Social-Emotional Learning: Helping Students Gain Skills That Transcend Industry

Are there job skills that transcend industry? I think there are at least five: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. All five of those attributes are ones I’d want for any new employee I hire, teammate I work alongside, person I volunteer with – regardless of the setting. Those five social-emotional skills provide a strong foundation upon which people can grow specific functional skills and knowledge.

A recent study published in the journal “Child Development” explored the effects of school-based interventions in social-emotional learning (SEL). The outcomes presented in “Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects” are very positive.

Researchers examined 82 school-based interventions effecting 94,406 students from kindergarten to high school. The model of intervention they focused on specifically is called positive youth development (PYD), which is a strength-based model of interventions. The authors found that interventions were “successful in improving young peoples’ self-control, interpersonal skills, problem solving, the quality of their peer and adult relationships, commitment to schooling, and academic achievement.”

Read about five outcomes of social-emotional skill development:

  1. Improving SEL skills also improved students’ competencies in areas like problem solving, relationships skills and self-regulation, all of which correlated in improved academic performance.
  2. SEL was shown to be beneficial across demographic groups, including age, gender, race and socioeconomic status.
  3. The positive effects of school-based SEL interventions continued to demonstrate significant effects for near 4 years following the intervention
  4. SEL interventions help students improve students on positive indicators as well as negative indicators. For examples, they helped students have more positive attitudes about self-worth, school attendance and prosocial behaviors as well as decrease negative indicators. They also helped students be less disposed to drug use, emotional distress and conduct issues.
  5. Because of the positive effect of SEL on social relationships, students who experienced interventions had higher high school graduation rates and college attendance rates as well as fewer negative outcomes like arrests.

What do the outcomes of “Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects” mean for work in the classroom?

This study has a lot of people talking about the potential of SEL in the classroom and the critical need of advancing SEL. At KnowledgeWorks, we’ve been focusing on the applications of SEL as a critical aspect of college and career readiness. In our recently published paper, “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out,” we share research into why our current definitions of readiness have to change.

“By redefining readiness, we will better ensure all students are prepared for a future that is filled with uncertainty,” said KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of Strategic Foresight Katherine Prince.

Central to new definitions of readiness is a focus on core social-emotional skills and foundational cognitive and metacognitive practices. The three core skills the paper outlines as being important for readiness are:

  • Deep self-knowledge: Individuals will need to continue to discover their own personal and professional strengths, weaknesses, passions and emotional patterns.
  • Emotional regulation: Workers will need to be able to recognize their own emotions; understand the triggers that create them; and move to more productive emotional states.
  • Empathy and perspective taking: People will need to be able to recognize others’ emotions and perspectives to help build inclusive, collaborative work environments.

These skills align with the five core skills researched in the “Child Development” study – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.

As more research continues in the field of SEL, what we may be evaluating is more than well-being and success of students, but also well-being and success of our future workforce.

Read “Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects.”

Download “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” to learn more about how social emotional learning is a critical component in an evolving definition of both college- and career-readiness.

Kate Westrich

Written by: Kate Westrich

Kate Westrich manages digital marketing for KnowledgeWorks, tweeting for @KnowledgeWorks and @EdPersonalized, and posting at KnowledgeWorks' Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest pages.

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