By Jeffrey Gaver, a research intern with StrivePartnership
When students enter classrooms, they bring with them their skills and assets, but also a range of experiences and life circumstances that can affect their engagement in the classroom. We’ve all been in situations in our lives where we’re stressed out and not present in whatever is occurring in the moment. The same is true for our students and even more so in the case for those who have experienced trauma. While teachers can’t control larger social, economic, neighborhood or family structures, they can help to either exacerbate or alleviate the stress or trauma of students in the classroom.
In a research brief I authored for StrivePartnership, I highlight current research on out-of-classroom challenges on student learning, the positive impact of programs that effectively address these challenges and the capacity of teachers to create an environment for academic success. Specifically, I highlight the positive potential of social emotional learning programs and potential for teacher impact.
Social-emotional learning programs
Social-emotional learning (SEL) programs focus on developing a student’s cognitive and behavioral competencies. They promote self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills. An analysis of 213 school-based SEL programs showed that those programs that are well designed and implemented resulted in an 11 percentile gain in academic outcomes. Student gains in social-emotional skills yield positive effects on classroom academic progress, time on task and fewer behavioral disruptions.
Student engagement is an important factor in whether students succeed. Research has shown that teacher attitudes and behaviors inside the classroom can have a substantial effect on student outcomes inside the classroom. Teachers’ beliefs about all student’s capacity to learn affect the extent to which all students succeed. Meeting students where they’re at to leverage the cultural and personal assets of students through an empowerment lens rather than a deficit perspective can play a vital role in increasing classroom engagement and empowering students to succeed.
 Durlak, Joseph A., Roger P. Weissberg, Allison B. Dymnicki, Rebecca D. Taylor and Kriston B. Schellinger. 2011. “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions.” Child Development 82(1):405-432.