University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Hee Kyung Park



Methodology Workshop Scholarship

School or College: 

College of Education


Sara Whitcomb


Hee Kyung Park is a PhD Candidate in the school psychology program in the College of Education. Under the mentorship of Dr. Sara Whitcomb, her research focuses on the implementation of culturally responsive practices to promote social-emotional learning of children. In particular, she is interested in supporting families from diverse backgrounds, educators, and the school system to improve student’s mental health across different settings. Her dissertation will examine the impact of a social-emotional skills teacher training program on the teacher’s beliefs and practices, student-teacher relationship, as well as middle school student’s perception on the school climate.


Evidence on the benefits of social-emotional learning (SEL) on children is clear. SEL promotes student’s academic performance, relationships, and behavior by providing supportive learning environment and explicitly teaching social-emotional skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. While there is plethora of research on the benefits of SEL on elementary school age students, there has been a lack of research that examines the middle school student population as well as the impact of SEL training on teachers.  

Accordingly, this study will examine the efficacy of Responsive Classroom (RC) approach on middle school students. The RC approach is a widely used intervention that focuses on teaching strategies to support student's SEL. Specifically, the RC approach aims to foster a teacher's capacity to create a caring and well-managed classroom via respectful social interaction and academically engaged instruction. This study examines how RC training influences teacher’s beliefs on their practices, teachers’ culturally responsive teaching self-efficacy, student-teacher relationship, and students’ perceptions of school climate.  

Results from the study will be valuable to understand the significance of teacher training on middle school students. Implications from this study will be helpful in enhancing RC approach as well as supporting teachers. Moreover, sharing this research experience, which was conducted during the time of pandemic, will provide insights on the feasibility and implementation of such programs to the school practitioners and researchers.  

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