Schools today are mostly multi-cultural and multi-lingual, with students from different social and emotional backgrounds. Community agencies and educators serve students with various motivations to engage them in behaving positively, learning, and academically performing. Social emotional learning curriculum helps enhance the students’ ability to succeed in school. They can enjoy safer and more positive learning.
What makes a successful social emotional learning curriculum?
Social emotional learning curriculum not only improves achievement by 11 percentile points on average. It also helps increase pro-social behaviors (kindness, empathy, and sharing), reduces depression and stress, and improves student attitudes toward school. For social emotional learning to be effective, it needs coordinated classroom, family, schoolwide, and community practices that can help the students in developing the following skills:
They help students build and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships and to act according to social norms. These skills involve active listening, clear communication, cooperation, constructive conflict negotiation, resisting inappropriate social pressure, and asking for help when needed.
Responsible decision-making involves being able to learn how to make constructive choices regarding social interactions and personal behavior across different settings. It requires the ability to consider safety concerns, ethical standards, the health and well-being of self and others, accurate behavioral norms for risky behaviors, and to make realistic analyses of different actions’ consequences.
Self-awareness involves an understanding of one’s personal goals, emotions, and values. This includes assessing one’s strengths and weaknesses, possessing a well-grounded optimism and self-efficacy, and having positive mindsets. High levels of self-awareness will require the ability to understand how feelings, thoughts, and actions are connected.
Self-management needs attitudes and skills that can facilitate the ability to regulate behaviors and emotions. This includes being able to delay gratification, control impulses, manage stress, and preserve through the challenges to achieve educational and personal goals.
Social awareness involves the ability to empathize, understand, and feel compassion for those who have different cultures or backgrounds. It also involves understanding social norms for recognizing school, family, and community resources and supports and behavior.
Schools are among the primary places where students learn emotional and social skills. An effective social emotional learning curriculum needs to incorporate four SAFE elements:
- Sequenced – connected and coordinated activities to help skills development
- Active – active forms of learning that help students in mastering new skills
- Focused – emphasizes on developing social and personal skills
- Explicit – targets specific emotional and social skills
What are the benefits of social emotional learning curriculum?
With social emotional learning, students become more successful in school and daily life when they can do the following:
- know how to manage themselves
- understand the different perspectives of other people and relate with them effectively
- make sound choices regarding social and personal decisions
These skills are some of several short-term outcomes of social emotional learning curriculum, but here are other benefits:
- more positive relationships and social behaviors with adults and peers
- more positive attitudes toward oneself, others, and tasks that include confidence, enhanced self-efficacy, empathy, persistence, commitment and connection to the school, and a sense of purpose.
- Reduced conduct problems and risk-taking behaviors
- Improved attendance, test scores, and grades
- Decreased emotional distress
In the long run, greater social emotional knowledge increases the likelihood of high school graduation. It also increases their readiness for post-secondary education, positive family and work relationships, career success, reduced criminal behavior, better mental health, and engaged citizenship.
How to build social emotional learning skills in the classroom
An effective social emotional learning curriculum promotes social and emotional development for all the students in classrooms. This involves modeling and teaching social and emotional skills and giving students the chance to practice and hone these skills so they can apply these skills in various situations. But how can we achieve this?
- One of the most popular approaches involves training teachers in delivering lessons that can teach emotional and social skills, and then find opportunities for students to reinforce their use through the day.
- Another approach embeds social emotional learning instruction into content areas, which include English language arts, math, or social studies. There are so many research-based social emotional learning programs that help enhance students’ behavior and competence in developmentally appropriate ways from pre-school through high school.
- Educators or teachers can also foster skills in students naturally through their inter-personal and student-centered instructional interactions during school hours. Adult-student interactions support social emotional learning if they can result in positive relationships between students and teachers, promote student engagement, and enable teachers to model social emotional competencies for the students.
- Lastly, teacher practices that provide the students with emotional support and create opportunities for students’ autonomy, voice, and mastery experiences can promote student engagement in the educational process.
How can schools support social emotional learning curriculum?
Social emotional learning strategies usually come in the form of practices, policies, or structures that are related to climate and student support services. Safe and positive school climates and cultures can affect behavioral, academic, and mental health outcomes for students positively. The leaders in schools play a very crucial role in fostering schoolwide activities and policies that can help develop clear norms, values, and expectations for both the students and staff members, adult modeling of social and emotional competence, and promote positive school environments, like building a team to address the building climate.
There is something better than behavioral methods that rely on rewards and punishments – and that’s fair and equitable discipline policies as well as bullying prevention practices. Leaders can organize school activities that will build positive relationships and a sense of community among the students through structures like scheduled morning meetings or advisories that will provide the students with a chance to connect with other students.
An important component of schoolwide social emotional learning curriculum involves the integration into multi-tiered systems of support. The services that professionals like counselors, psychologists, and social workers provide to students should align with the universal efforts in the building and classrooms.
Through small group works, student support professionals can reinforce and supplement classroom-based instruction for students who need more intensive treatment or early intervention.
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