SEL skills are necessary life skills. These skills are just as important, if not more important, than the core competencies taught in schools. Without proper social emotional skills an individual will struggle to function throughout life. This social handicap can cause hurdles as one tries to live up to their other abilities. Education and abilities can only take you so far. If one lacks social emotional skills, this can prevent them from getting certain jobs, building and maintaining necessary relationships, and ultimately lead to mental health issues. Tons of studies exist on the importance and results of teaching SEL.
As far back as 2008, a report from the Marcelino Botín Foundation found that SEL programs in other countries, as well as in the U.S, “significantly enhance social and emotional skills of children and youngsters, reduce or prevent mental and behavioral problems and/or promote academic achievement, in the short as well as in the long term.”
The Four C’s
Scholastic offers numerous articles surrounding the topic of SEL. One particular article discusses The Four C’s. These are four skills that Scholastic deems more important than academics. They are confidence, cooperation, curiosity, and communication.
These are all social skills. With all of the focus on testing these days we often forget the importance of play and interaction. This is where students learn to be productive and functioning members of society. They learn the do’s and don’ts of dealing and interacting with others.
This link provides some additional teacher resources from Scholastic for relating to emotions.
Social Emotional Learning and Your School
Where does your school stand on implementing social emotional skills into the curriculum? Have you ever considered how it could affect your school’s climate and culture? I can tell you that it will affect it, in a very positive way! I have played a key role in transforming my school’s climate and culture and implementing social emotional skills into the curriculum as attributed to this dramatic change. You can read more about the climate and culture changes and methods in our article Elevating School Climate and Culture With Social Emotional Leaning. This article will change the way you think about the impacts of SEL on your school.
History and Research Data
In 2018, India began requiring a social and emotional learning as a subject in their curriculum. They felt it was necessary in order to shape their country’s future. This is the trend we find happening across the globe. The United States is now focusing on developing its curriculum to define the new required curriculum of SEL.
Most countries have adopted social emotional learning into their curriculum in some fashion. It is the new trend in education. I don’t think this is going to be something that we see fade out, like other education fads often do. This one is here to stay!
An article from Edutopia mentions the ancient roots of SEL. This goes back to ancient Greece. The article states, “when Plato wrote about education in The Republic, he proposed a holistic curriculum that requires a balance of training in physical education, the arts, math, science, character, and moral judgment. By maintaining a sound system of education and upbringing, you produce citizens of good character.”
In November of 2015, the American Psychological Association published research in School Psychology Quarterly which illustrated that there is no conflict between academics and social emotional learning. In fact, the trial of social and emotional learning in grades 3-6, showed that students who took part in the SEL program were more likely than those who did not, to achieve basic proficiency in reading, writing and math on independently administered state mastery tests.
Job Related Skills
The World Economic Forum published an article titled, The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this article the list the top 10 ranked skills for 2020. I have displayed the rankings below. Notice how many social and emotional skills make this list.
Regardless of the time in history, location, or population involved in the research, it routinely illustrates that a child’s psychological development directly influences their academic and overall life performance. If this is repeatedly proven, why do teachers fight it. Many teachers feel this is just another thing to fit into their busy day and their overwhelming curriculum load. It is actually more important than any other part or piece. If students feel secure and mentally healthy they will learn. Let’s go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Emotional health is at the base of all needs. If this is the case, how can we teach if we aren’t incorporating SEL?
For once, the United States is in the lead but only when it comes to conducting SEL research. Europe is right alongside the U.S. in these research efforts. The difference lies in the school curriculum incorporation. The U.S. only began a movement to incorporate SEL into the curriculum in the last 3-5 years. This does not mean that it has not been taught in U.S. schools but there were no guidelines or consistent teaching methods. Guidelines are slowly being developed and teaching methods are becoming more regulated and consistent. This doesn’t mean the U.S. is there yet but we are approaching the target. The distance from the target varies by state.
The Asian countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan produce the highest achieving students in the world based on international test scores. Based on research obtained from CASEL, “What may be surprising to Westerners is the degree to which these examination-driven countries have embraced social-emotional learning (SEL) and assessment.”
Finland continues to lead the way in all aspects of education, and SEL is no different. Guidance and counseling are built in as part of the curriculum in Finland. They are not set up as a separate support role to the schools. This means it is an integral part of the learning process and curriculum, not an afterthought. Notice that the U.S. doesn’t rank in the top 10 at all.
The Irony of the U.S. Not Ranking in Top 10
The irony of this is that 80 percent of Finland’s education model is based on U.S. research. The biggest focus of Finland’s education system is the importance of education and the second is student choice. We have to teach students how to make good choices. This is where the U.S. is lacking. We don’t offer students much choice in their own learning nor do we focus on teaching SEL like we should in order to ensure that good choices are made.
Currently, there is no cohesive international statement defining the minimum requirements for providing SEL in schools. Although, in 2017 Cambridge University began the mission to create one based on research. Unfortunately, in 2020 we still don’t have one. With this said, the U.S. would rank much higher for education if we would listen to ourselves. We know what to do and have the research, we simply choose not to follow it. Despite the knowledge and research, our education system continues to focus on things that continue to produce lacking results, such as ranking schools and standardized testing. The focus must shift to SEL to ensure that we are developing the whole child. This will result in a better economy and a stronger country, in the long run. The first step is to focus on social emotional learning (SEL).