Minnesota Nursing magazine

Partnering for healthy student outcomes

Barb McMorrisWhat if 20 minutes every week helping middle-school youth learn skills for managing oneself responsibly and getting along better with others could improve grades, school attendance and graduation rates? And, what if it would mean teachers felt more effective in managing their classrooms? Wouldn’t it be worth the classroom and professional development time?

A group of University of Minnesota researchers are asking these questions in a new study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A team led by Barb McMorris, PhD, associate professor and faculty in the Center for Adolescent Nursing, is working in two economically disadvantaged schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, training and coaching teachers in a youth-development paradigm that helps young people reach their potential.

At the same time, McMorris and her colleagues are guiding teachers on a curriculum that targets the social and emotional skills of young people. Called Positive Action, the curriculum can be taught in 20-minute classroom sessions every week.

Transitioning from elementary to middle school can have challenges that impact health and well-being into adulthood – ones that can lead to poor academic achievement and increases in fighting, bullying and substance use. Fortunately, research suggests that improving social and emotional skills can have a wide-ranging positive impact. Moreover, students with better social and emotional skills will be more engaged and teachers can feel more effective in the classroom.

Watch for future results from this research called “Partnering for Healthy Student Outcomes,” funded through the UMN’s Healthy Youth Development • Prevention Research Center (Director: Renee Sieving, PhD, professor).


Linda Bearinger

Center Director

Linda H. Bearinger, PhD, RN, FAAN, FSAHM


Improve the health and well being of young people by educating nurses and other health professionals to respond to the unique and emerging health needs of young people in families, schools, and communities.

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