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June 16, 2017

The importance of social and emotional learning: Part I

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.

SEL

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

Filed under: equity,SEL,Student support — Tags: , — Annie Hemphill @ 3:08 pm





April 17, 2017

Where Teacher Prep Meets Behavior Management

Last week, the Center for American Progress and the Hope Street Group held a forum to discuss the future of teacher preparation following the recent repeal of regulations which required states to rate their programs.

During this event, panelists repeatedly argued that teacher training should include a behavior management component. One panelist shared that she felt she was not adequately prepared to teach children with social and emotional problems when she began teaching. Another stressed the importance of training new teachers to understand and respond to the social, behavioral matters of children.

There are good reasons for this. As CPE found in its report on teacher shortages, good working conditions and support play a large role in teachers’ decisions about where to work. If student outbursts impede a teacher’s ability to manage the classroom, that says a lot about the working conditions. Accordingly, another panelist spoke about the need for teachers-in-training to have a “back-up” for assistance with behavioral management situations when they arise, which speaks to support. CPE also reports that student discipline problems are another factor in low teacher retention, more so than even salary.

Up to 30 percent of children and adolescents have mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, and as many as 1 in 10 students have disorders severe enough to interfere with their ability to function properly in class, including exhibiting proper classroom behavior.

Research shows that the achievement levels of students who have behavior problems are significantly lower than students who do not. In addition, while the dropout rate for all public-school students is 7 percent, among students with behavior problems, the dropout rate is even higher, 38.7 percent, higher than most categories of disabilities (Porowski, A., et al., 2014).

Being equipped to provide behavior management isn’t a new concern; a 2011 study showed that teachers surveyed reported a lack of experience and training for supporting children’s mental health needs (Reinke, W. et al., 2011).

Some families are able to access behavioral health services for their students on their own, but an almost equal amount rely on schools to provide those services for them. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, in 2007, 3.1 million youth (12.7 percent) received treatment or counseling for emotional or behavior problems outside of school, where an additional 11.8 percent of youth received mental health services inside school facilities. This may be why teachers report that they believe they hold the primary responsibility of implementing behavioral interventions in the classroom.

According a report by the Hope Street Group, teachers should be trained to become aware of students’ emotional triggers. Since many students exhibit signs prior to a sudden outburst, knowing these signs could be helpful in preventing them. Teachers can further be better positioned to refer students to necessary treatment, whether through community mental health providers, family organizations outside of the school, or school-based services.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided a list of warning signs for mental health problems, among other advice for consulting a school counselor, nurse, administrator or the student’s parents if certain behaviors are observed. HHS also has provided a list of actions teacher can take in their classrooms to promote the mental health of students.

Research shows that parents want to be involved and prefer to seek advice or referrals from teachers, but they might not know how to communicate with professionals regarding their child’s behavioral needs. If teachers initiate communication, facilitating parental engagement, that’s a positive step towards solving the problem. Training teachers in parent engagement strategies focused on expressing support and establishing partnership with parents is therefore another important piece.

Teacher training also needs district support, as research shows that even when teachers receive effective training, certain programs tend to dissolve when they aren’t supported by school districts.

Behavioral healthcare has its place in the classroom. Given the educational impact emotional disturbances hold on students with special needs, behavioral health should be part of their educational experience, which means teachers must be supported and trained to facilitate it. Teachers, however, are not mental health professionals. Nor are they case managers. Training teachers to recognize signs of potential behavioral outbursts; making sure teachers are familiar with the community in which they are teaching so that they can more easily identify resources for referrals to trained behavioral health specialists; and providing them with support and guidance when they may enable them to feel better prepared to manage student behavior.

Filed under: CPE,Student support,teachers — Tags: — Katharine Carter @ 2:26 pm






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