Social Emotional Learning Research Questions

Social and Emotional Learning Research Review

Numerous research reports demonstrate that students’ academic performance can benefit from social and emotional learning (SEL), which stands for social and emotional competence. The Social and Emotional Learning research review on Edutopia delves into those reports and provides assistance in making sense of the findings. Learn how researchers define social and emotional learning, review some of the possible learning outcomes, get our recommendations of evidence-based programmes, find tips for avoiding pitfalls when implementing SEL programmes, and delve into a comprehensive annotated bibliography with links to all the studies and reports cited in these pages. These are the topics that are covered in this series of four articles.

What is Social and Emotional Learning?

What exactly is meant by the term “social and emotional learning” (SEL)? The majority of researchers agree on the following five core SEL competencies: (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger, 2011; Weissberg, Durlak, Domitrovich, & Gullotta, 2016). These skills lay the groundwork for fostering and sustaining meaningful connections with others and for rising to the challenges that come with living a full life.

1. Self-Awareness:

What are the things I’m thinking and how do I feel?
What exactly is it that’s causing those feelings and thoughts?
How can I articulate my thoughts and feelings in a manner that is respectful?
2. Self-Management:

What are some of the various responses that I can have to an event?
How can I react to an occurrence in the most positive way that I possibly can?
3. An Awareness of Society:

How can I get inside the heads of other people and better understand how they feel?
How can I get inside the heads of other people to better comprehend why they think and feel the way they do?
4. Capabilities in Relationships:

How can I adjust my behaviour so that my interactions with various people go off without a hitch?
How can I make sure that other people understand what it is that I expect from them?
How can I communicate with other people to better understand their expectations of me and to better manage those expectations?
5. Making Decisions in a Responsible Manner:

What kind of effects will my actions have, not only on me but also on other people?
How well do my decisions reflect my core beliefs?
How can I find creative solutions to problems?

Learning Outcomes

Social and emotional learning interventions that address the competencies listed above were found to increase students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, as compared to students who did not participate in such SEL programmes, according to a meta-analysis that included 213 programmes and primarily covered 30 years of research (Durlak et al., 2011). In addition, students exhibited less aggressive behaviour and emotional distress as a result of the social and emotional learning programmes, which also led to an increase in helping behaviours at school and an improvement in positive attitudes toward self and others (Durlak et al., 2011). Effective social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes explicitly and sequentially address the five key competencies listed above, and they use active learning techniques to engage youth in the process of developing an understanding of those competencies. On the Evidence-Based Programs page of the SEL research review, specific practises and programmes that have been shown to be beneficial to K-12 youth by multiple rigorous studies that have been reviewed by their peers are described.

SEL Skills and Academic Success

Relationships and emotional processes have an impact on both the way we learn and the content that we learn. SEL programmes free up more time for teaching and learning by lowering the incidence of disruptive behaviour in the classroom and the amount of time spent on classroom management. In addition, SEL helps students improve their relationships with their families, peers, and teachers, all of whom play an important role in academic success as mediators, collaborators, and encouragers.

The importance of caring relationships between teachers and students as well as among students themselves, both in terms of fostering students’ commitment to school and in terms of promoting academic success has been substantiated by research (e.g. Blum & Libby, 2004; Hamre & Pianta, 2006; Hawkins, Smith, & Catalano, 2004; Jennings & Greenberg 2009; cited in Durlak, et al., 2011). One of the necessary conditions for academic achievement that has been identified by research as being present is a classroom environment that is both safe and orderly and that encourages and reinforces positive classroom behaviour (Marzano, 2003).

There are also a number of reasons centred on the individual that SEL can contribute to academic success. Numerous studies have found a correlation between self-regulation, which is defined as the capability to control and manage one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and academic achievement. Students who are more self-aware and confident about their learning capacities put forth greater effort and are more likely to persevere in the face of adversity (Aronson, 2002; cited in Durlak et al., 2011; Dweck, Walton, & Cohen, 2014). Students who are self-disciplined, have the ability to motivate themselves, can effectively manage stress, and have an organised approach to their work tend to learn more and have better grades (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Elliot & Dweck, 2005; cited in Durlak et al., 2011). Students who are able to overcome obstacles using their problem-solving skills and who are able to make responsible decisions regarding their studying and their completion of homework perform better academically (Zins & Elias, 2006; cited in Durlak et al., 2011).

A national survey of students in middle and high school found that fewer than one third of respondents believed that their school provided a caring and encouraging environment, and fewer than half of respondents believed that they possessed skills such as empathy, conflict resolution, and decision-making abilities (Benson, 2006; cited in Durlak et al., 2011). SEL can help to unleash the potential that already exists within academic environments to support students’ well-being and success. This is accomplished by strengthening students’ social support networks and their skills in self-management.

Several studies have been conducted to investigate the positive effects that social and emotional learning programmes have over time. In one study, researchers investigated the long-term effects of social and emotional learning (SEL) intervention programmes for kindergarten students. These programmes included social skills training, parent training with home visits, peer coaching, reading tutoring, and classroom social-emotional curricula. The researchers found that these programmes resulted in 10 percent (59 percent vs. 69 percent for the control group) fewer psychological, behavioural, or substance abuse problems at the age of 25 than the control group (Dodge et al., 2014). Another study asked kindergarten teachers to rate their students’ levels of prosocial skills such as kindness, sharing, and empathy. The researchers found a strong correlation between kindergarten teachers’ ratings of their students’ prosocial skills and adult outcomes such as higher levels of educational attainment, stronger employment, and improved mental health, in addition to lower rates of criminal activity and substance use (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015). In 2015, researchers conducted an analysis of the economic impact of six popular SEL programmes and found that every dollar invested results in an average of $11 in long-term benefits. These benefits include a reduction in juvenile crime, increased lifetime earnings, and improved mental and physical health (Belfield et al., 2015). Additional studies have found that social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes have positive long-term effects, and these studies have found evidence that investing in SEL programmes of a high quality for all children can increase the number of successful, well-adjusted adults and yield positive economic benefits in the future (Jones et al., 2017). In conclusion, a meta-analysis conducted in 2017 on 82 school-based SEL programmes found long-term improvements (between six months and eighteen years) in four areas: improvements in SEL skills, attitudes, positive social behaviour, and academic performance. In addition, improvements were seen in three areas: behavioural issues, emotional distress, and drug use (Taylor et al., 2017).

An economic study conducted in 2015 found that between the years 1980 and 2012, automation played an increasingly significant role in the replacement of repetitive and analytical tasks, resulting in a greater demand for jobs requiring social skills (Deming, 2015). In a brief titled “Amicus Curiae” submitted in 2015, nearly fifty businesses that are part of the Fortune 100 as well as other leading American companies argued that in order for businesses to be competitive, they need to be able to hire employees who have experience communicating their ideas and points of view with a variety of different groups of people.

A research review conducted in 2017 found that social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes can help elementary school students achieve academic success, increase positive behaviour, and reduce instances of misconduct, substance abuse, and emotional distress. Additionally, effective social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes are improved when schools collaborate with families and when the programmes demonstrate cultural and linguistic sensitivity (Dusenbury & Weissberg, 2017).