What Constitutes High-Quality Implementation of SEL Programs? A Latent Class Analysis of Second Step® Implementation

Sabina Low, Keith Smolkowski, Clay Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


With the increased number of schools adopting social-emotional learning (SEL) programming, there is increased emphasis on the role of implementation in obtaining desired outcomes. Despite this, the current knowledge of the active ingredients of SEL programming is lacking, and there is a need to move from a focus on “whether” implementation matters to “what” aspects of implementation matter. To address this gap, the current study utilizes a latent class approach with data from year 1 of a randomized controlled trial of Second Step® (61 schools, 321 teachers, over 7300 students). Latent classes of implementation were identified, then used to predict student outcomes. Teachers reported on multiple dimensions of implementation (adherence, dosage, competency), as well as student outcomes. Observational data were also used to assess classroom behavior (academic engagement and disruptive behavior). Results suggest that a three-class model fits the data best, labeled as high-quality, low-engagement, and low-adherence classes. Only the low-engagement class showed significant associations with poorer outcomes, when compared to the high-quality class (not the low-adherence class). Findings are discussed in terms of implications for program development and implementation science more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-991
Number of pages11
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by Committee for Children, a non-profit organization in Seattle, WA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Society for Prevention Research.


  • Early intervention
  • Fidelity
  • Implementation
  • Social-emotional learning


Dive into the research topics of 'What Constitutes High-Quality Implementation of SEL Programs? A Latent Class Analysis of Second Step® Implementation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this