Students benefit from Social and Emotional Learning programs. Here are some ideas for your school.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)—developing students holistically by teaching them “life” skills like communication and self-reflection—is more than just the latest educational trend. It has now been proven that these intangible skills bring about tangible results, including increases in academic scores and measurable improvements throughout the course of the students’ life.

Because of these real results, schools are making it a priority to incorporate SEL into their curriculum. Washoe County Schools in Nevada (with the help of the Collaborative for Academic, Social & Emotional Learning, or CASEL) is one district that is fully embracing SEL. And they have favorable outcomes to show for it. Their students are now “less likely to be suspended, more likely to attend school, and graduate at a much higher rate than students who didn’t have those [SEL] competencies.”

The best way for schools to make Social and Emotional Learning part of their curriculum is to incorporate it into their everyday routines.

“Educators across the country have, like Washoe, boosted student performance by weaving social-emotional lessons—such as regulating emotion, accepting mistakes and coping with stress—into everyday instruction.”

Like any new concept introduced into your school—especially ones that needs daily reinforcement—the roll-out can seem daunting. Luckily, District Administration has come up with four steps to help lay the groundwork for a successful SEL curriculum.

1. Change in climate and culture
Attitudes about discipline and what constitutes a full curriculum is shifting in schools, and in order for SEL concepts to be successful, they need to be fully embraced. After all, if the Administration doesn’t believe SEL is a worthwhile investment, then how can teachers be expected to be on board?

John Carver, superintendent of Howard-Winnishiek Community School District in Iowa, explains how strong leadership sets the tone and expectation.

“In order for social-emotional learning to happen, you have to change everybody’s mindset. My first year here in the district, I modeled growth mindset and positive thinking.” The next year, the district began embedding social-emotional learning into the curriculum.

2. Explicit Instruction
Social and Emotional Learning lessons may seem, to some, like common sense. But teaching social skills to students that may lack them requires as much formality as academic instruction.

“It’s not enough to simply talk about social-emotional learning or role-model respectful communication and teamwork. Direct instruction helps students understand how their bodies and brains respond to stress, and helps them learn other modes of acting and reacting.”

There are SEL curricula out there that help piece together the specifics, and CASEL has two guides to help educators decide which program is right for them.

3. Academic Integration
In addition to formal lessons on life skills, teachers may see more expedient success if they incorporate SEL into their regular classes.

“Well-prepared teachers can begin to weave lessons of persistency, grit, collaboration and resilience into academic instruction—and when that happens, students get the message that social-emotional learning is more than something to discuss once a week with a counselor.”

Teachers comfortable with SEL concepts will begin to see opportunities to develop social skills in tandem with regular academic instruction.

4. Reflection and Refinement
“The assessment of social-emotional skills is a hotly debated topic. Yet district administrators want the ability to measure the effectiveness of such skills.”

So, how do you measure social growth? District Administration lays out the options:

Some assessments ask students to gauge their skill level. Students may be asked to rank how difficult or easy certain tasks are, such as joining a group they don’t usually sit with at lunch. Other assessments ask students to respond to hypothetical situations, such as another student taking their pencil.

Another approach is to assess students’ social-emotional development by examining attendance, discipline referrals and GPA. “The idea is that one of the ways to measure whether students have these non-cognitive skills is to look at the kinds of behaviors that are usually reflective of those skills,” says Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why.

True measurement of SEL program success may be difficult to determine, but programs like Hero can help. Hero keeps track of student behavior, and can capture actionable SEL data by allowing schools to track the key components of SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Hero can also collect data on the negative behaviors suggestive of poor social skills, like tardies. Combining both sets of data can help paint the big picture on whether SEL is improving and making an impact at your school.

Source: District Administration