream primary classrooms in ways that facilitate teaching and learning for all children.

Who wants to know?

School staff (e.g. teachers, special educational needs co-ordinators), trainee teachers, initial teacher education providers, parents and children.

What did we find?  

  • Behavioural strategies such as the use of rewards for good behaviour were found to have positive effects on reducing disruptive and off-task behaviour.
  • One programme teaching children a self-instruction technique to monitor their own behaviour was effective.  Other strategies using similar cognitive-behavioural techniques, which take account of the capacity of individuals to understand and reflect on their behaviour, require further evaluation.
  • A range of cognitive-behavioural strategies for reducing aggression or improving social skills was found to have immediate positive effects but no long-term effects.
  • Changing seating arrangements for pupils from groups to rows had a positive impact on time on task.
  • The use of Circle Time as a way of improving behaviour needs more evaluation.
  • Issues considered to be important in relation to implementing strategies were: (according to teachers) simplicity and acceptability, consistency across the school and avoiding 'top-down' implementation; and (according to children) consulting and listening to children.

What are the implications?

The interventions listed above have been shown to work by at least one reliable evaluation.  More research is needed in relation to other interventions.

How did we get these results?

Twenty-eight outcome evaluations were included in the review, of which eighteen were from the US and four from the UK.  It includes reports published up to 1999.  A later report covers evaluations published between 1999 and 2002.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This review should be cited as: Evans J, Harden A, Thomas J, Benefield P (2003) Support for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) in mainstream primary classrooms: a systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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