Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS)

An Evidence-Based Practice


The Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum is a comprehensive program that promotes emotional and social competencies and reduces aggression and behavior problems in elementary school-aged children, while simultaneously enhancing the educational process in the classroom. The PATHS curriculum contains numerous lessons (the exact number depends on the curriculum version) that seek to provide children with the knowledge and skills within three major conceptual units: 1) the Readiness and Self-Control "Turtle" Unit, 2) the Feelings and Relationships Unit, and the 3) Problem Solving Unit. The lessons include instruction in identifying and labeling feelings, expressing feelings, assessing the intensity of feelings, managing feelings, understanding the difference between feelings and behaviors, delaying gratification, controlling impulses, reducing stress, self-talk, reading and interpreting social cues, understanding the perspectives of others, using steps for problem-solving and decision-making, having a positive attitude toward life, self-awareness, nonverbal communication skills, and verbal communication skills. The curriculum is designed for use by educators and counselors in a multiyear, universal prevention model that concentrates primarily on school and classroom settings but also includes information and activities for use with parents. Ideally, the program should be initiated at the start of schooling and continued through sixth grade. Teachers generally receive training in a 2- to 3-day workshop and in biweekly meetings with the curriculum consultant.

Goal / Mission

The goal of this program is to promote social and emotional learning (SEL) and character development, to prevent bullying, and to build the problem-solving abilities and other life skills required for positive relationships throughout students' lives.

Results / Accomplishments

The largest experimental study to date was conducted by Pennsylvania State's Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group in the late 1990s. In this study, 198 first grade classrooms from high-crime neighborhoods were randomly assigned to use the PATHS curriculum, while another 180 first grade classrooms from the same neighborhoods were randomly selected to serve as a control group. In the Penn State trial, PATH students performed significantly better than their counterparts on the sociometric tests for aggression and hyperactivity-disruptive behavior according to peer sociometric reports. The PATH classrooms also received better observer ratings for their overall classroom atmosphere. Further findings at the end of the third and fourth grades indicated continued reductions in the numbers of nominations of aggressive behavior by boys according to peer sociometric reports. The study, however, did not find a significant difference in the prosocial behavior or teacher-rated behaviors of the two populations.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Mark Greenberg, Ph.D.
Prevention Research Center
109 Henderson Building South
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802-6504
(814) 863-0112
Education / School Environment
Health / Mental Health & Mental Disorders
Social Environment / Children's Social Environment
Prevention Research Center
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide (MPG)
Date of publication
For more details
Target Audience