Objective: The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of a pilot SEL program that had been designed for use in the Aboriginal boarding context.
Methods: A SEL program that was substantially designed to attune to the cultural and social context of Aboriginal boarding students from remote communities was evaluated using an explorative mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative research) pilot study.
Results: The mean K5 score indicated the boarding students were experiencing high/very high levels of psychological distress at pre and post-intervention. After receiving the program, there was no significant improvement in student scores. Similarly, there was no significant change on the RYDM Internal Assets, RYDM School Resources (4-point scale), RYDM School Resources (5-point scale) and Boarding Group Connectedness measures. However, there was a significant change in the Social and Emotional Skills measure, with average item scores increasing from 2.99 at baseline (just under pretty much true) to 3.28 post-intervention (between pretty much true and very much true).
- This study has demonstrated that an evidence-informed, culturally responsive SEL program designed for Aboriginal middle school students (Years 7–9) can be effectively delivered by boarding staff in the boarding school setting, can achieve student endorsement, and can lead to significant improvement in student social and emotional skills.
- Important findings for the context and delivery that underpinned engagement with the program was the need for secure relationships, with those delivering the program, the importance of cultural sensitivity as an enabler of effective engagement, and the importance of adhering to participatory rather than didactic modes of program delivery.
- Student recommendations also emphasized the need for greater exchange and development of cultural knowledges, future program development should pay greater attention to drawing on cultural understandings of SEWB to inform the design and facilitation of program learning activities, should ensure that participatory activities structure opportunities share cultural knowledge, and that organizational arrangements support consistent delivery and relational support.