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3 Big Ideas for Effective SEL Strategies

Educators, practitioners, and administrators should identify the what, the why, and the how of essential social and emotional learning (SEL) skills when implementing these strategies in an effective manner, according to SEL advocates.

In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Stephanie Jones, director of the Ecological Approaches to Social-Emotional Learning (EASEL) Lab, explained that there are six SEL domains studied and documented by researchers.

The first three domains are skills and competencies: cognitive, emotional, and social. The next three are belief ecologies: attitudes, habits of mind, and ways of thinking about the world. One way to think about how these two sets go together is that one is a set of things you learn and know how to do, and the other is a set of internal guideposts that tell you to use those skills when it’s essential and when it matters.

The what

Regardless of setting or age, the goal of SEL is for students to engage in classroom learning activities, and four key components must be in place for this to happen.

Students need to focus their thinking by marshaling their attention and using their awareness to gather information from the teacher and the book. To access the content, they need to manage their behavior and not be distracted by what’s happening around them. Students need to build positive relationships, so they must trust that an adult is going to be there for them and is giving them information that they can use. Most importantly, children need to understand and deal with feelings throughout the entire learning process.

Why? Why now? Why at all?

Three critical pieces of evidence tell us how vital the research and studies are as they examine effective social and emotional strategies.

Long-term correlation studies provide evidence on how core social and emotional skills measured in early childhood, such as self-control and social competence, are predictive of future life and work outcomes.

The second piece of evidence includes trials of programs, interventions, and strategies designed to improve these skills. Those studies have found that when high-quality programs are implemented with fidelity, there will be a change in children’s abilities.

The third piece of evidence comes out of the world of neuroscience about how stress influences the brain and then cascades into behavior, causing the six domains of SEL to be particularly vulnerable to experiences of stress and adversity.

How? What’s effective? What’s innovative?

For an SEL program to be effective, it must establish safe and caring learning settings characterized by effective behavior management, instruction in social and emotional skills, and give students some ownership of the work itself.

The characteristics of effective SEL education are living and modeling the skills that educators and practitioners hope that children will acquire, and teaching skills directly about the words and what the behaviors look like that are associated with them.

Students must have opportunities to practice their skills, learn from mistakes, and talk about them in a safe environment. Effective social and emotional strategies bridge safe and caring learning environments and instruction with a foundation of connective, supportive, and reciprocal relationships between children and adults.

Originally Published: eSchoolNews 
Published inInstructional PracticesSEL

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