Primary Research Question
What are the effects of the Empowerment Education System and Empowerment Coaching with a highly traumatized Kindergarten student?
Secondary Research Question
What are the teacher challenges in learning and implementing the Empowerment Education System and Coaching?
Abstract & Results
Although manageable levels of stress are normative and growth-promoting, toxic stress in the early years negatively impact learning, social relationships, behavior and health.1-5, 12-13,23 In this case study, we examined the efficacy and outcomes of Empowerment Coaching in a Kindergarten classroom with a highly traumatized student, Alice over one school year. The teacher was trained and coached (at least one time/week) in the Empowerment Education System and Empowerment Coaching (which includes The WAVE Process®) over a year period during live classroom time and personal coaching. A “high ACE”³ (6-7) student was identified and notes were taken to document this process. Teacher self-reported student behaviors were recorded, and the student DESSA (Devereux Student Strengths Assessment) was collected. Teacher challenges were also reported.
The results indicated that the Empowerment Education System and Empowerment Coaching gave the teacher an effective resiliency-building framework to use with a high ACE student on a daily basis in the classroom. Alice not only improved her social, emotional, and resiliency skills, but also became more academically motivated and engaged. In addition, the teacher considerably changed her perspective and increased her confidence in her classroom behavioral management techniques and as a result enjoyed being a teacher much more. The benefits of the Empowerment Education System and Empowerment Coaching trickled down and powerfully and positively affected all students in the classroom and created an environment of student empowerment. All students showed visible signs of increased resilience, emotional and social skills, and academic engagement. There were some challenges in training the teacher (time and support), as well as being allowed to create this type of environment in a school that was not totally sure about how these changes would affect academics. There is still a need for further research.
The School: The school is an elementary school in Asheville NC.
The Teacher: The teacher volunteered to do this study based on her knowledge of current brain science being used to create “compassionate schools” and the lack of “know how” to implement this research in the classroom.
The Student’s Challenges: Alice was the student chosen for the case study. She had been in educational Occupational, Physical, Psychological, Speech and Language therapy prior to coming to Kindergarten. During the first few weeks, the following behaviors were recorded. -Does not know the alphabet, cannot read, poor listening comprehension, cannot identify any words, is moody, physically aggressive when triggered, low self-concept and esteem, overly sensitive to loud noises and nonverbal cues, cries easily, poor peer relationships, cannot express herself very well, avoids difficult tasks, does not work independently, does not follow directions, does not remain in seat, does not turn in assignments, does not make transitions well, does not complete tasks, has difficulty with memory. Does not like to wait her turn. Has the most challenges in Centers where she has to work with other kids sharing and being respectful. Avoidance of hard tasks and morning meetings/all group meetings. “I can’t”. “I don’t know how”. Extremely high expectations of self.
Alice says Mom calls her names (bully) and tells her to shut up. She believes there are monsters in her head and they are scary and real. She talks about bullies and how they hit your head. Alice feels bullied by her step siblings and that her dad likes them more.
Extreme behaviors including lengthy screaming fits (8X/day from 3 minutes to a majority of the day), throwing items, hitting, pushing, yelling at peers and teachers, running away, hiding, destructive behaviors, choking, self-harm, and self-deprivating talk.
The Student’s Strengths: Alice can rote count and sort in Math. She is quickly learning to use her words. She loves to write and draw. She can ask good questions. Her writing is improving quickly. Strong Motor Skills; she loves to move; dance and go to PE. She likes to talk and tell stories. She loves music. She is creative and possesses leadership qualities. Athletic. Takes pride in appearance.
The Coach: Permission was granted by the county school system for the i.b.mee. “Teacher Empowerment Coach” to visit the classroom one time per week to train the teacher in these skills. The coach had previously taught these practices to another teacher for a year with similar results. The i.b.mee. Empowerment Coach would model coaching with students using the 5 Power Question Framework and The WAVE Process®. The i.b.mee. Coach would coach and train the teacher on the fly in the classroom. The i.b.mee. Empowerment coach was a certified life and wellness coach (Board Certified Coach) and had 15 years in the school systems (public, private and collegiate) and experience supervising teachers during her Ph.D. Educational Program.
The i.b.mee. Teacher Empowerment Coach spent 95% of her time in the classroom with the Kindergarten Teacher coaching and modeling Empowerment Coaching and The WAVE Process® and helping her apply the principles and concepts of the Empowerment Education System. 5% of the time the coach met with the teacher outside of the classroom. This usually occurred on a Sunday face-to-face, over Zoom, or by phone.
The WAVE Process® is a trauma-informed communication methodology that integrates into Empowerment Coaching to support individuals in moving out of fight, flight, or freeze reactions into a relaxed, safe, and open learning mode where one is self-regulated, resilient, and making choices from the higher-brain. It is the HOW to truly connect with yourself and another person and create safe, stable and nurturing relationships.
No training materials were used to train the teacher. Just in-real-time coaching, modeling, and teaching with the students and the teacher were used.
School Behavior Data and Teacher Self-Reported information were collected in the beginning and end of the year. (TIPS, Check-In, Check-out, Daily Quantitative Behavior Chart, Think Sheets)
The Empowerment Education System with Empowerment Coaching and The WAVE Process® were very effective in helping Alice (and other students) shift to be more regulated, resilient, emotionally intelligent, and motivated to learn.
However, at first, Alice was only making a little progress with emotional resiliency, motivation to learn, and social skills. By December, the teacher was still hesitant to do things differently for fear of being reprimanded. Academic growth and compliant behavior were the primary goals of Alice’s school experience emphasized by the administration. The i.b.mee. Coach knew this needed to change. With all the carrot and stick behavioral activities the administration wanted to do, it was not working; it was causing shame in Alice. Her behavior was not changing much. Finally, in April, with coaching support, the teacher decided to totally shift into the new paradigm and put aside the old behavioral system. She had to get principal approval to try something “out of the box”. The principal gladly gave her permission. The Teacher was began with the total acceptance of where Alice was and did not try to make her “more, better, different and right”. For about a week Alice got to choose all her activities and was treated like she was fine just the way she was. Then very quickly, new, empowering behaviors began to occur. (Written by the teacher.)
- She is transitioning with the group. She still likes space in the back of the line.
- She is responsive to her friends (2 students who are tolerant and mature) encouragement and support.
- She is playing in caring ways with the stuffed animals and babydolls. She puts the to sleep and feeds them. She is calm and focused as she plays. Sometimes she will allow other students to help. During clean-up time she is allowed to focus on this task.
- She is participating in writing during writing time (her highest skill.)
- She asks, “Is it time to clean up?”
- She remembers her green folder to take home.
- She will sit with the teacher during group and allow others to have turns.
- When she had a temper tantrum, she used the space place and they were shorter.
As the teacher moved totally into the Empowerment Education framework, Alice began to thrive. “Alice is enjoying school now. She is not made to be in any specific place or activity. She has choice. Many times she chooses to join us for stories. She loves our dancing and calming activities. She asks to do them. She chooses to sit with a table group now. Outside she is developing games with friends and trying to be part of the group. She cries less and her tantrums are much shorter”. (1-2X/day about 2-3 minutes long)
Overall, the teacher believed that the Empowered Education System and coaching practices gave her an effective resiliency-building framework to use with a high ACE student on a daily basis in the classroom. Alice not only improved her social, emotional, and resiliency skills, but also became more academically motivated and engaged. In addition, the teacher considerably changed her perspective and increased her confidence in her classroom behavioral management techniques and as a result enjoyed being a teacher much more. The benefits of Empowerment Education trickled down and powerfully and positively affected all students in the classroom and created an environment of student empowerment. All students showed visible signs of increased resilience, emotional and social skills, and academic engagement.
- No time to self-report
- Pressure from testing
- Increased shame and stress
- Fear of not measuring up
- Falling back to the old paradigm
- Difficult to keep up with curriculum
- Alice’s behavior got worse with unleashed trauma and old paradigm behavioral management
- Assessment takes away from connection
- Feeling isolated
- Assistant not trained
- Not seeing parents at pick-up
- Not enough time for 1 on 1 coaching
- Stuck between both paradigms
- Not totally empowered to be herself in the classroom
- Shame for not being able to control Alice
- Alice Failure created feelings of “not good enough”
- Fear of being rejected
Concepts Taught to Teacher and Students
- Biology Of Adversity
- Triune Brain
- Mind-Body Syndrome
- Positive Focus
- Growth Mindset – entity and incremental theory of intelligence
- Curiosity-Open Mode
- Empowered Choice
- Respectful Community
- Fostering Independence (choice and motivation)
- Recognizing Personal Gifts
- Not Being Perfect (Oops)
- Personality Parts
- All Are Creative, Capable And Complete I>E>S
- Highest Needs: Contribution And Learning
- Not Pushing Academics But Learning
- Normalizing Fear, Anxiety And Sadness
- Research On Compassionate Schools
Practices Taught to the Teacher and Students
- Playing for Learning
- Passion Project
- Student led activities
- Project based Learning
- Space Or Support
- Student Centered Classroom Guidelines
- Positive Self Talk
- WAVE Yourself
- WAVE The Student
- Individualized Re-Teaching
- Building Trust
- Space Place
- Emoticon Picture Chart
- Holding Space
- Yoga/Brain Gym
- Picture Cues
- Art Expression
- Town Meetings
- Whole Group Empowerment Games
- Family Empowerment Meetings
- Empowered Redirection
- Build On Strengths And Passions
- Recognizing When An Intervention, Activity Or Person Is A Negative Stimulus.
- Social Stories
- Student Appreciation
- Optimistic Improvement
- Skill Feedback
- Student Partners
- Win-Win Agreements
- Movement Breaks
- Personal Boundaries
- Role Playing To Act Out Challenges
- Self-Report Behavioral Management System
- Group Expression – Seen/Felt/Heard
- Student Blogging
- Empowered Empathy
- Student Self Praise
- Teacher Validation And Empowerment “What did you learn?” “Tell me about it.” “How would you change it?”
- Emotional Resiliency
- Integrating Into The Community
- Co-Creating Class Celebrations
- Setting Personal Boundaries
- Empowered Conflict Resolution
- Picture/video Cues for learning
Conclusions & Implications:
Coaching and training the teacher the Empowerment Education System in the classroom over a year period works effectively with kindergarten students and a highly traumatized student when teaching . (With the main trauma-informed skill being the WAVE Proces®.) All students gained visible signs of increased social, emotional, and resiliency skills, but also became more academically motivated and engaged in self-choice and teacher-directed learning. Even though the coach and the teacher experienced the shift in the classroom, more formal research is needed with these practices to show statistically their results.
1Shonkoff, J.P., Richter, et al. (2012). Research Analysis on An Integrated Scientific Framework for Child Survival and Early Childhood Development. PEDIATRICS Vol. 129 No. 2 February 1, 2012.
2Shonkoff JP, Boyce WT, McEwen BS. Neuroscience, molecular biology, and the childhood roots of health disparities: building a new framework for health promotion and disease prevention. JAMA.2009;301(21): 2252–2259.
3Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Bremner JD, et al. The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood. A convergence of evidence from neurobiology and epidemiology. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci.2006; 256(3):174–186.
4Edwards, V., Holden, G., Felitti V., Anda R. (2003). Relationship between multiple forms of childhood maltreatment and adult mental health in community respondents: results from the adverse childhood experiences study. Am J Psychiatry; 160(8):1453–1460.
5Felitti, V., Anda, R., Nordenberg, D., et al. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Am J Prev Med. 14(4):245–258.
6Sameroff, A., Chandler, M. (1975). Reproductive risk and the continuum of caretaking casualty. In: Horowitz, F., Hetherington, E., Scarr-Salapatek, S., Sigel, G., eds. Review of Child Development Research. Vol 4. Chicago, IL:University of Chicago Press; 187–244.
7Sameroff, A., Fiese, B. (2000). Transactional regulation: the developmental ecology of early intervention. In: Shonkoff J, Meisels S, eds. Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 135–150.
8Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development. Cambridge, MA:Harvard University Press.
9Werner E, Smith R. Vulnerable But Invincible: A Study of Resilient Children. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1982.
10Garmezy N, Rutter M. Stress, Coping, and Development in Children. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1983.
11Rutter M. Resilience reconsidered: conceptual considerations, empirical findings, and policy implications. In: Shonkoff J, Meisels S, eds. Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 2000: 6551–6682.
12Lanius V, Vermetten E, Pain C. The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease: The Hidden Epidemic. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; 2010
13Teicher MH, Andersen SL, Polcari A, Anderson CM, Navalta CP. Developmental neurobiology of childhood stress and trauma. Psychiatr Clin North Am.2002;25(2):397–426, vii–viii
14Epstein RM. Realizing Engel’s biopsychosocial vision: resilience, compassion, and quality of care. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2014;47(4):275-87.
15Robinson, J.H., Callister, L.C., Berry, J.A., Dearing, K.A. (2008). Patient-centered care and adherence: definitions and applications to improve outcomes. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 20(12):600–607.
16Rathert, C., Wyrwich, M.D., Boren, S.A.(2012). Patient-centered care and outcomes: a systematic review of the literature. Med Care Res Rev.
17Elwyn, G., Dehlendorf, C., Epstein, R.M., Marrin, K., White, J., Frosch, D.L., (2014). Shared decision making and motivational interviewing: achieving patient-centered care across the spectrum of health care problems. Ann Fam Med. May-Jun;12(3):270-5.
18Beach, M.C., Roter, D., Korthuis P.T., Epstein, R.M., et. al. (2013) A multicenter study of physician mindfulness and health care quality. Ann Fam Med. Sep-Oct;11(5):421-8.
19Epstein, R.M. (1999). Mindful practice. JAMA, 282(9):833–839.
20Siegel, D.J. (2007). Mindfulness training and neural integration. Journal of Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience, 2(4), 259-263.
21CDC (2014) Essentials for Childhood Framework: Steps to Create Safe, Stable, and Nurturing Relationships and Environments for all Children; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Division of Violence Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention.
22Finkelhor, D., Turner, H.A., Ormond, R., Hamby, S.L. (2013). Violence, crime, and abuse exposure in a national sample of children and youth: an update. JAMA Pediatr; 167(7):614-621.
23Siegel, D.J. (2010). Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation. New York: Bantam.
24Siegel, D.J. (2001). Toward an interpersonal neurobiology of the developing mind: Attachment, “mindsight” and neural integration. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1-2), 67-94.