As schools across the country continue to help students recover from a lack of engagement caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the topic of social-emotional learning (SEL) has quickly become one of national importance.
In a recent interview with Education Week, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona explained that educators face unique challenges now that most schools across the country have resumed in-person classes.
“For teachers, the challenges are different,” Cardona said. “We’re no longer talking about six feet spacing or mask requirements, what we’re talking about now is ensuring that children feel welcome, they feel supported, and that [educators] are building a relationship with students and families.”
This sense of belonging is fundamental to both ensuring positive academic outcomes and cultivating inclusive learning environments where students feel safe and supported. It’s in this way that authentic incorporation of SEL is an effective strategy for promoting equity and inclusivity.
In its series explaining the fundamentals of SEL, CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic Social & Emotional Learning, highlights four ways in which SEL can help advance educational equity and excellence:
1. Supporting Authentic Community Partnerships
The most effective implementation of SEL occurs when community members work together to support students both in their classrooms and in their home environments. CASEL explains that SEL helps individuals grow and develop the skills and relationships to communicate and work together across a variety of backgrounds.
2. Fostering Collaborative Relationships
According to CASEL, SEL helps both young people and adults practice empathy, perspective taking and active listening to construct deeper connections. In a classroom setting, SEL also provides educators with insights into their students’ strengths, developmental needs and cultural backgrounds to create learning environments that are inclusive and sensitive to their needs.
3. Promoting Rigorous and Meaningful Curriculum and Instruction
Evidence-based SEL programming has long been shown to aid in providing students with consistent opportunities to practice developmentally appropriate skills to help them thrive. Additionally, effective SEL sets high academic expectations for all students and engages them in building the academic and social skills they need to reach their goals and contribute to their communities.
4. Applying Ongoing Evaluation of Policies, Practices and Outcomes
It is critical to ensure that all students are treated fairly, have access to supportive learning environments, benefit from high-quality educational programs, and achieve positive academic and SEL outcomes. SEL informed by research and continuous improvement aids in driving efforts toward equitable and optimal outcomes.
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