BUILDING ACADEMIC SUCCESS ON SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING
By Joseph Zins, Publishers: Teachers College Press, Columbia Univ., N.Y.
Time have changed. Young people are now more exposed to problems of depression, social isolation, and drug abuse, They need to build social and emotional resources to cope with these risks. Children also spend many more years in school, which requires that they develop concentration, impulse control and emotional regulation.
Work settings now require teamwork, participating leadership, informal networking and quality performance. Young people no longer learn a trade for life. They must constantly learn new skills and adapt to changing technology and market demands. The freedom they enjoy to make career and lifestyle decisions also requires that they plan ahead and actively manage their lives. All this puts a premium on self-esteem, initiative, motivation, adaptability, and self-management. Critical thinking is replacing rote learning.
We want to develop well-adjusted individuals who experience joy, excitement, peace and contentment, self-acceptance, satisfaction with life, fulfillment, meaningful engagement or enjoyment of daily pursuits.
The National Advisory Mental Health Council estimates that one in ten children and adolescents suffers from mental health problems.
When a child trying to learn is caught up in a distressing emotion, the centers for learning are temporarily hampered. The child’s attention becomes preoccupied with whatever may be the source of the trouble. The child has that much less ability to hear, understand, or remember what a teacher or a book is saying.
Schools will be most successful in their educational mission when they integrate efforts to promote children’s academic, social, and emotional learning. Researchers have found that social and emotional behavior in the classroom is linked with positive intellectual outcomes.
SEL (Social and emotional learning) is the process through which we learn to recognize and manage emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop positive relationships, and avoid negative behaviors.
So many separate programs have been introduced to promote health, prevent violence and delinquency, encourage school bonding, prevent dropping out, and decrease teen pregnancy, but it has been as mistake to address these problems in isolation.
Responsible Decision Making
Our Building Self-Esteem program is a comprehensive program that encompasses and develops all these competencies.
There is a growing body of scientifically based research supporting the strong impact that enhanced social and emotional behaviors can have on success on school and ultimately in life.
The primary purpose of schools is seen as preparing students to become knowledgeable, responsible, and caring citizens. They need to discover “What is my meaning and purpose?” What are my greatest gifts?” “How can I maintain hope?” We need to project hope—convincing students of their worth and ability to achieve in a difficult world.
Caring is central to the shaping of meaningful, supportive, rewarding, and productive relationships. Caring occurs when children believe that adults unconditionally accept and respect them, and the community believes everyone is important and has something to contribute. Systems that foster quality by fear-based or punitive measures, engender fear, withdrawal, and half-hearted compliance.
The “inner edge” is a deep self-knowledge and strong connection to one’s purpose for living; it also requires an awareness of spiritual influences and conditions that support or erode a sense of self and the difference one is making in the mission to support learning.
According to a UCLA survey, 40% of freshman are disengaged from educational values and pursuits. Students are inattentive, easily bored and unwilling work hard, especially on difficult material outside their interests.
Interpersonal relationship provide students with a sense of belonging that becomes a powerful motivation for school success. School dropouts demonstrate the most extreme for of disengagement, poor attendance, low motivation to succeed, low aspirations for educational attainment, poor self-concept, an external locus of control and alienation from school.
Student engagement requires psychological connections within the academic environment, that sense of belonging that enables students to feel accepted, valued, included and encouraged by others, and a feeling an important part of life and activity of the class.
PARENTS—Motivational support for learning, specifically structuring the home environment and emphasizing children’s efforts to succeed, appears to be more important to academic achievement that direct assistance and monitoring of homework.
Six factors that reflect the complementary nature of family for children’s success:
Standards and expectations—Set specific goals and standards for
desired behavior and performance, discuss expectations with children, emphasize effort when completing tasks, and define the consequences for not meeting expectations
Structure—Setting routines and schedule of daily activities, directions for schoolwork, rules for behavior.
Variety of learning options—Reading materials available, time to practice, options for completing tasks
Support—Frequent praise and encouragement, focus on improve- ment, teach problem solving and negotiation skills, provide feedback
Climate/Relationships—Warmth, caring, praise and recognition.
Modeling—Demonstrating desired behaviors, explicit instructions, orderly environment, set long term goals, defined objectives.
Students who received more motivational support for learning—encouragement, messages about importance of effort and value of education, help regulating time to complete tasks, focus on effort, schooling and long term goals, performed best academically. Messages should stress the power of diligence, practice, persistence in the face of challenge, and ability to delay gratification.
Implications for Policy
You need a management information system to monitor classroom implementation of program.
There should be at least a 70% support of the program by the staff before implementation to make it worthwhile.
Principal support is critical and there should be discussion and clarification of principal’s role as a school leader and problem solving on issues that arise in implementing the program.
Develop implementation strategies that account for difference in teaching interests and strengths at promoting social and emotional learning. In this model they trained teachers in Year 1, five more in year 2, and then additional staff members as they were ready.
Emphasize that the program to promote social and emotional learning can improve academic achievement. It’s not a choice of one or the other.