RULER Research Study

About the Project

The RULER Research Study is a research study examining the efficacy of the RULER program in elementary school grades (K-6). The RULER program teaches emotional intelligence skills by providing instruction in Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotion.

The program has four essential anchor tools that are embedded into school’s routine practices.

  1. A charter based on how adults and children want school to feel

  2. A mood meter to support emotional awareness

  3. The meta-moment meant to help teachers and students handle strong emotions

  4. The blueprint, which is an approach to resolving conflict

RULER is unique because it is designed to improve the SEL competencies of the adults in schools before working to improve student SEL skills. RULER recognizes that teaching involves “emotional labor” and offers support for teachers and other adults in schools to improve adult well-being.


Our Study

The RULER Research Study conducted here at the University of Virginia is the largest study of RULER to date. The research, led by Jason Downer (PI) and Sara Rimm-Kaufman (co-PI), is conducted as a randomized controlled trial of 60 schools and involves more than 800 classrooms and 5,000 students over four years (starting in 2018). The research is conducted in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse school district enabling the research team to examine the extent to which RULER is more effective for some students than others. Several key research questions are being addressed.

Research Questions

  • Does RULER improve school climate, teacher well-being, classroom climate, and students’ social and emotional and academic outcomes?

  • Does RULER matter more for some students than others? For instance, does the impact of RULER differ depending on the demographic characteristics of the schools?

    • Is RULER more or less effective at schools with more students from poor families?

    • Does RULER matter more or less at schools with a high percentage of students learning English?

    • Does RULER matter more or less at schools with more students initially low in their social and emotional skills?

  • If RULER works, how? If RULER works, is it school climate, teacher well-being, and/or classroom climate that matters to produce its effects?