Slideshow Image 1 Slideshow Image 2 Slideshow Image 3 Slideshow Image 4
Character Development Initiative (CDI)

What is CDI
Character Development Initiative (CDI) is an intervention specifically developed to empower youth, enhance their capabilities to recognize and manage emotions, appreciate the perspective of others, establish pro-social goals, solve problems, and use an assortment of interpersonal skills to handle the challenges of growing up.

It is an interactive process of teaching and learning, which enables the beneficiaries to acquire knowledge and to develop attitudes and skills which support the adoption of healthy behaviors.

This intervention highlights virtues that help our young people develop into responsible, respectful, caring citizens who make choices based on what is right, rather than what is easy.

Participants watch inspiring movies, animation strips, and documentary profiles of young people who exemplify the power of good character in the real world. Concurrent activities involve young participants in lively, thoughtful, revealing discussions and assignments designed to not only provide knowledge and understanding but also to empower students to think for themselves, but not just for themselves

How CDI Programs Benefit

How Evidence-Based CDI Programs Benefit

CDI Programs have direct as well as indirect impact on student and youth learning. The diagram above describes the mechanisms of steps taken that connect CDI programs to student achievement. The far left column of boxes in the diagram is self explanatory. It entails that evidence-based CDI programs do two things: (1) create secure, interactive, compassionate, well-managed learning environments, i.e. they address the classroom and school ambience in systematic ways (top left box); and (2) provide a series of developmentally appropriate classroom-based training in five major areas of universal human competence (bottom left box). Few CDI Programs accomplish all of these objectives. Schools and colleges typically combine programs with strengths in varied areas to achieve the full benefits of CDI programs. The remainder of the diagram describes a series of links that hold true in scrutiny of classrooms & students and the interventions designed to improve them. Several of the studies highlighted below are experimental or quasi-experimental in design, rather than merely correlational. That is, CDI programs have been shown to result in better student outcomes, including improved academic performance. These links, and some of the research supporting them, are described in the remainder of this brief.


 a)       There is concrete evidence demonstrating that student attachment to school is strongly influenced by the learning             environment.

 b)      Classroom and school interventions that make the learning environment secure, more compassionate, better managed, &           interactive, and that enhance students’ social & emotional competence, have been shown to increase student attachment to           school.

 c)       In turn, students who are more engaged and attached to school have better attendance and secure higher percentages in             examinations.

 d)      Programs that boost student bonding often have positive affects on students’ educational outcomes and academic            achievement.

Supporting Evidence

    • A thorough evaluation of the literature establishes that creation of supportive learning environments increases student engagement and attachment to school, and that these variables significantly influence student academic performance (Osterman, 2000).
    • Students experience superior attachment to school when they attend small schools and are part of well-managed classrooms where students get along with each other and with teachers, pay attention, and complete assignments according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Blum, R.W., McNeely, C.A., & Rinehart, P.M., 2002).
    • The evaluation of a program designed to develop student pro community skills and foster a more helpful, cooperative, and interactive learning environment documented increases in students’ sense of school community and commitment to school (Battistich, Solomon, Watson, & Schaps, 1997). An apparent sense of community brought together the positive program outcomes, including improved academic achievement (Solomon, Battistich, Watson, Schaps & Lewis, 2000).
    • When educators put into practice an intervention that incorporated proactive classroom management, interactive teaching methods, cooperative learning techniques, and interpersonal skills training, students’ positive attitudes and commitment to school significantly increased, as did the grades and standardized achievement scores of males (Hawkins, Guo, Hill, Battin-Pearson, & Abbott, 2001; O’Donnell, Hawkins, Catalano, Abbott, & Day, 1995).
    • A group intervention that enhanced student bonding to school by establishing smaller learning environments, increasing peer group consistency during school transitions, and restructuring teacher roles to be more supportive, also resulted in higher attendance rates, lower drop out rates, and better grades among middle and high school students (Felner, et al., 1993).
    • A comparable intervention enhanced student bonding by implementing the same three components in addition to increasing parent involvement. This intervention considerably decreased drop out rates, and increased students’ attendance and standardized test scores (Reyes & Jason, 1991).
    • Learning environments witnessing high levels of teacher-child conflict have greater levels of school avoidance, decreased liking for school, less self-directed behavior, and lower levels of cooperation by students. In contrast, student-teacher closeness promotes school bonding and attachment, and academic achievement (Birch & Ladd, 1997).
    • Schools characterized by high relational trust are more likely to have teachers who experiment with pioneering teaching practices and reach out to parents. These practices result in marked improvements in student learning. School-wide relational trust also influences whether students routinely attend school and put forth high effort when faced with difficult tasks (Bryk & Schneider, 2002).


a)       Research studies imply that interventions planned to enhance classroom environment & functioning, and improve student            attachment to school, reduce the rate of high-risk behaviors.

b)       When students are fond of school and emotionally involved with pro community teachers and peers, they are more likely to            behave in pro social ways themselves, and avoid engaging in high-risk behaviors (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992).

c)       Providing students with opportunities for participation may also increase students’ inherent motivation to behave in pro social           ways, thereby decreasing school crime and other forms of abnormal behavior in the school setting (Csikszentmihalyi, &           Larson, 1980).


Supporting Evidence

    • A meta-analysis of 165 studies of school-based prevention activities showed environmentally focused interventions (e.g., determining benchmarks for behavior, classroom and instruction management, school or discipline management interventions, reorganization of classes) considerably decreased the occurrence of the four consequences observed: misconduct, alcohol and drug use, drop out/non attendance, and behavioral problems (Wilson, Gottfredson, & Najaka, 2001).
    • School students benefiting from interventions planned to establish more helpful and cooperative learning environments had a considerably lower rate of drug use and misconduct than comparison students (Battistich, Schaps, Watson, Solomon, & Lewis, 2000).
    • A teenagers’ sense of association to school is connected with considerably lower rates of emotional suffering, suicidal feelings and behaviors, aggression, substance abuse, and sexual activity (Resnick et al., 1997).


 a)       Creating more compassionate and psychologically secure classroom environments improves a variety of students’ social and            emotional skills, thereby reinforcing the second component of effective evidence based CDI programs – CDI Training.

 b)       In helpful environments, for example, students feel more at ease approaching and interacting with teachers and peers,             thereby strengthening their relationship skills.

 c)       Essentially, instructors and schools can enhance students’ social & emotional capability by creating a social learning context            where such skills are frequently called for and positively reinforced.

Supporting Evidence

    • An assessment of the research on cooperative learning suggests that instructors can enhance the interpersonal relationships among students by creating cooperative learning groups characterized by constructive inter-reliance (Johnson, Johnson & Maruyama, 1983).
    • Other reviews have found that cooperative learning methods are consistently more effective than individualistic methods in promoting inherent motivation, achievement, effort, retention, reasoning skills, psychological health, and overall academic achievement (Johnson & Johnson, 1989).
    • School students benefiting from an intervention planned to establish more helpful and cooperative learning environments exhibited considerable improvement in two types of interpersonal skills: spontaneous pro social behavior and supportive and friendly behavior (Solomon, Watson, Delucchi, Schaps, & Battistich, 1988).
    • Such school students also scored significantly higher on measure of cognitive problem solving skills (e.g., interpersonal understanding, consideration of others’ needs, means and thinking), and used more pro social conflict resolution strategies than comparison children (Battistich, Solomon, Watson, Solomon, & Schaps, 1989).
    • Students’ opinion of their instructors as reverential, impartial, or helpful are associated with lesser dishonesty (Calabrese & Cochran, 1990; Murdock, Hale, & Weber, 2001).
    • Among adolescents, teacher support was an important predictor of student reports of pursuit of adherence to classroom norms, while peer support was a positive predictor of their reports of pro social behavior (Wentzel, 1998).
    • Adolescents who characterize their learning environments as including a caring, respectful teacher and peers who help each other were more likely to participate in class and complete their homework (Murdock, 1999).
    • A study implementing a school-wide discipline approach combined with teacher training and frequent classroom meetings improved teachers’ questioning techniques, and their use of praise and constructive feedback. Students’ disciplinary referrals also declined significantly (Masters & Laverty, 1977).
    • A group intervention that enhanced classroom management by determining clear rules and expectations, and created a better psychological environment incorporating daily morning meetings and reorganizing classrooms to foster social interaction and independence, improved students’ social skills and academic performance. (Children attending such schools also showed greater increases in reading  and math scores, felt closer to their teachers and peers, and showed more pro social behaviors.  Their teachers felt more effective and positive about teaching, were more collaborative with colleagues, and used more effective instructional strategies) (Rimm-Kaufman, 2006).


 a)       CDI training provides students with basic social & life skills, such as good decision making and refusal skills, which enable             them  to successfully avoid engaging in high risk behaviors and to develop attitudes and skills which support the adoption of             healthy  behaviors.


    Supporting Evidence

      • A meta-analysis of 165 studies of school based prevention activities found interventions with social and emotional competency training considerably lowered misconduct, alcohol, drug use, and behavioral problems (Wilson, Gottfredson, & Najaka, 2001).
      • An assessment of the research on prevention from 1980-1990 established that among 12 categories of programs, comprehensive programs (i.e., those using several varied prevention plans, but all providing decision making and resistance skills coaching) and social influence programs (i.e., programs training about and making available skills to resist social pressures) were more effective in preventing or delaying the initiation of substance use (Hansen, 1992).
      • Reviews of the research on school based substance abuse and violence prevention programs indicate that training and practice in social and emotional capabilities is a crucial element of effective programs (Dusenbury, & Falco, 1995; Dusenbury, Falco, Lake, Brannigan, & Bosworth, 1997).
      • Students receiving cognitive social & emotional skills training report higher self- efficiency and score higher on teacher ratings of attention and concentration, problem solving, social skills and lower on teacher ratings of aggressive behavior than comparison students. These students also receive higher grades than comparison students (Linacres et al, 2005).
      • A multi-faceted intervention that included daily classroom sessions teaching social and emotional competency, a school wide environment component and parent/societal involvement significantly decreased the number of violence incidents and suspensions while increasing students’ attendance and academic achievement on standardized tests (Flay, B.R., & Allred, C.G. 2003).


     a)       High risk behaviors in students are associated with poor academic performance.

    b)       Likewise, poor academic performance is a risk factor for a variety of high risk behaviors, while            academic  achievement is a protective factor.

     c)       CDI training addresses this by introducing self regulation skills & study skills that enable students’ to             take greater responsibility and ownership to learn and develop these ideas.

Supporting Evidence

    • An intervention designed to prevent problem behaviors and increase academic achievement by teaching students’ life skills and creating a positive school wide environment significantly reduced violent incidents, and increased students’ attendance and performance on a standardized achievement test (Flay, Alfred, & Ordway, 2001).
    • A review of health risk behavior studies and reports found student health risks such as intentional injuries, substance use, sexual behavior, and poor physical health were directly and negatively linked to educational outcomes, education behaviors, and student attitudes about education (Symons, Cinelli, James, & Groff, 1997).
    • A meta-analysis of naturalistic studies on academic performance and misconduct found that high academic achievers are less likely to engage in acts of misconduct than their low-achieving peers. Academic performance negatively forecast misconduct independent of socioeconomic status (Maguin & Loeber, 1996).
    • Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that being at risk for academic failure was associated with every health risk behavior studied. The authors state that school failure should be recognized as a health and education crisis (Blum, Beuhring, & Rinehard, 2000).


 a)       CDI training provides students with the social & emotional skills needed to successfully navigate the social learning             environment of the classroom.

b)       Social and emotional skills can also considerably enhance learning when they are incorporated into different academic content             areas.


Supporting Evidence

    • A meta-analysis of 165 studies of school based prevention activities found interventions with social competency training considerably lowered rates of student drop out/non-attendance (Wilson, et al., 2001).
    • An innovative intervention that integrated social and emotional competency training into the school curriculum by introducing self-regulation skills in physical education class considerably lowered student disciplinary referrals and improved students’ standardized test scores (Twemlow et al., 2001).
    • A meta-analysis of 158 cooperative learning studies found that cooperative learning leads to gains in both academic and non academic areas of student development. Among the many academic gains are improved performance in exams, greater retention of information, and greater transfer of knowledge. 8 different cooperative learning methods all significantly improved students’ academic performance, with conceptually-grounded cooperative learning making the largest impact (Gamson, 2000, & Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000).
    • Longitudinal studies of a preschool program planned to further social and emotional competence recognized many constructive outcomes from program participants, including less time in special education programs, higher literacy and high school graduation numbers, higher incomes and rates of home ownership, fewer arrests, and (for females) fewer children outside of marriage (Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993; Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997).
    • In a longitudinal evaluation of a social problem solving program, students who participated in the program had higher overall academic achievement six years later than a non-participant comparison group. Teachers who implemented the program totally found their students performed better in language, arts, and mathematics, and had fewer absentees than teachers in the comparison group (Elias, Gara, Schuyer, Branden-Muller, & Sayette, 1991).
    • Students’ social competence in second grade significantly influenced their third grade academic competence (as assessed by language and math grades and work skills), suggesting that improving social competence results in improved student academic performance (Welsh, Parke, Widaman, & O’Neil, 2001).
    • Students who completed conflict resolution training retained their knowledge of the conflict resolution skills throughout the school year, applied the skills to conflicts that arose in the classroom, and carried over the skills to nonclassroom and nonschool settings. Furthermore, students performed significantly higher on academic performance than comparison students and were able to interpret the information learned in perceptive ways (Johnson & Johnson, 2000).

References for Academics Brief

Barth, J. M. Dunlap, S. T., D. Lochman, J. E., & Wells, K. C. (2004). Classroom Environment influences on aggression, peer relations, and academic focus. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 115-133.

Battistich, V., Solomon, D., Watson, M., & Schaps, E. (1997). Educational Psychologist, Vol. 32, 1997.

Battistich, V., Schaps, E., Watson, M., Solomon, D., & Lewis, C. (2000). Efects of the Child Development Project on students’ drug use and other problem behaviors. Journal of Primary Prevention, 21(1), pp. 75-99.

Battistich, V., Solomon, D., Watson, M., Solomon, J., & Schaps, E. (1989). Effects of an elementary school program to enhance prosocial behavior on children’s cognitive-social problem solving skills & strategies. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 10 (2), 147-169.

Birch, S.H., & Ladd, G.W. (1997). The teacher-child relationship and children’s early school adjustment. Journal of School Psychology 35 (1), pp. 61-79.

Blum, R.W., Mcneely, C.A., Rinehart, P.M. (2002). “Improving the odds: The untapped power of schools to improve the health of teens.” Center for Adolescent Health and Development, University of Minnesota, Suite 260, 200 Oak Street S.E., Minneapolis MN 55455-2002

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. National Academy Press. The results of a two-year review of the research on teaching and learning, conducted under the auspices of the National Research Council.

Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. L. (2002) Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Calabrese, R.L., & Cochran, J.T. (1990). The relationship of alienation to cheating among a sample of American adolescents. Journal of Research & Development in Education, 23 (2), pp. 66-72.

Dusenbury, L., & alco, M. (1995). ‘Eleven components of effective drug abuse prevention curricula’. Journal of School Health, 65, 10, pp. 420-431.

Dusenbury, L., Falco, M., Lake., A., Brannigan, R., & Bosworth, K. (1997). Nine Critical Elements of Promising violence prevention programs. Journal of School Health, 67, pp. 409-414.

Elias, M.J., Gara, M.A., Schuyler, T.F., Branden-Muller, M.A., & Sayette, M.A. (1991). The promotion of social competence: Longitudinal study of a prevention school-based program. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 61, pp. 409-417.

Felner, R., Brand, S., Adan, A., Mulhall, P., Flowers, N., Sartain, B., & Dubois, D. (1993). Restructuring the ecology of the school as an approach to prevention during school transitions; Longitudinal follow-ups and extensions of the School Transition Environmental Project (STEP). Prevention in Human Services, 10(2), 103-136.

Flay, B. R., Alfred, C. G. (2003). Long term Effects of the Positive Action Program. American Journal of Health Behavior;

Flay, B. R., Alfred, C. G., & Ordway, N. (2001). Effects of the positive action program on achievement and discipline: Two matched-control comparisons. Prevention Science, 2, 71-89.

Flay, B. R., & Alfred, C.G., & Ordway, N. (2001). Long term effects of the positive action program. American Journal of Health Behavior, 27 Supp 1, S6-S21.

Gamson, D. A. (2000). “What Students Knew and Were Able To Do: The Quest for Academic Standards Past and Present.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. April 2000.


Gottfredson, D. C., Gottfredson, G. D., & Hybl, L.G. (1993). Managing adolescent behavior: A multiyear, multischool study. Americal Educational Research Journal, 30(1), 179-215.

Hansen, W.B. (1992). School-based substance abuse prevention: A review of the estate of the art in curriculum, 1980-1990. Health Education Research - Theory and Practice, 7 (3), pp. 403-430.

Hawkins, JD, Guo, J, Hill, KG, Battin-Pearson, S, & Abbott, RD (2001). Long term effects of the Seattle Social Development intervention on school bonding trajectories. In J. Maggs & J. Schulenberg (Eds.), Applied Developmental Science: Special issue: Prevention as Altering the Course of Development, 5 (4)

Hawkins, J.D., Catalano, R. F., Kosterman, R., Abbott, R. D., & Hill, K. G. (1999). Preventing adolescent health risk behaviors by strengthening protection during childhood. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 153(3): 226-234.

Hawkins, J. D., Graham, J. W., Maguin, E., Abbott, R. D., & Catalano, R. F. (1997). Exploring the effects of age on alcohol use initiation and psychological risk factors on subsequent alcohol misuse. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 58(3): 280-290.

Isenberg, J., & Quisenberry, N. (1988). Play: A necessity for all children. A position paper. Olney, M. D.: Association for Childhood Education International.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (1989). Cooperation and competition: Theory and research. Edina, M. N: Interaction Book Company.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2000). Teaching Students To Be Peacemakers: Results of Twelve Years of Research.

Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.W., & Maruyama, G. (1983). Interdependence and interpersonal attraction among heterogeneous & homogeneous individuals: A theoretical formation and a meta-analysis of the research. Review of Educational Research, 53, pp. 5-54.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Stanne, M. B. (2000). Cooperative learning methods: A meta-analysis.

Linacres, O. L., Rosbruch, N., Stern, M. B., Edwards, M. E., Walker, G., & Abikoff, H. B. (2005). Developing cognitive social-emotional competencies to enhance academic learning. Psychology in the Schools, 42(4), 405-417.

Masters, J. R., & Laverty, G. E. (1977). The relationship between changes in attitude and changes in behavior in the schools without failure program. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 10, 36-49.

Mcneely, C.A., Nonnemaker, J.M., Blum, R.W. (2002) Promoting Student Connectedness to School: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Journal of School Health. 72(4): 138-146.

Murdock, T.B. (1999). The social context of risk: Status and motivational predictors of alienation in middle school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, pp. 62-75.

Murdock, T.B., Hale, N.M., & Weber, M.J. (2001). Predictors of cheating among early adolescents: Academic and social motivations. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 2001; 26: pp. 96-115. [PubMed]

O'Donnell, J., Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., Abbot, R. D., & Day, L. E. (1995). Preventing school failure, drug use, and delinquency among low-income children. Long term intervention in elementary schools.  American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 65, pp 87-100.

Osterman, K.E. 2000. “Students’ Need for Belonging in the School Community.” Review of Educational Research. 70: 323-367.

Resnick, M., Bearman, P., Blum, R., Bauman, K., Harris, K., Jones, J., Tabor, J., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R., Shew, M., Ireland, M., Bearinger, L., Udry, J.R. (1997). Protecting Adolescents from Harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. JAMA, 278 (10), pp. 823-832.

Reyes, O., & Jason, L.A. (1991). An evaluation of a high school dropout prevention program. Journal of Community Psychology, 19, pp. 221-230.

Rimm-Kaufman, S.E., (2006). Social and Academic Learning Study on the Contribution of the Responsive Classroom Approach. Research report prepared for the Foundation for Northeast Children. Available at:

Ryan, A.M., & Patrick, H. (2001) The classroom social environment and changes in adolescents’ motivation and engagement during middle school. American Educational Research Journal, 38, pp. 437-460.

Schweinhart, L.J., Barnes, H.V., & Weikart, D.P. (1993). Significant benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through age 27. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Press. PS 021 998.

Schweinhart, L.J., & Weikart, D.P. (1997). Lasting differences: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through age 23. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

Solomon, D., Watson, M.S., Delucchi, K.L., Schaps, E., & Battistich, V. (1988). Enhancing children’s prosocial behavior in the classroom. American Educational Research Journal, 25, pp. 527-554.

Solomon, D., Batttistich, V., Watson, M., Schaps, E., & Lewis, C., (2000). A six district study of educational change: Directed and mediated effects of the child development project. Social Psychology of Education, 4 (1), 3-51.

Stevahn, L., Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., Real, D. (1996). The impact of a cooperative or individualistic context on the effectiveness of conflict resolution training. American Educational research Journal, 33, pp.  801-823.

Tobler, N., & Stratton, H. (1997). Effectiveness of school-based drug prevention programs: A meta-analysis of the research. Journal of Primary Prevention 18(1), pp. 71-128.

Twemlow, S., Fonagy, P., Sacco, F., Gies, M., Evans, R., & Ewbank, R (2001). Creating a peaceful school learning environment: A controlled study of an elementary school intervention to reduce violence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, pp. 808-810.

Welsh, M., Parke, R.D., Widaman, K., & O’Neil, R. (2001). Linkages between children’s social and academic competence: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of School Psychology. 2001; 30, pp. 463-481.

Wentzel, K.R. (1998). Social relationships and motivation in middle school: The role of parents, teachers, and peers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, pp. 41-419.

Wilson, D.B., Gottfredson, D.C., & Najaka, S.S. (2001). “School-based Prevention of Problem Behaviors’. A Meta-analysis.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 17: pp. 247-272.

All rights reserved, © 2010