Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a subject that’s being increasingly discussed in the education community. SEL is teaching students character skills, which most people agree are important. The challenge is, while these attributes are significant, they are often hard to objectively define and analyze to see how exactly they impact a student’s future. In 2015 the OECD published the report Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills with a goal to shed light on evidence behind the impact social emotional learning can have on students.
The report has many findings, but I hope to highlight a few that I find particularly interesting. The first finding is social and emotional skill development plays a significant role in a student’s academic development. Specifically, out of the many skills measured “conscientiousness, sociability and emotional stability” helped with future career and social prospects. If you think about it, this makes sense. If you have a student who can regulate his/her emotions, show respect and get along with his/her peers, this student will have skills that will help in future classes covering all different subject areas, and for a wide variety of careers.
The impact of SEL is significant for any student, but its impact is even higher on those students who have lower academic performance. These students are often placed in intervention programs to help them catch up to their peers. The evidence from this report shows that social and emotional development should be a key part of these programs because it can help the interventions have an even greater impact on student performance. This further makes attention to SEL a key consideration for improving equity in a school system.
The OECD report also notes the importance of teaching these character traits early in a student’s education career. After reviewing the current literature, they find that focusing on social and emotional development in early childhood programs has future benefits for students, such as fewer behavior problems and greater student learning. The report showcases a few specific programs that have been researched and implemented in schools. One of these programs is “Tools of Mind” which is used in preschool and early primary classrooms to teach students how to regulate their emotions and social behaviors. While no long-term study has been carried out on students who have completed the program, short-term evaluations do show that students have improved classroom behavior and emotional control. The skills students learn in these programs build on each other, and so the earlier they can start the better.
Six months ago, the OECD released the findings for the 2015 PISA. PISA is an international assessment for 15-year-old students in reading, math and science and is given in 72 countries. One of the key areas of analysis for this round of PISA is social and emotional development and well-being, and looking at how this may be associated with student performance. Next week, I will highlight some of the key findings from the more recent report that shows how the U.S. compares to the 72 other countries. — Annie Hemphill