Social and Emotional Learning Skills are Academic Skills

Until fairly recently, the theory of educating young people in America has been dichotomous: Go to school, learn stuff about things in the world from teachers, and then come home to the “family setting” to learn how to “be a person.” Teachers and schools have traditionally been viewed as purveyors of “hard skills,” or academic content: math proofs, the scientific method, grammar, historical knowledge. “Soft skills,” or concepts around relationships, morality, emotional regulation, responsible decision-making, and getting along with others have been considered non-academic skills, relegated to “figuring it out” in life outside school.

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Classrooms are where we learn to be people!

Of course, teachers and students have known for millennia that learning doesn’t happen without relationships in the classroom and emotional awareness. Human brains are hardwired to connect with one another, and learning takes place when human connections are strong and humans feel safe and welcome in learning spaces. The academic skills we associate with traditional school don’t even register in the brains of young people without addressing the so-called “soft skills” of relationship building, self management, effective collaboration, selective vulnerability, etc. More and more research confirms that, indeed, social and emotional skills are academic skills.

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How do academics directly connect to SEL?

The Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning offers five SEL competencies, and the ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) gives concrete examples of how these competencies directly integrate with academic concepts, based on Common Core standards:

Self-Awareness

  • Use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding, rereading as necessary. (Reading/Foundational Skills/Grade 5)
  • Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose. (Writing/Grade 5)

Self-Management

  • Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. (Writing/Grade 5)
  • [Mathematically proficient students] monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. (Math Practice Standard 1)

Social Awareness

  • Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described. (Speaking and Listening/Grade 5)
  • Engage in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. (Speaking and Listening/Grade 5)

Relationship Skills

  • With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed. (Writing/Grade 5)
  • [Mathematically proficient students] justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others. (Math Practice Standard

Responsible Decision-Making

  • Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material. (Speaking and Listening/Grade 5)
  • Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. (Speaking and Listening/Grade 5)

Edutopia offers this case study on how the large urban school district in Nashville, Tennessee, has been intentional with integrating SEL and academic skills across all schools and levels. Here is the Austin ISD research brief demonstrating the positive academic outcomes that our ongoing district-wide commitment to Social and Emotional Learning has produced. The numbers speak for themselves – SEL skills = academic learning!

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How do you link social and emotional learning in your education space to boost academic learning? Teachers and school leaders are the true experts! Let us know in the comments and by tagging us on social media: @austinisdsel!

 

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