Profiles on transformational research

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl

Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl: transforming education and emotional health in children

Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Director of UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) and professor in the UBC Faculty of Education, is transforming our understanding of children’s health and well-being. Her research has focused on identifying the processes and mechanisms that foster children’s positive human qualities, including empathy, altruism, and resiliency. She has designed psychometrically rigorous assessments of social and emotional learning (SEL), including the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) – a population-level tool for assessing children’s social and emotional health and well-being.

Improving the conditions in which all children and their families can flourish and thrive has been some of the most exciting work in which I have been involved over the length of my career.

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl

Dr. Schonert-Reichl has dedicated years conducting empirical research to identify ways in which SEL competencies are incorporated into educational policy and teacher certification requirements and coursework. One recent example, appearing in the January 2015 edition of Developmental Psychology, examined MindUP™, a social and emotional learning program which teaches a number of mindfulness practices, including breathing, tasting, and movement exercises. The study was one of the first to investigate the value of a social and emotional learning program that incorporates mindfulness techniques for children’s well-being using a variety of scientific measures, including both biological and neurological tests. Dr. Schonert-Reichl and her collaborators found that fourth- and fifth-graders who participated in the program were better at regulating stress and were more optimistic and helpful.

Dr. Schonert-Reichl, whose work builds upon the legacy of HELP’s founding Director, the late Clyde Hertzman (1953-2013), was recently awarded the 2015 Joseph E. Zins Distinguished Scholar Award for Outstanding Contributions to Research in Social and Emotional Learning, given by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). She believes cooperation across disciplines has been essential to her work. “Over the past decade, my research has been advanced via my collaborations with researchers at the Human Early Learning Partnership,” she says.

Dr. Howard Feldman, Executive Associate Dean, Research at the UBC Faculty of Medicine agrees. “With her diverse academic background in both education and psychology, Dr. Schonert-Reichl’s appointment as Director of HELP illustrates the faculty’ssuperbly honours our faculty and the university’s commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to both research and health care.”

Dr. Schonert-Reichl is passionate about continuing to lead such research and, along with her colleagues, plans to continue to explore the developmental trajectories of children in British Columbia, ensuring the emerging evidence on children’s health and well-being is translated into policy and practice across sectors.

“Working collaboratively with researchers from multiple disciplines towards the common goal of improving the conditions in which all children and their families can flourish and thrive has been some of the most exciting work in which I have been involved over the length of my career.”

This story is an excerpt from the chapter titled “Profiles on Transformational Research” in the 2014/15 Research Annual Report.

Profiles on Transformational Research

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