Highlights of Research on RULER

  • Students using RULER have better academic performance
  • RULER improves school climate
  • RULER increases students’ emotional intelligence and social skills
  • RULER decreases anxiety and depression
  • Students using RULER are less likely to bully other students
  • Students using RULER have better leadership skills and attention
  • Teachers have better relationships with students, less burnout, better relationships with admin, more positive about teaching

Selected Publications

Nathanson, L., Rivers, S.E., Flynn, L.M., & Brackett, M.A. (2016). Creating emotionally intelligent schools with RULER. Emotion Review, 8(4), 1-6.

RULER, an evidence-based approach to teaching EI, provides an educational framework that encompasses a set of practices for comprehensive SEL integration across a school or district. In this article, we describe RULER, explain how it teaches EI, and summarize evidence of its effectiveness.

Brackett, M. A., & Rivers, S. E. (2014). Transforming students’ lives with social and emotional learning. International handbook of emotions in education368.

How educators and students process and respond to emotions influences children’s education in ways that affect their social, emotional, and cognitive development. A recent meta-analysis of research on programs focused on social and emotional learning (SEL) shows that a systematic process for promoting students’ social and emotional development is the common element among schools that report an increase in academic success, improved quality of relationships between teachers and students, and a decrease in problem behavior (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). SEL can be especially powerful when grounded in theory and empirical evidence and when adult stakeholders in children’s education are actively involved in cultivating and modeling their own social and emotional competencies (Brackett et al., 2009). As this chapter illustrates, SEL programming results in significant shifts in social, emotional, and academic competencies as well as improvements in the quality of learning environments.

Hagelskamp, C., Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., & Salovey, P. (2013). Improving classroom quality with the RULER approach to social and emotional learning: Proximal and distal outcomes. American Journal of Community Psychology51(3-4), 530-543.

The RULER Approach is designed to improve the quality of classroom interactions through professional development and classroom curricula that infuse emotional literacy instruction into teaching–learning interactions. A 2-year, cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted to test hypotheses derived from this theory.  Findings highlight the important contribution of emotional literacy training and development in creating engaging, empowering, and productive learning environments.

Castillo, R., Fernández-Berrocal, P., & Brackett, M. A. (2013). Enhancing teacher effectiveness in Spain: A pilot study of the RULER approach to social and emotional learning. Journal of Education and Training Studies1(2), 263-272.

This study examined the effects of an evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program, The RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning (RULER), on teacher self reports of engagement, teacher-student interactions, and burnout. Participants were 47 teachers from 19 public schools in Spain who either volunteered for training on RULER (n = 24) or eLearning (n = 23). Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) was conducted separately for each outcome. Teachers in the RULER as compared to eLearning group had significantly higher scores on many outcomes even after controlling for gender, age, trait affect, and personality, as well as pre-test scores on all outcomes. These findings extend the literature on the effectiveness of SEL programs for the improvement of teacher practices; they also advance our understanding of possible mechanisms for promoting high-quality professional development.

Rivers, S. E., Brackett, M. A., Reyes, M. R., Elbertson, N. A., & Salovey, P. (2013). Improving the social and emotional climate of classrooms: A clustered randomized controlled trial testing the RULER approach. Prevention Science, 14, 77-87.

The RULER Approach is designed to modify the quality of classroom social interactions so that the climate becomes more supportive, empowering, and engaging.  Results showed that compared to classrooms in comparison schools, classrooms in RULER schools were rated as having higher degrees of warmth and connectedness between teachers and students, more autonomy and leadership among students, and teachers who focused more on students’ interests and motivations.

Reyes, M. R., Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., Elbertson, N. A., & Salovey, P. (2012). The interaction effects of program training, dosage, and implementation quality on targeted student outcomes for The RULER Approach to social and emotional learning. School Psychology Review, 41, 82-99.

This study examined how training, dosage, and implementation quality of a social and emotional learning program, The RULER Approach, were related to students’ social and emotional competencies. There were no main effects for any of the variables on student outcomes, but students had more positive outcomes when their teachers (a) attended more trainings and taught more lessons, and (b) were classified as either moderate- or high-quality program implementers.

Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., Reyes, M. R., & Salovey, P. (2012). Enhancing academic performance and social and emotional competence with the RULER feeling words curriculum. Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 218-224. 

A pre- and post-test quasi-experimental design was used to test the impact of a 30-week, theoretically-based social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, The RULER Feeling Words Curriculum (“RULER”), on the academic performance and social and emotional competence of 5th and 6th grade students (N = 273) in fifteen classrooms in three schools. Academic performance was assessed by report card grades. Social and emotional competence was assessed with teacher reports of student behavior. Students in classrooms integrating RULER had higher year-end grades and higher teacher ratings of social and emotional competence (e.g., leadership, social skills, and study skills) compared to students in the comparison group. This study provides preliminary empirical evidence that SEL programs like RULER improve important student outcomes.





“The workshop confirmed my belief that emotional intelligence is just as important to academic and lifelong success as IQ.”

—School Leader, High School