Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies: A Preschool and Elementary School Curriculum
Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) teaches elementary and preschool children about emotion, self-control, and problem solving. A series of evaluations of randomized controlled trials have reported program benefits for children. The PATHS curriculum (Kusche and Greenberg, 1994) has varied across studies as a function of the age of children, their abilities, and curriculum opportunities.
Greenberg, Kusche, and colleagues (1995) report on a randomized controlled trial in which four elementary schools and 14 special education classrooms were randomly assigned to deliver or not deliver the curriculum to students in grades 2 and 3. The school-year curriculum consisted of 60 lessons on emotional and interpersonal understanding, including identifying and appreciating various affective states, and how to control emotions. A Control Signals Poster, modeled after a stop sign with red, yellow, and green lights, taught students emotional control and problem solving in difficult social situations. Students learned to stop and try to calm themselves and think about how to handle the situation, how to implement their plan, and how to evaluate their conduct.
Greenberg, Kusche, and colleagues (1995) found that PATHS increased the students’ ability to understand and articulate emotions. Special education students had a greater understanding of other people’s ability to hide their feelings and the fact that feelings can change.
In a randomized wait-list controlled trial of a version of PATHS with deaf children in elementary grades, Greenberg and Kusche (1998) found that PATHS students performed significantly better on a number of cognitive, social, and emotional measures. Kam, Greenberg, and Kusche (2004) report on a randomized controlled trial of PATHS in which 18 special education classrooms were assigned to either the intervention or the control. Students received the intervention when they were in first or second grade and completed assessments annually for the following three years. Those who received the program had significantly fewer externalizing and internalizing problems than control students, as well as a greater decrease in depression.
PATHS has also been evaluated as a universal intervention in the Fast Track study of the prevention of antisocial behavior. First grade students in schools (378 classrooms) in high-crime neighborhoods in four regions of the United States were randomized to receive or not receive a 57-lesson version of PATHS. Peer sociometric data indicated that PATHS classrooms had lower levels of aggression and hyperactive behavior and a more positive atmosphere, but they did not differ on any teacher ratings of classroom behavior (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 1999b).