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Dana Murano, PhD
September 2019

Educational Psychology
Learning, Development, and Instruction

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Assessment



Dana Murano is currently a Research Scientist in ACT's Center for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning Research in the Learning Division. She completed her PhD in Educational Psychology with a specialization in Learning, Development, and Instruction at the City University of New York. She previously attended Marist College for her undergraduate studies in Psychology. Her research focuses primarily on the development and assessment of social and emotional skills in students. Additional work and research interests include the development of interventions to improve social and emotional skills, meta-analysis, and the intersection of feedback and the development of social and emotional skills.

Dissertation Title:

"Improving Measurement and Expanding Meta-Analytic Knowledge: Social and Emotional Learning in Elementary and Early Childhood"

In the last several decades, the development of students' social and emotional skills in educational contexts has received much attention, both domestically and internationally. Whereas previous school-based educational practices had primarily focused on the teaching and testing of cognitive skills, we now recognize that there are constituents of academic success beyond the cognitive skills that are traditionally taught and tested, and the field of social and emotional learning (SEL) has emerged as a result. This two-study dissertation attempted to fill existing gaps in the development of SEL practices by exploring new horizons in both intervention and measurement with preschool and elementary students. Whereas a great amount of meta-analytic evidence exists for K-12 contexts, no previous studies have used meta-analysis to synthesize the literature on preschool SEL interventions. The objective of the first study was to determine the effects of universal and targeted preschool SEL interventions on the development of social and emotional skills and the reduction of problem behaviors. Results showed medium effects for both universal (g = .35) and targeted interventions (g = .48), and meta-regression analyses identified intervention type as accounting for 83% of the heterogeneity found in universal interventions. The objective of the second study was to develop Likert and innovative items (situational judgment test and forced choice) using the Big Five as an assessment framework to measure social and emotional skills in elementary-aged students. This represents several advantages in the field, considering many assessments of student social and emotional skills rely on Likert items alone, and Big Five-based self-report measures for elementary-aged students  are rare, albeit the Big Five serving as an empirically supported framework upon which to organize social and emotional skills. Results from a pilot study with these items showed moderate evidence for reliability and validity and also indicated where improvements could be made for future iterations of such items. Together, the two studies make significant contributions to the field - the first by extending meta-analytic evidence to the preschool population, and the second by examining best practices for developing innovative item types for elementary students. Conclusions from the two studies, implications, and future directions for measuring and developing young children’s social and emotional skills are discussed.

Committee Members:

Dr. Anastasiya Lipnevich (chair), Dr. Bruce Homer, Dr. Joan Lucariello, Dr. David Rindskopf, Dr. Kate Walton

Acknowledgements / Special Thanks:

A big thank you to my advisor, Ana Lipnevich, my committee, my cohort, and my team at ACT for all of the help, guidance, and support along the way! 

What's Next?

Dana is currently working at ACT in the Learning Division. In her role as a Research Scientist in the Center for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning Research, she works on a multi-disciplinary team responsible for research related to the development of students' social and emotional skills, developing innovative social and emotional skills assessments, an evaluating efficacy of various ACT learning solutions.