Social + Emotional Learning = Academic Gains
A 2015 study showed promising links between social and emotional competencies and academic outcomes. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a process of understanding and managing emotions, setting and achieving positive goals, feeling empathy towards others, maintaining positive relationships and making responsible decisions (Self- Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship and Decision-Making). In a 2011 meta-analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students, those who participated in SEL programs showed an 11% gain in academic achievement. The 2015 collaborative study between CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) and the Washoe (NV) County School District with 7,021 students from grades 5, 6, 8, and 11 were guided by two research questions: 1) Are Social and Emotional Competencies (SEC) the “glue” that binds students to school and helps them persist in the face of obstacles? And 2) Can we measure them? One fascinating outcome of the study was the identification of SE competencies that were hard for kids. Five of the seven hardest SEC questions came from the Self-Management category:
• Self-Management: Finishing tasks even if they are hard for me.
• Decision-Making: Thinking about what might happen before making a decision.
• Self-Management: Knowing when my feelings are making it hard for me to focus.
• Self-Management: Doing my schoolwork even when I do not feel like it.
• Social Awareness: Learning from people with different opinions than me.
• Self-Management: Getting through something even when I feel frustrated.
• Self-Management: Being prepared for tests.
Self-Management questions were broken down into three subsets: Schoolwork (“Doing my school work even when I do not feel like it.”), Emotion Regulation (“Getting through something even when I feel frustrated.”) and Goal Management (“Finishing tasks even if they are hard for me.”). The GreatMasters program addresses these three subcategories with activities to strengthen “grit.” An interesting irony was noted by researchers that too many kids said they had perfect SEC. Apparently walking the talk is a lot harder than just self-awareness, merely believing you had these skills. You may see the executive summary of A Progress Report on WCSD & CASEL’s Research-Practitioner Grant at