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Social-Emotional Learning Has a Positive Impact on the Success of Students, According to a New Study

When students participate in programs that help them to recognize and control their emotions, it provides a long-lasting impact on not only their academic performance, but overall well-being, according to new research.

Students who were part of social-emotional intervention training, not only fared better than students who didn’t participate in development programs, but the impact carried through for years. This led to such positive outcomes as higher graduation rates and a decrease in drug use and other negative behaviors.

The data was compiled through a number of studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago; Loyola University; the University of British Columbia; and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). The meta-analysis reviewed 82 school-based, universal social and emotional learning interventions in both the U.S. and Europe, involving 97,406 children ranging from kindergarten up through to high school.

The positive effects were seen in students regardless of race, school location, or socioeconomic background.

The main purpose of “positive youth development” in the SEL programs is to set young people on a positive developmental trajectory so that they have the proper emotional skills to realize their potential and adapt to any obstacles they may encounter. Fostering healthy emotional skills in students serves as a combatant against the emotional distress that comes from the many trials and tribulations of growing up.

Researchers studied students’ attitudes toward themselves and others, as well as academic performance through group sessions. Each program drew upon at least one of CASEL’s five SEL components: responsible decision-making, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills.

Students who participated in the SEL programs had a college graduation rate 11 percent higher than their peers who did not. Their secondary school graduation rate was six percent higher.

Drug abuse and behavior problems were six percent lower for program participants, as well as lower chances of being arrested or contracting an STD. Participating students also were 13.5 percent less likely to develop a clinical mental health disorder.

This research does not show which SEL programs are the most effective, but the data from the studies speaks to a need for more SEL skills training in schools, says Tim Shriver, CASEL chair and co-chair of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Academic, Social, and Emotional Development. “We’re not just reducing problem behaviors or improving attitudes; we’re shaping a healthier, more positive, more fulfilling kind of life course,” Shriver said. “This is marking a shift from SEL as a program to SEL as critical to education.”

CASEL is currently working to make finding the right SEL program easier for schools through its new District Resource Center. The resource center is a compilation of various evidence-based SEL interventions already in schools.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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