“We must set children up to do well in the classroom and beyond,” a new Strategies for Children policy brief explains, adding that it is crucial, “to invest in early education and care programs that will promote social-emotional skill development…”
Written by Sophie Barnes, who is enrolled in the Child Advocacy strand of the Human Development and Psychology program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the brief adds:
“Research shows that high-quality early education and care has many benefits. Chief among these is the impact on young children’s social-emotional development, which may be as important or more so than traditional pre-academic skill development (e.g., number and letter recognition).”
What is social-emotional learning?
Barnes points to an answer from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which says:
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
As we’ve recently blogged, the New Bedford Public School system has been running training programs to teach adults about children’s social and emotional development. And the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is developing social-emotional learning standards.
“The developing SEL standards in Massachusetts reflect the shift in the recognition of classrooms as a strictly academic environment to one that must foster ‘non-academic’ success/social and emotional learning,” Barnes explains in the brief.
“These standards are supported by practitioners and a robust body of empirical work that highlights the necessity of fostering the social-emotional development of children.
“The Massachusetts standards target five competencies, as defined by CASEL:”
• Self-Awareness: recognizing one’s own emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior
• Self-Management: regulating emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations
• Social Awareness: taking the perspective of others and empathizing with them, as well as empathizing with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures; and understanding social and ethical norms for behavior.
• Relationship Skills: establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups by communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, and resolving conflict.
• Responsible Decision Making: making constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions.
These skills can produce many benefits for children such as improved school-readiness and academic performance, as well as improved behavior and focus.
And as the brief explains, “Classroom relationships, especially those experienced between peers, can help children develop communication, problem solving, and social skills, which are necessary for school adjustment and long-term academic success. Furthermore, children who are engaged in mutual friendships are more likely to think positively about school and the learning process.”
Communities also benefit because, “More prepared students and citizens can boost the economy by reducing costs related to criminal activity, both arrests and imprisonment, and by increasing levels of employment, thus generating new income.”
Drawing on the research, Barnes makes a number of policy recommendations, including:
• Massachusetts “should continue to invest in high-quality early education and social-emotional programs across the Birth – Grade Three continuum.”
• “…policymakers should support professional development programs that build the social-emotional capacities of teachers and early childhood educators, and teach how to foster these skills in children,” and,
• “The state’s education funding formula, known as Chapter 70, should address SEL learning.”
To learn more, read the brief. And for more information on EEC’s work on social and emotional learning standards, copy and paste this link into your browser: learningstandards.wikispaces.com.