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Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning programs develop critical competencies in children. Emotionally competent children are happier and more productive. Schools offer a wonderful opportunity to provide social and emotional education. And schools themselves may benefit from doing so as Jonathan Cohen suggests (2000, p. 5):

In recent years, there has been growing concern that more and more children are distressed, disturbed, and not motivated to learn. We all know that psychological and, too often, physical violence complicate and often derail educators and children’s capacity to teach and to learn. . . On a typical school day, over 135,000 students bring weapons to school (Hamburg, 1992; Mott Foundation, 1994). Today, 25% of American 10 to 17 year old children suffer from school adjustment problems, problems that are predictive of later, more serious problems (Dryfoos, 1990). As students move into the adolescence (14 to 17 year olds), recent studies show that 35% of our children engage in high-risk behavior. Between 15 and 22% of our nations youth experience social, emotional and other problems that necessitate mental health treatment. And, approximately 80% of them are not receiving needed services (Dryfoos, 1997). These and related findings about the distressing state of children nationally and internationally have intensified our search for more effective ways by which that we can help our children develop into responsible, caring and healthy individuals.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning is a good source of information and support. For instance, you can find a collection of sample SEL activities and a quick introduction to SEL on their website. CASEL has put forth guidelines for SEL programs (Elias & Weissberg, 2000) that explain the best ways to implement programs at the classroom, school and district levels. They detail the skills that are the focus of SEL efforts.

CASEL’s Key Skills in Social and Emotional Learning

  • Self-Awareness
  • Recognizing and naming one’s emotions.
  • Understanding the reasons and circumstances for feeling as one does.
  • Self-Regulation of Emotion
  • Verbalizing and coping with anxiety, anger, and depression.
  • Controlling impulses, aggression and self-destructive, anti-social behavior.
  • Recognizing strengths in and mobilizing positive feelings about self, school, family and support networks.
  • Self-Monitoring and Performance
  • Focusing on tasks at hand.
  • Setting short- and long-term goals.
  • Modifying performance in light of feedback.
  • Mobilizing positive motivation.
  • Activating hope and optimism.
  • Working toward optimal performance states, learning how to achieve flow.
  • Empathy and Perspective Taking
  • Becoming a good listener.
  • Increasing empathy and sensitivity to others’ feelings.
  • Understanding others’ perspectives, points of view and feelings.
  • Social Skills in Handling Relationships
  • Managing emotions in relationships, harmonizing diverse feelings & viewpoints.
  • Expressing emotions effectively.
  • Exercising assertiveness, leadership, and persuasion.
  • Working as part of a team/cooperative learning groups.
  • Showing sensitivity to social cues.
  • Exercising social decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  • Responding constructively to interpersonal conflict.

2008 Meta-Analysis of SEL Programs

Some of the most compelling information supporting SEL comes from findings of the largest, most scientifically rigorous review of research ever done on interventions that promote children’s social and emotional development. This review of more than 700 studies published through 2007 included school, family, and community interventions designed to promote social and emotional skills in children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 18. This large sample of studies was divided into three main areas: studies about (a) school-based interventions, (b) after-school programs, and (c) programs for families.

Results of the school-based research, which included 207 studies of programs involving 288,000 students, is of key relevance here. In this meta-analysis (study of studies), researchers used statistical techniques to summarize the findings across all the studies and found a broad range of benefits for students:

  • 9% decrease in conduct problems, such as classroom misbehavior and aggression
  • 10% decrease in emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression
  • 9% improvement in attitudes about self, others, and school
  • 23% improvement in social and emotional skills
  • 11% improvement in achievement test scores

More information on the research results is available in a CASEL briefing paper and as an archived teleconference.

Videos of Possible Interest

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Sample Catalog Resources

Below you'll find a randomized listing of up to 20 related items (we may have more...) drawn from our Resource Catalog.

Resource Title Description Links
Flirting or hurting?: Teacher guide, grade 6-9 9-page PDF teacher's guide which accompanies 3 filmed programs on sexual harrassment, "two of the modules target students, and one targets teachers. Throughout the student programs, the host, an older sister character, provides definitions, explanations and insights based on her own experiences ... the two 15-minute classroom programs include breaks for discussions or activities. These programs are appropriate for coeducational Health, Guidance, Family & Consumer Science, English, Social Studies, Physical Education, and New Student Orientation classes, or Vocational shops in grades 6 through 9."
VOV activities: Preventing feelings of isolation through trust and cooperation, grades 7-12 6-page PDF with activities for 7-12 graders to improve communication skills and build trust.
Needham experience: a district's commitment to social and emotional learning Powerpoint presentation of the Needham School District's experience with a comprehensive social and emotional learning program.
Five Critical Steps for Reducing Peer Aggression: Early Childhood Practitioner Training Program STEPS for Early Childhood Practitioners is a comprehensive training program using The Ophelia Project's Five Critical Steps framework. Through this training, Early Childhood practitioners learn to observe aggression in the classroom and develop skills to carefully and consciously change the social climate of preschools and childcare centers. The training modules empower practitioners to integrate using positive language and pro-social norms as part of their everyday interactions with children and also shows how to create lesson plans to promote empathy, conflict resolution, respect, civility, and manners.
Nonviolence: An Assertive Approach to Conflict This 50-minute activity lesson plan takes the Occupy Wall Street protest movement as a jumping off point to explore different approaches to resolving conflicts. The lesson is structured to help students explore what escalates/deescalates conflict; look at the difference between aggressive, submissive and assertive responses to conflict; focus on nonviolent action as an assertive response to conflict; and learn about Occupy Wall Street's use of nonviolence as a strategy.
Conflict resolution education: models, relationships to other fields Powerpoint presentation examining conflict resolution education and its relationship to fields such as peace studies, law related education and social and emotional learning.
Developing and Assessing School Culture: A New Level of Accountability for Schools This 8-page CEP position paper argues that education in our nation is at a defining moment, one with the potential to reshape our national conversation about school improvement. Successful schools--ones that foster both academic excellence and ethics--have positive school cultures (or "climates"). CEP defines a positive school culture broadly to include all aspects of school life, including a safe and caring environment, a powerful pedagogy and curriculum, student motivation and engagement, professional faculty culture and relational trust, parent partnerships, and community collaboration. The paper presents case studies and educational research showing the impact of school culture on students' academic achievement and social behavior. Because a positive school culture is central to student success, the authors argue we must address how to help all schools develop effective cultures. Since what gets measured matters, schools must also be held accountable for having positive school cultures and must have tools for assessing their culture. If we are to prepare students to be lifelong learners and 21st century ethical citizens, we must develop a new "school report card" that includes not only test scores but also concrete indicators of the quality of school culture.
Learning Skills of Peace through Every Day Conflicts Practical Activities and Resources for Families, Teachers and Other Caregivers. Noting that the conflicts arising daily for young children provide an opportunity for adults to model and teach skills for handling conflict peacefully, this guide provides tips for preventing unnecessary conflict, offers "first aid" for conflict moments, and provides resources for addressing common situations that can cause conflict. Developed cooperatively by Ohio's Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, Head Start Association, and Department of Education Division of Early Childhood, with implementation facilitated by many Ohio public libraries, the guide is comprised of 40 thematic units of instruction for the early childhood setting, with most units accompanied by home cards providing tips for preventing conflict and suggested activities. Each unit contains information on the importance of the topic for conflict management and its link to peace, suggested books, activities, and copies of home cards. The 40 units cover: (1) anger and aggression; (2) art; (3) bad day; (4) bad language; (5) bathtime; (6) bedtime; (7) behavior; (8) big and little; (9) big brother, big sister; (10) biting; (11) conflict; (12) cultural diversity; (13) death; (14) disabilities; (15) divorce; (16) dressing; (17) family; (18) fears; (19) feelings and emotions; (20) free choice; (21) lying; (22) mealtime at school; (23) mistakes; (24) nap time at school; (25) new baby; (26) teaching the problem-solving process; (27) safety; (28) school; (29) security objects; (30) self-esteem; (31) sharing; (32) siblings; (33) sickness; (34) stealing; (35) stress; (36) tantrums; (37) time out; (38) transitions; (39) whining and nagging; and (40) work. Also included in the guide are additional resources, such as a list of books for each unit, information on child development and child needs from birth to five years, and suggested readings for teachers and parents.
Peace Pedagogy Learning Modules from Peacelearner.org A series of learning modules developed by Daryn Cambridge for a Peace Pedagogy course he taught at American University in the Fall of 2012. The course was designed around seven pillars of peace education: community building, enabling multiple intelligences, nurturing emotional intelligence, exploring approaches to peace, re-framing history, transforming conflict nonviolently, and life-skills building. The learning modules were posted at the public website PeaceLearner.org as part of the course. Here's a listing of the available modules: Learning Module 1 – Welcome to Peace Pedagogy Learning Module 2 – Peace Education Voices Learning Module 3 – Community Building Learning Module 4 – Social and Emotional Intelligence Learning Module 5 – Conflict Resolution Learning Module 6 – Yoga and Meditation Learning Module 7 – Nonviolence Learning Module 8 – Environmental Sustainability
Conflict resolution: Citizenship education for young people with special needs 27-page PDF document which aims to, "develop positive models for dealing with conflict and to practise appropriate responses to deal with conflict." Includes examples of use of universal access symbols to increase retention and understanding when working with low literacy participants and students in special education classrooms.
Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning School Posters The Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) materials from the UK Primary National Strategies curriculum provide seven posters for use across the school. They are available for download as pdfs (see attachments in site sidebar). The topics include the following:Feelings detective – understanding my feelings and understanding the feelings of others. These two posters support children when trying to recognise their own feelings and the feelings of others.AssertivenessThis poster uses the ideas covered in the theme sets and provides a reminder about how we might behave assertively rather than timidly, aggressively or manipulatively.Problem solvingThis poster outlines a problem-solving process that might be used in social or learning situations.Peaceful problem solvingThis poster provides a reminder of the SEAL approach to resolving conflicts within the school.Circle timeThis poster is an aid to those who use circle time and provides useful reminders for children to ensure the sessions are positive and productive.The FightThis is a copy of The Fight by L. S. Lowry. It is used as a stimulus for work in Say no to bullying
Role play for nonverbal involvement activity Word document presenting a role play exercise in nonverbal communication.
GIRC Annotated Bibliography of Conflict Resolution Resources An annotated bibliography from the Global Issues Resource Center on conflict resolution resources covering the topics of bullying prevention, classroom management, and trauma & violence prevention. Includes books, curricula, videotapes, simulations and games.
Positions and interests Pdf document that describes an exercise in negotiation and problem solving to be used with children in grades 5-8, with a worksheet at end of document.
Conflict Resolution Education: A Guide to Implementing Programs in Schools, Youth-Serving Orgs A manual in pdf format providing an overview of various models for conflict resolution education program implementation. The first chapter defines conflict as a natural condition and examines the origins of conflict, responses to conflict, and the outcomes of those responses. It introduces four approaches to implementing conflict resolution education. Each of the next four chapters discusses one of these approaches and presents examples of programs that use the approach. One chapter describes an approach to conflict resolution education characterized by devoting a specific time to teaching the foundation abilities, principles, and one or more of the problemsolving processes in a separate course or distinct curriculum. Another chapter describes an approach in which selected, trained individuals provide neutral third-party facilitation in conflict resolution. A chapter presents an approach that incorporates conflict resolution education into the core subject areas of the curriculum and into classroom management strategies, and another chapter presents a comprehensive whole-school methodology that builds on the previous approach. The next two chapters address conflict resolution education in settings other than traditional schools. The final three chapters address more overarching topics: conflict resolution research and evaluation; a developmental sequence of behavioral expectations in conflict resolution; and the process of developing, implementing, and sustaining a conflict resolution program.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) and student benefits 12-page pdf document brief which "shares the latest research on the effects of social and emotional learning SEL) on students and includes strategies for implementing SEL, it explains how SEL works, elaborates on how SEL can be an integrative prevention framework that addresses the Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) core elements, and spells out implications of the research for SS/HS grantees."
Conflict resolution education and Social emotional learning programs: A critical comparison Pdf document that compares and contrasts Social and emotional learning programs to Conflict resolution education, with bibliography. Part of the results of the National Curriculum Integration Project.
Confidentiality Pdf document which discusses the concept of confidentiality in social and emotional learning environments. Written above title on document: NCIP (National Curriculum Integration Project).
Let's Be Friends Elementary Curriculum Grades 2-3 A prevention curriculum teaching young children positive social skills, "Let's Be Friends" presents useful tools that enable students to co-create a positive social environment that fosters kindness, compassion and responsibility. The 45-page pdf provides 8 lessons targeted toward early elementary students. Lesson One: Positive Attributes Lesson Two: Internal & External Strengths Lesson Three: What is a Friend? Lesson Four: Qualities of Friends Lesson Five: Understanding Conflict Lesson Six: Building Empathy Lesson Seven: Ways to be a Friend Lesson Eight: Reflecting on Friendships
Guidelines for personal disclosure (for teachers) Pdf document that sets forward guidelines (for teachers) for disclosing personal information within the bounds of social and emotional learning programs. Written above title on document: NCIP (National Curriculum Integration Project).