The positive impacts of social and emotional learning

 As human beings, we are always curious about the effects of our actions. We at the HELO Program are curious about the impacts of  Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). How does introducing SEL to children at a young age impact their growth and define who they become? I am going to address this today with the help of a study (1) conducted on the same topic.

The study referenced shows the impact of SEL programs for schools with three reviews. The students included in the reviews aged between 5 and 13 (Kindergarten to grade 8). 180 schools participated in the reviews involving 277,977 students. The first is a universal review that focuses on interventions for a general student body. The second is a review that focuses only on students showing signs of emotional or behavioural problems. The third review  looks at after-school programs (not as a part of the school curriculum and not students with pre-identified issues)

Before focusing on the study parameters and the results, I wanted to give a quick refresher on SEL. SEL is a process through which children learn to identify, recognise and manage their emotions in a healthy manner. SEL also focuses on establishing and maintaining positive relationships and allows one to recognise strengths in diversity. Thus, the core learning of SEL is to ensure that an individual is aware of the self and makes informed decisions while handling interpersonal situations. Doing so will help them manage their emotions and become socially aware individuals who can establish and maintain healthy relationships.

The main findings of all three review styles revealed the enriched value of a SEL program. SEL had a positive impact on children’s social behaviour and academic performance. The study showed that SEL intervention was effective both in and after school systems and across different groups. The follow-up checks indicated positive results of the effects remaining over time. However, the researchers noticed that the positive results were strongest immediately after the intervention. Let us take this as an encouraging reminder to ensure that SEL is progressive and needs to be implemented as the child grows.

A key finding of this study that is helpful in understanding SEL is that the programs were most effective when they were conducted by the school staff, as opposed to an external resource person. The reason behind this is that teachers interact with their students on a day-to-day basis. Daily interactions and familiarity aid in incorporating the SEL curriculum into their daily lives in a smooth manner.

Now, let us look at some of the positive outcomes highlighted in this study. In the universal review, more than 50% of the program was implemented in the classroom. Students participating in SEL sessions demonstrated enhanced social-emotional skills. Students were in better control of their emotions and reacted calmly as opposed to those who did not. Out of the six categories tested (i.Attitudes toward self, ii. attitudes towards others, iii. positive social behaviour, iv. conduct problems, v. emotional distress and vi. academic performances), there was a significant improvement in all categories except emotional distress.

This study has highlighted the positive impacts of SEL. Although some may argue against implementing these skills citing valuable school time, there was an increase in the overall academic performance. This study showed that SEL intervention in students displaying adjustment or learning problems also has a significant impact on their growth.

SEL has transformed and grown in many ways since the publication of this study back in 2008. There is an increased awareness of this form of learning and mental health issues. Stress in students has led educators to think about holistic development rather than just focus on academic growth; a step in the right direction. It is imperative to teach these skills at the school level as they contribute to continuous development of children and help nurture well-rounded individuals.

It has been rather encouraging for us to see that our path and the findings in this study align. We, at the HELO Program, incorporate SEL in learning spaces by working with the relevant stakeholders (teachers, children, school administration, and parents) and adopt a whole-school approach to shift school culture, one day at a time. 

We aim to build and strengthen the SEL ecosystem in our country by introducing it to various learning spaces so that all children may reap its benefits. If you are or know of an organization or a school that wishes to collaborate with the HELO program, you can write to as at [email protected] 

Wordsmith: Sharon Samuel, HELO Intern

Reference:

  1. Payton, J., Weissberg, R. P., Durlak, J. A., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., Schellinger, K. B., & Pachan, M. (2008). The positive impact of social and emotional learning for kindergarten to eighth-grade students. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

The Head, Heart & Love (HELO) Program is an initiative by Bhumi to make social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education by fostering self and social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making in learning spaces*.– Visit bhumi.ngo/helo to know more.

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