Curriculum and Instruction Trends: Social-Emotional Learning10/22/2013
Despite multiple strategies to enhance student learning, American primary and secondary school students continue to fall behind their counterparts who live in countries throughout the world. According to a 2009 study, U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries that include nations such as China, South Korea, and Finland. Frustrated educators and administrators may be able to turn around the dismal education trend by implementing the concepts of an obscure, yet effective teaching method.
What is Social-Emotional Learning?
Social-emotional learning (SEL) represents a learning process that allows children to develop social and emotional competencies. The creators of SEL predicated their educational philosophy on the idea that children learn best when they participate in a classroom that fosters supportive relationships. Educators who implement SEL concepts stress the importance of acquiring the social and emotional skills required to be an outstanding student, citizen, and worker. SEL attempts to reduce the incidence of risky behavior, such as drug use, bullying, and dropping out of school. Effective classroom instruction, student engagement in positive activities, and the encouragement of parents and the community coalesce to form a strong foundation for learning. While teachers still teach challenging curriculum, they also encourage self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision-making.
What Drives SEL?
The driving force behind SEL is the realization by educators that emotional intelligence ranks with academic intelligence in terms of real life applications. Mark Bracket, who works as a senior researcher in psychology at Yale University, says recent studies have concluded that neglecting to focus on social equilibrium hinders a child’s learning ability. Bracket stresses that the emotional well-being of students correlates to academic performance. Children experience a wide range of conflicting emotions that can lead to acute loneliness that causes depression, as well as unbridled euphoria that presents a false sense of achievement. As Brackett notes in a paper he wrote in response to the SEL studies, parents have historically assumed children develop the emotional skills to cope with the rigors of attending school. However, in reality, Brackett says many children never develop the important social and emotional skills. “It’s like saying that a child doesn’t need to study English because she talks with her parents at home.”
Dr. Maurice Elias, a leading child psychology expert, succinctly explains the ramifications of neglecting the social and emotional development of school age children. Elias maintains, “Many of the problems in our schools are the result of social and emotional malfunction and debilitation from which too many children have suffered and continue to bear the consequences.” An evaluation conducted by Resolving Conflict Creatively (RCCP) demonstrated that SEL programs reduce school violence, increase student self-esteem, and create an environment of personal accountability. The data collected in the studies have brought to light the importance of holistic education, as opposed to the use of rote memorization. Social-emotional learning not only increases the capacity of children to learn, but it also motivates them to seek knowledge.
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The online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction offered by Western New England University focuses on a balanced blend of curriculum and classroom interaction that covers academic research educational best practices. Students explore the latest research and apply the findings to develop strategies that enhance their students’ classroom experiences.
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