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Teachers’ Voices on SEL

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is becoming a world-wide phenomenon.” These are the words of Dr. Elias and Dr. Hatzichristou in the latest issue of the International Journal of Emotional Education. It appears that SEL competencies are valued across countries and cultures, and more and more teachers and administrators are ready to teach these skills in schools. Great! AND we know that SEL programs and practices help students be more engaged, resilient and ready to learn. So… let’s do it!

Teachers are key players in the implementation of any innovative process in schools, especially when it comes to SEL: teachers teach, model and make possible that students practice their social and emotional competencies in the classroom. Unfortunately, little attention has been given to how teachers incorporate SEL practices in their classroom or the type of supports they need. This is where I focused the research for my doctoral dissertation: on studying teachers’ experience with SEL implementation to identify the conditions that make it possible. This research (originally written in Catalan!) was recently published in the latest issue of the The International Journal of Emotional Education and is available in English. Sign up if you’d like to receive a copy of the article!

I used a practitioner-driven methodology, action research, at a high performing charter school in a disadvantaged urban community in California (US). During the research, teachers implemented a school-designed SEL program to address students’ social and emotional needs.

3 points summarize the research:

  1. When teachers teach SEL skills, they develop their teaching and their own social and emotional competencies.  Teachers had initially reported feeling tension between addressing academic content and teaching SEL; with continuous implementation, teachers were able to see the benefits in their classrooms and were more inclined to integrate SEL in their teaching practices. In addition, teachers learned about their own social and emotional competencies, which enhanced their commitment to this work.
  1. When SEL is continually implemented, teachers develop their skills to teach social and emotional skills more effectively. Teachers specifically emphasized the importance of learning by doing and having opportunities to discuss their teaching of the SEL program.
  1. Roadblocks that come with SEL implementation should be addressed both from the school’s general planning, as well as from individual efforts. Support structures, such as providing time for planning and resources for differentiation, are necessary to sustain SEL implementation in the long term.

There are several suggestions for SEL implementation described in the article that came out of this research  For me, the key ones are the need to engage teachers in the design of the SEL implementation plan, and to create a cycle of inquiry around SEL practices, where teachers have opportunities to collaborate and share best practices. Although this study took place in only one school, I believe there is much that can be learned when we listen to teachers’ voices and consider their experience with SEL programs. Please get in touch if you need help with SEL implementation at your school, and don’t forget to sign up if you want to receive the research article. I’d love to hear from you!

 

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