Social-emotional learning takes center stage

Social-emotional learning takes center stage

(Calif.) Social and emotional learning, once considered the touchy-feely side of school curriculum, becomes fully integrated into the education spectrum in California with formal release of state-sanctioned guidelines.

Good teaching has always been interwoven with the ability of adults to respond to the emotional conditions of students and an understanding of their social needs.

With a growing body of research showing that social and emotional learning is a critical part of student success, the California Department of Education announced late last week the new guidelines that are intended to help students learn a range of skills.

“Educators know, and the science confirms that learning is not only cognitive, but also social and emotional,” said state schools chief Tom Torlakson, in a statement.

“These principles are a part of a concentrated effort to improve teaching and learning of social and emotional skills by recognizing that students’ connection to what they are learning is a critical component of a quality education,” he said.

Faced with growing pressure to improve student performance, schools have traditionally focused most of the attention on academic skills. But as emphasis has shifted in recent years to the development of the “whole child,” social and emotional learning has become more prominent.

A 2011 study led by researchers from the University of Loyola, Chicago, found that when evidence-based social and emotional learning is programmed properly, academics and the well-being of students both improve.

A follow-up report in 2015, found that social and emotional learning programs can lead to better life outcomes, saving social spending as much as $11 for every one dollar invested.

The new guidelines from the CDE are aimed at helping students develop their abilities to:

  • Set and achieve positive goals;
  • Feel and show empathy for others;
  • Establish and maintain positive relationships;
  • Make responsible decisions; and
  • Understand and manage emotions.

The fundamental principles are:

  • Schools must take a systems approach to promoting student academic, social, and emotional learning, physical well-being, and college, career, and civic life readiness.
  • All students must have opportunities to build SEL skills and receive an assets-based educational experience that is personalized, culturally relevant and responsive, and intentionally addresses racism and implicit bias.
  • Build the capacity of both students and adults through an intentional focus on relationship-centered learning environments and by offering research-based learning experiences that cultivate core social and emotional competencies.
  • Maximize the resources of the entire school community, including expanded learning opportunities, early learning and care programs, and family and community partnerships, to advance SEL and student well-being.