April 20, 2012

Social Work Endowed Professor of Prevention J. David Hawkins recently received the prestigious Joseph E. Zins Distinguished Scholar Award for Action Research in Social and Emotional Learning from CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. Hawkins is the founding director of Social Development Research Group.

“Since I began, the field has changed remarkably, “observes Hawkins. “Approaches to developing protective factors, including social and emotional learning, have been thoroughly and scientifically tested. We now know that social and emotional learning can both prevent problem behavior and contribute significantly to academic success. That’s a dramatic change in our field.”

The CASEL award committee was quick to point out how David Hawkins’ determination to understand how prevention works, and to get sound scientific answers to his questions, led him to become one of the foremost researchers in the interrelated fields of social and emotional learning, problem prevention, health promotion, and positive youth development.

In 1980, Hawkins and his colleagues at the University of Washington created an experimental study in the Seattle public schools, the Seattle Social Development Project that led to significant improvements in the behavior and school success of the experimental group.

More than two decades later, follow-up studies found that the participants in the experimental study had become more economically successful adults with fewer mental health problems than those in the control group. This landmark research is often cited in literature about the social impact of prevention programs.