President's Blog

Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

We’ve all heard about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. Usually they are considered augmentations to curriculum intended to improve standardized test scores.   However, there is growing empirical evidence that SEL programs can significantly impact student academic performance.

In a recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development, the authors from Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago provide a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning programs involving 270,034 K-12 students.

According to the analysis, Compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social emotional skills, attitudes, behavior and academic performance that reflected an 11 percentile-point gain in achievements.”

Given the positive impact SEL has on student achievement, we believe more schools should be adopting robust, measurable SEL programs aimed at addressing the student’s social and emotional learning as a core to curriculum.

TransformingEd, a nonprofit that supports districts and states in implementing programs to equip students with the mindsets, skills and habits they need to succeed,  identifies four factors in building strong emotional and social skills with students:

  • Developing a Growth Mindset – students with a growth mindset believe that ability can change as a result of effort, perseverance and practice
  • Self Management – the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations
  • Self Efficacy – the belief in one’s ability to succeed in achieving an outcome or reaching a goal
  • Social Awareness – the ability to take the perspective of, and empathize with, others from diverse backgrounds and cultures

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has developed its own SEL standards in its ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success, aimed at building student competencies spanning Learning Strategies, Self-Management Skills and Social Skills.

In addition, ASCA has adapted the Mindsets and Behaviors for each grade level, and also provides guidance through a planning tool to assist in implementing its program.

Central to all this is an emphasis on helping students develop a deeper self-awareness of their strengths and challenges and then learning how to use this insight to navigate the broader world.

Our tools focus on building student awareness of one’s innate strengths, challenges, skills and talents as the foundation for building strong social and emotional skills.  To help the professional, we have mapped how our tools address ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors.

The stakes in student outcomes are high.  Nothing less than the future is at risk.  If your district does not have a robust SEL program, the evidence suggests your students may lag behind those who have the benefit of this additional focus.

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