05 July, 2010

Understanding Social Emotional Learning



SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL) 

I have been mulling over how to understand the social emotional learning component of School-wide Positive Behaviour Support. The following is a summary of my current thinking

For me, at this time, I see SEL as
  • a major component of a school's taught, shared and lived curriculum
  • complementing the academic curriculum
  • enabling teaching, learning and belonging by and for all.

THE SEL CURRICULUM

From listening to schools in the LSN-PBS Network, and monitoring a lot of what is on the net, it seems to me that their are probably four SEL teachable dimensions:  

  • Thinking & expectations
  • Social skills
  • Habits of Mind
  • Emotional literacy
As such, these four dimensions represent an SEL curriculum that develops a way of thinking and acting that is in the best interests of all concerned. that is, a curriculum that is likely to support success and well-being for all.

1. Thinking, expectations/rules/agreements - These key school aspects are described and articulated in various ways. They are intended to guide everyone's ongoing actions and interactions but and detailed meanings change from context-to-context, from setting-to-setting. To understand, appreciate, accept and support the school's requirements involves substantial social emotional learning: the expectations have to be met, the rules observed and/or the agreements kept. The capacity to do so involves social skills, habits of mind and emotional literacy.

2.  Social skills - The ability to use verbal and non-verbal communication skills that enable successful interactions between members of the (school) community. That is to meet one's own needs in acceptable ways and to support the needs of others. For example, Teachers frequently use 

  • Attentive listening (from Tribes....)
  • Active Supervision (SWPBS...)
  • Restorative Inquiry (Restorative Practices...)
  • Affective Statements (Tribes, RP...)
  • Showing appreciation (Tribes, RP...)
  • ...
3.  Habits of Mind - Patterns of thinking and acting in one's own best interests and leading to ongoing success. For example, You Can Do It!!proposes several 'habits of mind, including...
  • Accepting myself
  • Taking Risks
  • Being Independent
  • I Can Do It
  • Giving Effort
  • Working Tough
  • Setting Goals
  • Planning My Time
  • Being Tolerant of Others
  • Thinking First
  • Playing by the Rules, and
  • Social Responsibility ... see http://www.youcandoit.com.au/AboutYouCanDoIt/
  • ...
For a more scholarly list, see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habits_of_mind

4.  Emotional Literacy

  • Identifying, relating and communicating one's (emotional) responses to experience, and
  • Understanding and appreciating those of others.

Implications arising
It seems to me that there are some major implications from the above:

Firstly, emotional literacy underpins success including the successful use of social skills and the development of useful habits of mind.

Secondly, the key elements of most structured SEL programs include elements from each of the above SEL dimensions. Consider Tribes as simple example. The Tribes elements are
  • Attentive Listening = habit of mind + social skill + emotional literacy
  • Showing appreciation / No put-downs = social skill + emotional literacy
  • Right to pass = emotional literacy + social skill
  • Mutual respect = emotional literacy + social skill
  • [Focus on task = habit of mind + emotional literacy]

Thirdly, social skills, habits of mind and emotional literacy are not subject to the law of physics: they are not universals in a determined sense. They areemergent, cultural and situated. This may mean that your school can simply choose its own preferred approach, and if done well, the school will make a profound contribution to the life and work of those involved, both now and in the future.
Fourthly, and keeping this last point in mind, consider your school's key expectations, e.g., "Be Safe, Be Fair and Be a Learner"

Discussion Starters
  • What are the required social skills that will enable all staff and students to meet these expectations?
  • What are the associated habits of mind that will make meeting the school's expectations natural and easy for staff and students
  • What emotional literacy is required of staff and students in order for them to understand, appreciate and achieve the school's expectations.
  • What educational strategies does your school currently have in place to develop the social skills, habits of mind and emotional literacy required?
  • What needs are not currently being addressed? That is, what are the gaps in the schools continuum of support in these areas, and how do you know (data)?
  • Possible next steps?

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