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Leadership Best Practices | Social-Emotional Learning

Is Social-Emotional Learning Top of Mind in Your School District?

November 5th, 2020

Two high school girls discuss their research topics during an AP research class. Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in ActionAs our communities continue to diversify, schools are responsible to educate students across a broad array of ethnicities, races, religions, and cultural backgrounds. School leaders must acknowledge the importance of social-emotional learning and foster equitable academic environments that promote acceptance and embrace differences. Social-emotional learning can help students develop a healthy curiosity for people whose lives and experiences differ from their own. It can also help to normalize the experience of being surrounded by different ethnicities and backgrounds and foster cross-cultural friendships and bonding.

As a school leader wondering how to add social-emotional learning into your school curriculum, this guide is designed to help you make the first critical steps toward program establishment and adoption.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning is a behavioral framework that includes various skills that impact academic development and personal growth. Further, it involves the processes necessary for young people to establish and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Social-emotional learning is predicated on the belief that the best learning outcomes are achievable within the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful.

What are the Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning?

As an academic growth modality, social-emotional learning has proven to produce better educational outcomes, greater interpersonal awareness and understanding, and fewer disciplinary incidents. It also helps young people learn how to manage their emotions healthily. The development of such life skills is proving to be crucial additions to school curriculum to support any at-home learning and development that may or may not be taking place. Social-emotional learning also helps young people to excel at the college level and upon entering the workforce.

According to the Committee for Children, when exposed to social-emotional learning, students:

  • Were 42% less likely to say that they were involved in physical aggression.
  • Were 20% less likely to be bullied if they have a disability.
  • Averaged a 5 – 12% dropout rate decrease.
  • Increased their academic achievement by 13%.

Seventy-nine percent of employers also say that social-emotional learning skills are the most essential qualities for job success.

With such positive long-term impacts, school leaders must successfully incorporate social-emotional learning into their classrooms at every age level.

Social-Emotional Learning Validation from Educators and School Leaders

According to a national survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, most district leaders, principals, and teachers agree that social-emotional learning is an essential part of K-12 education:

  • 74% of teachers, principals, and district leaders say their schools teach social-emotional learning.
  • 43% say it is a transformational way to improve public education.
  • 35% of respondents were in the initial stages of developing social-emotional learning practices.
  • 55% stated that all staff had professional learning opportunities around students’ social and emotional needs and teaching strategies to promote social and competency development.
  • 52% of respondents say their schools are ensuring staff have access to curriculum and materials that support social-emotional learning programming.
  • 50% are helping to establish norms and disciplinary policies that support social-emotional learning.

Incorporating Social-Emotional Learning Into Your Classrooms Using CASEL’s Framework

The nonprofit entity CASEL developed its Framework for Social and Emotional Learning to help educators and parents leverage evidence-based social-emotional learning modalities into academic programs from PreK through senior year. CASEL’s framework might be valuable for districts looking to begin their adoption of social-emotional learning classroom practices and activities. Relative to its outcomes, it emphasizes the following five core competencies:

  1. Self-Awareness. The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. It includes assessing one’s strengths and limitations accurately and possessing a sense of confidence and optimism.
  2. Self-Management. The regulation of one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. It includes managing stress, self-motivation, impulse control, and setting and working toward achieving personal and educational goals.
  3. Social Awareness. The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with diverse backgrounds and cultures, understand social and ethical behavioral norms, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
  4. Relationship Skills. The establishment and maintenance of healthy, rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. It includes clear communications, active listening, cooperation, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.
  5. Responsible Decision-Making. Constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on a consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences, and the well-being of self and others.

With a focus on these outcomes, the CASEL method aims to improve students’ attitudes and beliefs about themselves, others, and the education environment.

A Note About Social-Emotional Learning in the COVID-19 Recovery Process

Social-emotional learning is proving to be a crucial necessity during the transitionary period of at-home to hybrid, to in-school learning as schools continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who have grown accustomed to interacting with educators and peers in person in a safe, structured academic environment are now spending more time distanced from mentors and friends. They are further interacting with others through technology interfaces, making it more challenging to assess others’ emotions or consider how words, actions, or behaviors might be perceived.

If the adoption of social-emotional learning practices has been a long-term strategy for your district, consider accelerating that goal and finding ways to implement effective practices sooner rather than later.

Next Steps

To incorporate social-emotional learning into your school district’s programming, you might want to form a task force or committee of leaders to work with faculty to integrate curriculum at every age level. To truly benefit from its philosophy, students must be exposed to it from pre-school through high school. Consider the CASEL framework and whether you can adapt its methodology as a starting point for success. Include parents in the learning process and encourage them to reinforce lessons when students return home.

Be sure to track your students’ progress and their development trends to identify the impact of social-emotional learning on their personal and academic achievements. Over time, such trends will reinforce social-emotional learning’s validity and importance as a core component of your educational methodology and philosophy.

Did you know?

SuperEval’s partner PLS Classes offers a new graduate level online course for educators called Social-Emotional Learning: Essential to Student Success™? Participants earn PD or graduate credit as they explore the five areas of social-emotional learning and explore ways to develop character strengths in students of empathy and compassion, integrity and self-control, courage and perseverance, humility and gratitude, teamwork and communication, and curiosity and inquisitiveness. If your teachers or school administrators would like to learn more, please send them here for more information.

Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

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