BEST in CLASS

BEST in CLASS is designed to help people who interact with young children, including practitioners and caregivers, to encourage their social-emotional learning and development. When young children enter early childhood classrooms, most of them learn the social-emotional skills needed to actively engage in classroom activities and get along with practitioners and friends. Some children need additional support to learn how to follow classroom expectations and routines, participate in classroom activities and play with their friends. Caregivers and family members play an important role in fostering their children’s social-emotional skills at home and in the community. When children learn these social-emotional skills at school or home, they experience positive relationships with their practitioners, friends and family members which optimizes their early learning experiences and their future.

BEST in CLASS is nationally recognized as an evidence-based intervention. Since 2008, the Anita Zucker Center and BEST in CLASS research partners have received continuous support from federal sponsors. Our research focuses on enhancing practitioners’ and caregivers’ use of supportive practices to teach young children important social-emotional skills as part of their everyday learning opportunities.

How It Works

Practitioners use the BEST in CLASS practices within everyday classroom activities to help provide additional support to individual children who are learning how to follow classroom expectations and get along with their friends. Using the BEST in CLASS practices helps individual children learn foundational social-emotional skills and they are more likely to respond positively to the practitioner. As a result, the relationship between the practitioner and child becomes more positive. 

Over time as practitioners continue to use BEST in CLASS practices, positive relationships continue to strengthen, leading to a more positive learning environment and engagement.  Practitioners also partner with children’s caregivers to create shared goals and support families’ engagement in their child’s learning and development.

“I just loved watching [the children in my class] be happy about learning and be willing to engage and be excited about the outcomes when they felt like they had done better on their work than the week before. …and that was because of the tools I was getting from BEST in CLASS.”

BEST in CLASS practitioner

Center Priorities

Generating Knowledge
Research on BEST in CLASS has led to its identification as an effective program by the National Institute of Justice and meets the criteria of the What Works Clearinghouse, Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education.

Engaging with Partners
Our work on BEST in CLASS has engaged local, state and national partners to include BEST in CLASS with practitioners and children in their early childhood classrooms.

Preparing Leaders
Future leaders in early childhood studies and related fields at the University of Florida and our partnering institutions of higher education have participated in BEST in CLASS since 2008.

Making an Impact
BEST in CLASS has made impacts across the United States, including Florida, Virginia, Colorado, California and Canada.

“I’ve been teaching for 20 years, and this was one of my biggest years in growth I felt as a teacher. I cannot wait to start the school year with the BEST in CLASS practices in place on the first day of school.”

BEST in CLASS practitioner

Impact

  • Early childhood practitioners increase their use of BEST in CLASS practices with young children who need extra social-emotional support.
  • When practitioners use BEST in CLASS practices, young children in their classrooms are more engaged, experience positive interactions with their practitioners and friends, and have fewer challenging behaviors.
  • BEST in CLASS improves the overall learning environment and engagement for individual children in the classroom, which has a positive impact for everyone.
  • Practitioners who use BEST in CLASS say they are more confident in their teaching abilities and they learn new ways to support children in their classrooms.
  • Family members increase their partnerships with their children’s practitioners.

“BEST in CLASS allowed me to build really strong relationships with [children in my class] and with their families. And that was really helpful in getting them to trust me and just establishing that bond, which made them work so much harder for me in the classroom.”

BEST in CLASS practitioner

“[BEST in CLASS] especially helped [the children in my class] that just need a little extra. A little extra love, a little extra attention. And it really helps them shine. I saw a huge difference in their behavior from the beginning to the end.”

BEST in CLASS practitioner

Our Work in BEST in CLASS

Effectiveness Replication of the BEST in CLASS Intervention for Young Children at High Risk for Delays in Social or Emotional Development
This project examines the effectiveness of BEST in CLASS – Pre-K (R324A080074), a Tier 2 intervention designed to prevent and reduce challenging behaviors and promote social-emotional learning in children ages 3–5 years old. The BEST in CLASS intervention will be implemented in Head Start centers with teachers and children who have social-emotional learning challenges across three states: California, Florida, and Virginia. Findings will provide information about the effectiveness of BEST in CLASS when implemented by early childhood teachers and factors that might influence positive social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes for children and their families.

Read the IES abstract here.

  • Funding Source: Institute of Education Sciences
  • Funding Period: 9/1/2021 – 8/31/2026
  • Funding Number: R324R210005

Team:

  • Carl Sumi, Principal Investigator, SRI International
  • Michelle Woodbridge, Co-Principal Investigator, SRI International
  • Maureen Conroy, Principal Investigator, University of Florida (subcontract)
  • Kevin Sutherland, Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth (subcontract)
BEST in CLASS: Multi-level Determinants of Implementation and Sustainment in the Education Sector

This project focuses on identifying factors that support the sustained use of the BEST in CLASS intervention practices in early elementary classroom settings. The team works with administrators, teachers, and caregivers to identify factors influencing their adoption and use of the BEST in CLASS intervention.

Read about this study here.

  • Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  • Funding Period: 7/1/2020 – 4/30/2024
  • Funding Number: 1R01MH124439-01

Team:

  • Bryce D. McLeod, Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Kevin Sutherland, Co-Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Maureen Conroy, Principal Investigator, University of Florida (subcontract)
A Conceptual Replication of BEST in CLASS: An Efficacy Study of BEST in CLASS-Elementary

This project examines the efficacy of BEST in CLASS-Elementary (R305A150246), a preventive intervention designed to address children’s social and behavioral needs in kindergarten through third grade. BEST in CLASS focuses on enhancing and supporting teachers’ use of effective practices that prevent children’s challenging behaviors and support their learning within everyday classroom activities and routines. Outcomes include examining teachers’ implementation of the BEST in CLASS practices, teachers’ self-efficacy and school climate, as well as children’s social-emotional and behavioral skills.

Read the IES abstract here.

  • Funding Source: Institute of Education Sciences
  • Funding Period: 7/1/2018 – 6/30/2022
  • Funding Number: R305A180182

Team:

  • Kevin Sutherland, Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Maureen Conroy, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Florida
  • Rachel Eubanks, Research Coordinator, University of Florida
BEST in CLASS-Web: A Web-Based Intervention Supporting Early Childhood Teachers' Use of Evidence-Based Practices with Young Children at Risk for Emotional/Behavioral Disorders (Past)

The goal of BEST in CLASS-Web was to increase the usability and scalability of BEST in CLASS Pre-K (R324A080074) by developing a web-based version that could be used efficiently and effectively by early childhood teachers working with young children who engage in challenging behaviors. Data were gathered from multiple sources (i.e., teachers, administrators and coaches) using a variety of methods, including feedback from focus groups, structured interviews, surveys and implementation measures to develop a web-based version of BEST in CLASS. 

Read the IES abstract here.

  • Funding Source: Institute of Education Sciences
  • Funding Period: 8/1/2016 – 7/31/2020
  • Funding Number: R324A160158

Team:

  • Maureen Conroy, Principal Investigator, University of Florida
  • Kevin Sutherland, Co-Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
BEST in CLASS-Elementary: A Preventative Classroom-Based Intervention Model (Past)

This project adapted the original BEST in CLASS – Pre-K (R324A080074) for use in kindergarten through third grade. Focused on increasing early elementary school teachers’ use of the BEST in CLASS practices to support children with challenging behavior in their classrooms, this project expanded the original BEST in CLASS to include a home-school partnership component designed to increase positive and reciprocal interactions between teachers and children’s caregivers. Researchers examined the usability, feasibility, and promise of the adapted BEST in CLASS intervention and then conducted a promise study with teachers, students and their caregivers.

Read the IES abstract here.

  • Funding Source: Institute of Education Sciences
  • Funding Period: 7/1/2015 – 6/30/2018
  • Funding Number: R305A150246

Team:

  • Kevin Sutherland, Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Maureen Conroy, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Florida (subcontract)
BEST in CLASS: Development and Validation of a Treatment Integrity Measure of Classroom-Based Instructional Interventions in Early Childhood Settings (Past)

This project developed observational and teacher self-report measures designed to characterize teachers’ use of evidence-informed social-emotional and behavioral practices, including those established in BEST in CLASS – Pre-K (R324A080074). Measures were developed to assess how a teacher delivers key practices to effectively prevent challenging behavior and promote social-emotional learning in early childhood settings.

Read the IES abstract here.

  • Funding Source: Institute of Education Sciences
  • Funding Period: 9/1/2014 – 8/31/2018
  • Funding Number: R305A140487

Team:

  • Bryce McLeod, Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Kevin Sutherland, Co-Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Maureen Conroy, Principal Investigator, University of Florida (subcontract)
  • Patricia Snyder, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Florida
  • James Algina, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Florida
Efficacy of the BEST in CLASS Intervention for Young Children at High-Risk for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (Past)

This project examined the efficacy of the BEST in CLASS – Pre-K (R324A080074) intervention when implemented by teachers in early childhood classrooms. Teachers received the BEST in CLASS Teacher Resource manual and a one-day workshop, followed by 14 weeks of practice-based coaching to support their use of the BEST in CLASS practices with young children in their classrooms who have social-emotional learning needs. As a part of practice-based coaching, coaches partnered with teachers and observed them using the BEST in CLASS practices in their classrooms. Through the implementation of the practice-based coaching model, coaches facilitated teachers’ self-reflection, provided performance feedback, and collaboratively created goals and action plans.

Read the IES abstract here.

  • Funding Source: Institute of Education Sciences
  • Funding Period: 8/15/2011 – 8/14/2015
  • Funding Number: R324A110173

Team:

  • Maureen Conroy, Principal Investigator, University of Florida
  • Kevin Sutherland, Co-Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
Promoting Social, Emotional and Behavioral Competence in Young High-Risk Children: A Preventative Classroom-based Early Intervention Model (Past)

The original BEST in CLASS – Pre-K was a collaborative project between researchers and community partners, including early childhood teachers and early childhood program administrators, to develop BEST in CLASS to address the needs of young children who have social-emotional learning needs in early childhood settings. This project included three key components: identification of evidence-informed practices to address challenging behaviors; a workshop designed to introduce the practices to teachers who work with children with challenging behaviors; and 14 weeks of practice-based coaching to support teachers’ use of the practices during everyday learning opportunities in classrooms.

Read the IES abstract here.

  • Funding Source: Institute of Education Sciences
  • Funding Period: 5/1/2008 – 4/30/2011
  • Funding Number: R324A080074

Team:

  • Maureen Conroy, Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Kevin Sutherland, Co-Principal Investigator, Virginia Commonwealth University