The debate over whether or not Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is important for student success isn’t a debate anymore. All the studies, research, and findings point to SEL having both short long term student success. Students who are exposed to and work on SEL in school will have several short and long term benefits including:
- Increased academic performance by 11 percentile points
- Improved classroom behavior and the ability to handle stress
- An average return on investment evidence-based programs of 11 to 1, meaning for every dollar invested there is an $11 return
- Decreased the likelihood of living in or being on a waiting list for public housing, receiving public assistance, having any involvement with police before adulthood, and ever spending time in a detention facility.
The research is clear. Our students need SEL support and instruction. So now the question is - how do you incorporate SEL into your school? Teaching SEL in isolation (for example, during an intervention block), is beneficial for students who show significant gaps in specific SEL areas. According to a study by Harvard Graduate School for Education, that method doesn’t capitalize on the potential maximum impact of SEL in our schools, for all our students. A schoolwide embedded approach provides students with the opportunity to receive meaningful SEL support and learn more holistically than isolated SEL programs can. Below, find some thoughts and tips on how to embed your SEL programming schoolwide.
Gathering from faculty, staff, and community members is the first step to embedding SEL in your schoolwide programming. Allowing people the chance to express what they think is working, and what they think can be improved is one of the first steps in the process. Sometimes, there are misconceptions about “what people want” or “what’s not working” that come from assumptions. Clarifying exactly what the community you serve needs lets you have a sense of clarity and purpose going forward. Feedback will provide you with the lens you need to move forward. According to a 2021 study by McGraw Hill, 87% of parents believe SEL is important in helping students navigate today’s world, and 83% of teachers believe that SEL is underemphasized at a schoolwide level. This is why getting feedback is critical to the success of any schoolwide embedded program. You can do this by sending email surveys , as well as having open forums at upcoming Parent Teacher Organization meetings, and any upcoming school events. Just creating a simple, 2-3 question survey will go far in terms of demonstrating how serious your school is about creating a program that works. If your district or school is interested in a simple and effective way to gather feedback like this, Satchel Pulse offers an easy to use, customizable tool called Survey Builder. Survey Builder makes it efficient and manageable to gather meaningful feedback and analyze the results so that you can make informed decisions regarding your district.
Make a plan
Making a plan for how you will embed SEL into your school daily seems like an obvious step, but when making the plan, there are many things to consider. With your leadership team, and the feedback you gathered you can map out what your next 3 years will look like to fully embed SEL in your school. What does the end goal look like on an abstract, and practical level? Using your end measures, take steps backward that make incremental improvements and progress in your schoolwide embedded SEL. For example, do you envision a schoolwide monthly SEL focus, and instruction and activities across all classrooms and grade levels will have the same SEL lens and focus? Or, based on feedback, is it more reasonable to have teachers work to write SEL unit objectives, and incorporate classroom activities that reflect those goals into their classrooms? Drafting a plan with concrete steps, measures, and goals is an important part of solidifying the importance of SEL in your school.
Getting feedback is critical to the success of any schoolwide embedded program.
Start small, think big
When implementing your plan, it’s natural to get excited and wish to see full change overnight. But we know that change comes in many small, consistent steps towards progress, as well as those large-scale adjustments. For example, SEL support won’t show up in every aspect of a teacher’s lesson if this is new for them, so don’t have that as an expectation. By starting small and providing support, all educators can take steps forward with embedding SEL in their classrooms. For example, if part of the plan is to have teachers write an SEL unit objective that aligns with the content area standards, giving them to collaborate and work on this objective either at grade level or content areas teams allows for them to think through any misconceptions or issues, as well as get input from colleagues. If everyone can accomplish this consistently, while it seems small, it is a big step for a school to take. Keeping the end goal in mind, while enacting small steps will go a long way in showing your staff and school community that you are committed to supporting their growth and the implementation of SEL in your school.
We all know that real, sustainable change is not easy to make, does not happen overnight, or even over one full school year. Embedded SEL at a schoolwide level is no different but is just as important as any other systemic change you are trying to enact. By working towards making SEL a part of your school’s daily routine and culture, you are setting your students up for success and giving them the tools they need to be successful beyond the walls of your school. Equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in life is the ultimate goal, and we should all be working towards this. Embedded SEL is an important way to achieve that vision.