Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is a process in which children acquire and apply the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to understand and manage their emotions, feel empathy, maintain and nurture positive relationships, be goal-oriented, and make responsible decisions. It is a vital component of every young person’s development. SEL skills are critical not only during youth but as children move into adolescence and adulthood as they begin participating in more complex interactions and prepare to be held more accountable in college and the workplace.
School leaders across the country realize the advantages of incorporating SEL into their everyday curriculum and learning activities, especially as some schools continue to operate remotely in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. SEL training for teachers and school leaders can benefit students of all ages, teachers must be well-versed in SEL’s benefits and how to incorporate SEL into everyday learning activities. To be successful, school and district leaders must enable adequate training for teachers and classroom leaders and make SEL training an ongoing aspect of their continuing education and personal development.
The Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning for Students and Teachers
SEL offers scientifically-based successes in creating a positive, productive, and more inclusive classroom environment. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) found that students whose classroom learning incorporates SEL instruction performed, on average, 11 percentile points higher on academic achievement assessments than students whose teachers did not leverage SEL practices. While our teachers are primarily responsible for our students’ academic development, school leaders cannot overlook the importance of whole-child progression. Nor can they disregard the reality that the interpersonal experiences that children have during their youth are impactful to the characteristics they develop that define their personality, ability to work collaboratively, and their approach to all other personal interactions after leaving the school.
Also of vital impact, scientific studies indicate that SEL training results in more responsible student behaviors and stronger bonds among peers, students, and teachers (CASEL). As a result, academic achievements improve, and student absences decline.
Not only is SEL beneficial for students, but it is also advantageous for teachers. Teachers who understand the tenets of SEL and exhibit its philosophy in the classroom reinforce SEL competencies to students who benefit from the positive impression it leaves in the classroom. Since, with SEL, students are more attentive, less anxious, and more focused on their academic achievements, teachers benefit from less chaotic classroom environments, less argumentative student dynamics, and the satisfaction of better educational outcomes. Teachers with higher SEL skills also have better relationships with students, more successful classroom management, and enjoy less work-related stress. All of these positive benefits lead to greater job satisfaction and retention.
Despite all the known benefits of SEL, not enough teachers feel confident about leveraging SEL best practices. Why? A lack of sufficient training. According to a recent national survey, four out of five teachers would like to leverage SEL learning modalities in the classroom; while only about half received adequate training.
Teachers can only successfully incorporate SEL in their classrooms if they receive high-quality pre-service and ongoing SEL instruction supported by their district leaders. As you continue to evolve your school priorities throughout the year, commit to enabling your teachers to develop the competence and confidence needed to bring SEL into their everyday activities.
Incorporating Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom
The first step to ensuring successful SEL application in the classroom is to choose an effective model designed for flexibility and individual customization as needed. Such customization should include modifications at the student level, especially for students who need individualized lesson plans and engagement. As teachers find success modifying and customizing curricula for SEL, encourage teachers to share best practices with their peers so that all educators can build on their collective accomplishments.
Next, understand that the most effective SEL results are achievable only when incorporating SEL into all components of the classroom and school environment. Unlike teaching students other critical lessons, like the risks of drugs and alcohol, social-emotional lessons cannot be embedded into children’s minds to produce behavioral and transformative changes through a defined and dedicated study or set of courses. To change how young people treat one another and prioritize personal responsibility, they cannot be told that it is important. They must experience its importance daily to reinforce the behavior and make positive interactions innate actions.
Once you have successfully trained your teachers on the benefits and applications of incorporating SEL into their classroom, ensure all school and faculty members have access to implementation supports. For optimal results, the implementation process must include communication with parents and guardians. Parents and guardians must understand the benefits of SEL and why their child’s school is investing in its inclusion in their child’s curriculum. When parents and guardians understand and support SEL, they can reinforce learnings and behaviors at home, further supporting the development of the child’s emotionally intuitive behavior.
If part of your hesitation to provide adequate resources and training for teachers to incorporate SEL in their classrooms is due to the hesitancy of its ROI, consider taking a data-driven approach to SEL as a long-term educational priority. As your teachers begin implementing SEL in their curriculum, use qualitative and quantitative metrics to assess its efficacy. Some factors to measure may include:
- Qualitative Factors:
– Staff engagement in SEL practices.
– Teachers self-reporting improvements in students’ focus and positive classroom dynamics.
– Teachers self-reported job satisfaction.
– Students’ self-reported confidence and happiness among their peers.
- Quantitative Factors:
– Student standardized test scores.
– Student grade point averages.
– Total number of missed days of school for students.
Social-Emotional Learning Course from PLS 3rd Learning for Educators
To support district leaders who provide needed SEL instruction to teachers, PLS 3rd Learning (SuperEval’s parent company) offers the graduate course, Social-Emotional Learning: Essential to Student Success, through our division PLS Classes. This course focuses on the importance of supporting academics with social-emotional learning. Participants explore the five social-emotional learning areas: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. Classroom-applicable strategies and activities for developing a social-emotional culture while fostering each of the social-emotional areas in students are modeled so that educators can maximize student learning and success. Learn more.
Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action