STAT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


General Questions

1. What is STAT?

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2. What does STAT offer my classroom?

STAT offers teachers the opportunity to incorporate clear and familiar teaching strategies into their classrooms, based on existing content, and in the process, help their students get along better, by improving students’ perspective-taking, empathy, problem solving, communication, emotion regulation, and civic engagement.

3. What changes should I expect in my classroom or in the learning of my students after I implement STAT?

STAT strategies aim to enhance students’ perspective-taking, empathy, problem solving, communication, emotion regulation, and civic engagement. Like any set of skills, it takes time and practice to master these behaviors. However, with enough frequency, students will become more adept.  

4. Is STAT similar to social action or civil discourse? 

A primary aim of STAT is to encourage social action and civil discourse and so, yes, there is overlap. STAT is an instructional strategy to build skills and prepare students to engage in these critical citizenship activities. While there are different ways to teach these behaviors, our approach is rooted in evidence-based methods and will be helpful for classrooms that strive for these outcomes.  

5. For what grade can we use STAT?

STAT is primarily designed for teachers in middle school social studies/civics classes. However, the general strategies can be used in high school and would likely be beneficial for fourth and fifth grades as well, with adapted materials.

6. I want to get involved in STAT! How do I sign up and when can I start?  

We are piloting the STAT materials in interested New Jersey middle schools during the 2018-2019 school year and will likely make further revision for the 2019-2020 school year. If you are interested in viewing these materials and helping with the pilot process, please go to this link.

7. How can we obtain teaching materials for STAT?

You can download our materials at this link: Teaching Strategies

 8. What are you researching and trying to learn through this project?

The Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development (SECD) Lab is piloting a set of teaching strategies that can be seamlessly integrated into social studies/civics/history classes. These tools are meant to increase students’ perspective-taking, empathy, problem solving, communication, emotion regulation, and civic engagement. The SECD Lab is focused on offering these teaching tools to middle school social studies classrooms throughout New Jersey, though we are not excluding other users from participating in the pilot project. We ask that teachers downloading and carrying out these lessons agree to provide feedback toward the goal of improving these tools, and to see how helpful these tools are for increasing the aforementioned priorities. Furthermore, we are interested in learning the most effective ways of disseminating these types of tools. 

9. What is STAT’s philosophy of education?

The Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development (SECD) Lab believes that the school context is an ideal venue for teaching social and emotional skills, as well as civil discourse and civic participation. These are the building blocks of engaged citizenship in a democracy. We also recognize that it can be difficult for teachers to find time in their day to explicitly teach these skills and encourage this behavior. As a result, we are excited by the concept of providing teaching strategies that can be applied directly to the content teachers already plan to teach. Therefore, teachers do not have to learn an entirely new curriculum for their students to learn perspective-taking, empathy, problem solving, communication, emotion regulation, and civic engagement.  We do note, however, that true skill acquisition will be observed over the course of at least two years of consistent STAT use.  STAT is building “habits of mind and heart.”

10. Where can I go for more information about a question not addressed here?

You can contact us at STAT.SECDLAB@gmail.com.


Implementation Questions

1. Is there guidance for how to teach STAT lessons?

Please check out our “teaching tips” sections in our teaching materials that can be downloaded at this link: Teaching Strategies

2. Are there videos that show STAT in action?

You can view videos of STAT in action at this link: Video Resources

3. I am concerned about opening up emotional issues with my students, or with how they will handle disagreement.  How do you address this?

This is an important concern that we address in two ways.  First, we have been working with the NJ Association of School Psychologists and NJ School Counselors Association, and their members are prepared to support teachers in having these discussions with students- in advance, during the lessons, and/or as a debrief. Second, we have guidelines for handling emotional issues and disagreement within each of our lessons.  STAT-type lessons have been implemented in seven middle schools over many years without any negative examples, so we are confident in its viability for you and your students.  

4. How long do STAT activities take?

STAT activities can be as short as 5 minutes and as long as several weeks, depending on how long you would like to spend on the social studies topic you were planning to teach and in what capacity you were planning to use the STAT tool. For instance, a Yes-No-Maybe strategy could be completed in as little as five minutes if you wanted to quickly introduce a discussion topic for the day. On the other hand, a PLAN lesson could extend to several weeks as the basis for a problem-based learning module, depending on how deep you would like to go with your class in exploring, for instance, the problems that a civilization faced. 

5. What if I try STAT and my class doesn’t like it?

This might indicate several things. For one, perhaps the subject material is not as riveting as other material you have taught in the past. Secondly, the topic might not have been entirely appropriate for the particular STAT strategy that was selected. Thirdly, perhaps there are limitations of the STAT tool that you might want to share with our Lab by emailing us at STAT.SECDLAB@gmail.com, so that we can address those limitations and make improvements. And finally, consider that there is a learning curve whenever trying something new and it might be helpful to check out the “Teaching Tips” sections within each of the STAT teaching materials as well as the video resources on our website.

6. How many lessons and activities would you recommend we teach?

STAT can be applied as frequently as every day of the school year and as infrequently as one day out of the school year. However, we would encourage you to use STAT as frequently as possible in order for your students to experience the greatest gains possible. For example, at least one STAT activity per marking period seems to us to be a minimum. While some teachers might be concerned that frequent use of the STAT strategies could make them seem stale, social studies/civics content continuously changes, which allows the lessons to continuously remain fresh.

7. Should we repeat any of the activities or only do them once? 

You can repeat the STAT strategies as often as you would like! Remember, as long as the social studies/civics content changes, the lessons will still remain new and fresh, regardless of how many times you use the same STAT strategies. 

8. Is there a right or wrong way to do STAT?

There are not necessarily right or wrong ways to do STAT and in fact we encourage you to use your creativity and unique strengths to adapt the strategies to your classroom. However, we do recommend following the general guidelines of STAT, as there are useful methods for encouraging perspective-taking, empathy, problem solving, communication, emotion regulation, and civic engagement. For instance, in the Respectful Debate, by having students rotate and debate on both sides of an issue, as well as by having them summarize and check for understanding the points made by the other side, students will be honing their perspective-taking, empathy, communication, and critical thinking skills, as well as emotion regulation.

9. What are effective ways to generate consensus for an idea or opinion when implementing PLAN?

There are a variety of ways to generate consensus. One way is to have a majority vote. Another method is a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down/Thumbs Sideways approach. Thumbs Up demonstrates support. Thumbs Sideways suggests they will go along with the will of the group. And Thumbs Down means they do not support he proposal and wish to speak. Feel free to use other creative methods you find or develop!

10. What suggestions do you have if all students select “Yes” or all students select “No” for Yes-No-Maybe?

If it’s a fair question and the students all have the same answer, they can still meet in subgroups within the Yes or No groups, discuss why they had their opinion, summarize their subgroup’s perspective and share reasons with the other groups. It can be valuable to see how there can be diversity within agreement. It is not necessary to push for opinions they may not hold.  Remember, it also may take some time and trust before students are willing to declare a position that few or none of their peers are taking.

11. What are suggestions for preventing students from choosing a Yes-No-Maybe position simply based on popular opinion?   

One approach could be to use Socratic questioning to elicit students’ reasoning without being prescriptive. For instance, you could ask:

  •  “Could you explain further?”

  • “Is this always the case/Are there any times when this hasn’t been the case?”

  • “If [x, y, z] happened, what might be the consequences? What else might result?”

It also can be useful to revisit the Norms, so students understand that developing and sharing their own opinions are important and valuable and will not lead to retribution. If students are being harassed or otherwise negatively affected outside of class for opinions expressed in STAT, it’s something you want to encourage them to share with you privately and something potentially to turn into a PLAN School Problem or Current Events lesson. We recently learned of one teacher that asked students to assign a number, from 1-10, with regard to how strongly they believe/agree with a statement, from 1= not at all and 10= completely and absolutely. After students do that, the Yes-No-Maybe is defined as students rating 8-10, 1-3, and 4-7.