Seeing the forest despite the trees.
Our nation’s educational focus continues to zero in on “achievement” as defined by test scores in specific academic areas and the resulting gaps therein. This hyper focus exacerbates our nearly systematic blind eye related to learning for living and cultivating life long learners. As a result, policies that increase the stakes of standardized assessments necessitate schools increase the amount of time spent on basic skills — reading and math, primarily — to the exclusion of a broad range of other skills, experiences, and competencies. In effect, we see a couple of trees, but miss the forest, or big picture ecology, of learning.
However, research suggests there are programs that have the dual benefits of both raising achievement and increasing student well being. It is in this realm where we learn to think about education in terms of the forest, despite our hyper focus on the trees.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is such an example. CASEL (Collaborative For Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) is the leading organization working to build demand and capacity for SEL. Their work ranges from network building to conducting research to policy advocacy. Below is a graphic (source here) illustrating what they define as the core competencies for SEL.
Additionally, they published a meta-analysis of research titled, “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning” (download it here). The meta-analysis concluded:
The reviews indicate that SEL programs:
- Are effective in both school and after-school settings and for students with and without behavioral and emotional problems.
- Are effective for racially and ethnically diverse students from urban, rural, and suburban settings across the K-12 grade range.
- Improve students’ social-emotional skills, attitudes about self and others, connection to school, and positive social behavior; and reduce conduct problems and emotional distress.
- Improve students’ achievement test scores by 11 percentile points.
It all demonstrates that we must think more holistically about students, learning, and the ecology of education. Simply working to improve math and reading test achievement falls far short of ensuring that our students are healthy, safe, engaged, challenged, and supported in the ways that matter most to their long term personal “achievement.”
Special thanks to Jackie Gerstein, whose post “Video Games and Social Emotional Learning” first pointed us to this chart.
This is a part of an ongoing series exploring components of QED’s Transformational Learning Model. This piece relates to Academic Access, Curriculum Frame, Curriculum Goals, and Student Support.