There has been a lot of conversation over the past year about SEL—social and emotional learning—or that process through which all of us (regardless of age) acquire and apply the skills to manage our emotions and maintain positive relationships. John Hattie tells us that teacher/student relationships have an effect size of .72 (almost one standard deviation). Many of the materials available to schools specify these aspects of SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. You might notice overlap with these ideas and what we’ve learned about self-regulated learners—those who select and set goals, monitor their progress, manage time and resources, and make responsible decisions, to name just a few of the characteristics.
In a recent article, instructional designer Flower Darby talked about harnessing the power of emotions to help students learn. She identified a handful of ideas to consider when we design for emotion (which is what led me to thinking about SEL):
Share personal examples and stories. I’ll be honest. When I was going through my divorce and teaching middle school, my stories about my personal life and that of my children resonated with many of my students. They helped them develop some social awareness and relationship skills . . . and allowed students to see me as a person.
Try to be likeable. Of course, we want our learners to like us. Connecting via two-way respect goes a long way to fostering that learner/teacher relationship. How can we teach our kids social awareness and relationship skills if they don’t see us practicing them? The likeable part helps nurture it.
Relate the relevance. Good formative instructional practice tells us that quality learning targets must be relevant. Explicitly making the learning relevant helps build self-awareness with students and support them in decision-making. Talking about current events, for example, and why they caught your interest helps build the relationship, encourages students to be self-aware of their thoughts and feelings to relevant issues, and supports the development of social awareness as they listen to how others respond.
Provide voice and choice. One of the key aspects of a culture of learning is the idea of engagement. Look at the elements of SEL and see the connections to engagement. Voice and choice are primary components of engagement in a culture of learning. They encompass more than just who a learner might work with and can also include options about when and how the learning occurs, what the learning is actually focused on (the learning targets and success criteria), and even assessments of the learning.
As Darby says, “There are so many other ways of including emotions, targeting emotions, even simply acknowledging that they exist in our teaching and learning processes.” How can we teach SEL if we aren’t modeling it and providing opportunities to see it, experience it, or practice it? 2018 is a new year. Which of the above list might you do more of this year? Do you see a connection between SEL and self-regulated learning? Give me your thoughts on Twitter @kdyer13.