Social and Emotional Learning through Technology & Science

The benefits of Social and Emotional Learning...

Emotional and Social Learning offers a host of benefits. Consider a classroom in which group work focuses not only on mastering academic material but also on how well students collaborate and communicate with one another. These skills are imperative for today’s youngest generations, who require a wideranging set of social and emotional abilities to prepare them for the demands of a rapidly changing workplace, position them to achieve better academic outcomes and equip them to contribute to society.

The workplace is changing. In the US, the jobs that have grown the most consistently over the past two decades, as measured by wages and employment, are those that require both high cognitive skills and interpersonal skills. According to Professor David J. Deming of Harvard University, since 1980 the bulk of job growth in the US has been in occupations that require high social skills. Given these trends, learning must be transformed in ways that will enable students to acquire the broad set of skills that will help them to thrive in a rapidly evolving, technologysaturated world.

A projected 65% of children entering grade school will work in jobs that do not exist today, a transformation that will require social and emotional skills such as creativity, initiative and adaptability to navigate. Some economists argue that the emerging labour market will require workers to be able to solve unstructured problems, work with new information and carry out non-routine manual tasks. That’s true even for manual or administrative jobs, for which responsibilities now generally include much less routine labour and more digitized, nuanced communication. Moreover, middle-class jobs increasingly will depend on a worker’s ability to process and convey information. To succeed at work, people must be able not only to analyse problems without the benefit of an instruction sheet but also to communicate their findings to others, across borders and time zones. Jobs of the future certainly will continue to require routine manual abilities. However, the résumés of successful candidates will need to include social and emotional proficiency.

Some employers already recognize the benefits of social and emotional skills in the 21st-century workplace – including global internet giant Google. After examining employee surveys and performance reviews, Google found that its most effective managers were good coaches, took an active interest in their employees’ lives and were skilled at listening to and sharing information. For example, as one manager said, when it came to communicating company updates, the most effective managers went beyond relaying information to explain what that information meant for their teams. Academic and other benefits Studies have shown that social and emotional skills pay dividends in academic performance and other measures of well-being. In 2011, a meta-analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students from kindergarten through high school found that SEL could promote a host of academic, social and emotional benefits for students.

Students who received SEL instruction had achievement scores that averaged 11 percentile points higher than those who did not. Acquisition of social and emotional skills contributed to better academic performance and improved attitudes and behaviours. It also reduced emotional distress. SEL has long-term effects during a person’s lifetime as well. In the 1960s, the Perry Preschool Study examined the impact of social and emotional skills introduced early in a child’s education. The study exposed one group of young, at-risk students to a preschool curriculum that incorporated SEL; a control group of matched peers were taught using a traditional curriculum. The study then tracked those children until age 40. On average, those who had participated in the Perry curriculum had higher earnings, were more likely to be employed, had committed fewer crimes and were more likely to have completed high school than their counterparts who didn’t have the preschool’s SEL-oriented experience. Similarly, a recent longitudinal analysis by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) across nine countries showed that having a balanced set of cognitive and social and emotional skills is crucial for children to better face the challenges of the 21st century; social and emotional skills in particular play an important role in improving children’s chances of lifetime success.

In addition, SEL programmes almost universally demonstrate a strong return on investment (ROI) over long periods of time. In 2015, a cost-benefit analysis of SEL programmes by researchers at Columbia University determined that the programmes generated an average return of $11 per $1 invested.This analysis was conducted across six discrete SEL programmes, all of which demonstrated a positive ROI. Other studies have used different methods to demonstrate high ROI overall. Although the most rigorous scientific evidence on SEL benefits to date has focused primarily on developed countries such as the US, evidence of the benefits of SEL can be found around the world. For example, the International Rescue Committee piloted its flagship programme, the Healing Classrooms Initiative, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and several countries in sub-Saharan Africa before disseminating it in more than 20 conflict and post-conflict zones around the world. The programme trains teachers in learning strategies that promote positive socialization, academic development and psychosocial wellbeing, including child-centred and active learning methods. Teachers trained in the programme realized considerable progress in both academic achievement and social benefits for students whose schooling had been interrupted by conflict.

Perceptions of the benefits of emotional & Social learning...

Our five-country survey of more than 2,000 educators and parents revealed broad agreement about the importance of SEL but less agreement about its benefits. More than 90% of parents and teachers in China emphasize teaching children these skills, for example, and in the US, 81% of parents and 78% of teachers emphasize SEL. However, this reported agreement has not translated into a deep understanding of the complete set of benefits that social and emotional skills can deliver, in those countries and elsewhere.

Parents and educators across the world primarily see SEL as a means of achieving better classroom discipline today, not as a way to ensure better academic and economic outcomes over the long term. Between a half and threequarters of teachers across the five countries surveyed listed better discipline as one of the primary benefits of SEL, for instance, whereas fewer than half cited improved academic performance as a main benefit. Parents and teachers in China and South Korea cited an individual’s wellbeing and happiness as a benefit of SEL more frequently relative to academic-, college- and career-related benefits. For instance, in South Korea, 85% of parents and 70% of teachers identified the higher likelihood of being happy as an adult as a key long-term benefit of SEL and only 11% and 22%, respectively, listed better chances of graduating from high school as a benefit of SEL.

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