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Catalina Torrente

Biography 

Catalina Torrente photo 1Catalina Torrente, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Her research interests center on identifying effective ways to support vulnerable children’s social and emotional skills through evidence-based universal school interventions. She is particularly interested in interventions that target children in contexts of extreme poverty and violence. At Yale, she is working to create instruments to evaluate the effectiveness of RULER, a school-based social and emotional learning program that aims to foster high quality school environments and overall student wellbeing.

Prior to coming to Yale, Catalina completed her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at New York University. Under the mentorship of Dr. J. Lawrence Aber, she served as project director of a large-scale experimental evaluation of an educational intervention developed by the International Rescue Committee. The intervention aimed to improve the quality of learning environments, teachers’ wellbeing, and students’ social-emotional and academic outcomes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country afflicted by extreme poverty, ethnic strife, and civil war for the past three decades (http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/ihdsc/opeq). She also worked as a research assistant and analyst for the impact evaluation of the 4Rs program (Reading, Writing, Respect and Resolution). 4Rs is a universal school-based intervention that integrates the teaching of social and emotional skills into high quality reading lessons. The evaluation assessed the impacts of 4Rs on a sample of third- to fifth-grade children in high poverty, inner-city public schools. Catalina received her B.S. in Psychology and Anthropology from Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.

 

Abstract 

Education in the Midst of Conflict: One-Year Impacts of an Intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been plagued by violence, political instability, corruption, and extreme poverty for decades. To date, the eastern regions remain volatile, and serve as the stage for one of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. Historically, in contexts of crises, education services are relegated to second place in favor of interventions deemed to be life saving (Burde et al., 2014). Yet, quality education can protect children in contexts of conflict and play a pivotal role in breaking the cycle of violence (Kostelny & Wessells, 2008). The proposed poster will present results from a cluster-randomized impact evaluation of Opportunities for Equitable Access to Quality Basic Education (OPEQ), a school-based intervention developed by the International Rescue Committee to improve the quality of education and life opportunities of children and youth in three eastern provinces of the DRC.

OPEQ consists of two interventions: 1) an integrated curriculum (IC) that embeds IRC’s social emotional learning model, Healing Classrooms, into high-quality reading and math lessons; and 2) a collaborative teacher professional development system (TPD) that provides opportunities for teachers to support and motivate one another in learning and implementing the new curricula. Participation in the TPD and adoption of the IC are expected to improve teacher wellbeing (motivation, burnout) and classroom practices, school environments (supportiveness, cooperation and predictability), student wellbeing (mental health, victimization), and academic performance (geometry, addition/subtraction, reading). Impact estimates after one year of partial implementation show improvements in teacher motivation and burnout, but only for female teachers and teachers with less experience; improvements in mental health outcomes, but only for students in third and fourth grades; and enhancements in students’ perceptions of support from schools and teachers. Full results and implications for policy, practice and research will be discussed at the poster session.

 

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