PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) is a social and emotional learning intervention aimed at primary-age children. Originally developed in the US, PATHS has been adapted for use in UK schools and is currently disseminated by Barnardo’s. The intervention focuses on five key aspects of social and emotional learning: self-control, emotional understanding, positive self-esteem, relationships and interpersonal problem-solving skills.
PATHS is delivered on a whole-class basis, and schools signing up to it receive a folder of fully-scripted lesson plans for each year group, plus supporting resources such as DVDs. It is designed to be used in each year of primary school, as the skills taught build on those introduced in previous years. PATHS lessons last around 20-30 minutes, and should be scheduled to take place two to three times per week. Any evidence in support of the intervention is based on a trained version.
The provider offers training and coaching
The Best Evidence Encyclopaedia (2009) rated PATHS as having limited evidence of effectiveness for early childhood. The Blueprints For Healthy Youth Development review rates PATHS as a model intervention (the highest rating) for impact on a range of outcomes including anti-social or aggressive behaviour, conduct problems and emotional regulation.
The Education Endowment Foundation (2015) provided funding for an evaluation of PATHS, which found that overall it did not have a positive impact on children's academic attainment. This evaluation only looked at academic outcomes for pupils in Years 5 and 6 in English/reading and maths, the full report by Humphrey and co looks at non-cognitive outcomes.
A study by Neil Humphrey and his colleagues, published in Public Health Research, reports on the findings of a randomised controlled trial of PATHS. A total of 5,218 pupils from 45 schools in Greater Manchester participated in the trial. Immediately after the interventions, there was a small improvement on pupil's social skills with a mean effect size of +0.09. They also found a small improvement in pupil's psychological well-being with a mean effect size of +0.07. However, there were no differences between pupils from PATHS and control schools for any outcomes at the 12 or 24 month post intervention follow up.
The Education Endowment Foundation provided funding for an evaluation investigating the effectiveness of PATHS, which indicated that PATHS did not have a positive impact on academic outcomes.
Humphrey and colleagues found a small improvement in children's social skills immediately following implementation, but no lasting improvements in any outcomes observed.