Evaluating the implementation of the MindOut Social and Emotional Wellbeing Programme in Irish post-primary schools
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Aims: The overarching aim of this thesis was to evaluate the implementation of the MindOut social and emotional learning (SEL) programme with disadvantaged post-primary school students (15-18 years old) in Ireland. This study was conducted in three phases, each of which have been published. Phase 1 aimed to evaluate the immediate impact of the MindOut programme on students’ social emotional skills, mental health and wellbeing and academic outcomes. Phase 2 aimed to examine variability in implementation quality and to identify factors that contributed to this variability. Phase 3 aimed to determine how implementation quality impacted on programme outcomes. Methods: The study employed a cluster-randomised controlled design with mixed methods approaches. A total of 675 students from 32 disadvantaged schools participated at baseline and data were collected from students and teachers before, during and following programme delivery. Phase 1 employed linear mixed models (LMM) to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme on students’ outcomes. Phase 2 used process measures to determine schools’ level of implementation quality across four implementation dimensions, and to identify factors that contributed to implementation quality. Phase 3 employed LMM’s to assess the relationships between the implementation data and outcome data across three time-points and between three treatment groups (high-implementation, low-implementation and control). Results: Phase 1 demonstrated significant improvements in students’ social and emotional skills: reduced suppression of emotions (p=0.035), use of more positive coping strategies [reduced avoidance coping p=<0.001) and increased social support coping p=0.044)] and mental health and wellbeing: reduced levels of stress (p=0.017) and depressive symptoms (p=0.030) and reduced anxiety scores for females students (p=0.044). Phase 2 detected variability in implementation quality between schools and assigned eight schools to both the high- and low-implementation groups. Influencing factors were categorised into five themes: Programme Factors, Participant Factors, Teacher Factors, School Contextual Factors and Organisational Capacity Factors. Phase 3 revealed significant positive programme effects at post-intervention for the high-implementation group only (reduced suppression of emotions [p=.049]; reduced avoidance coping [p=.006]; increased social support coping [p=.009]; reduced levels of stress [p = .035] and depressive symptoms [p = .025]. At 12-month follow-up, reduced avoidance coping [p=.033] was the only sustained outcome. Conclusions: Overall, these findings demonstrate that the MindOut programme can be effective in producing positive outcomes for participants, particularly those students of disadvantaged status. However, these positive outcomes were only evident in schools that implemented the programme with high-quality, signifying the importance of implementation quality in the overall success of a programme. The findings from this study have clear implications for policy, practice and future research and highlight a number of important factors to enhance implementation quality and strengthen programme outcomes.