Improving social-emotional learning

Mary Sheard and Steven Ross outline the important elements of social-emotional learning programs, based on their own research experience in Northern Ireland

FROM AN EDUCATIONAL PERSPECTIVE, parents, educators, and policy makers share the belief that children should leave school not only proficient in academic subjects, but also responsible, respectful, and able to work well with others.

Importantly, a growing body of research is demonstrating that particular social-emotional learning (SEL) programs can have a substantial impact on students’ behavior and learning. Studies of PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) and related programs at the elementary school level have shown positive effects on social-emotional, behavioral, and cognitive skills. A systematic analysis of more than 700 studies on a wide range of SEL programs showed participating students demonstrated better adjustment, behavior, socialization, and academic performance than students who did not experience such programs.

What we know
● SEL programs can have a significant impact on students’ behavior and learning.
● Research has shown that PATHS (NI) is advantageous to students’ social-emotional development.
● Factors that schools should look for when choosing a SEL program include a focus on skills development, learning goals, effective support and professional development, and high-quality resources.
● Schools should choose SEL programs that have evidence of success.

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February 2012