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Motivation, Student Protests, and Social-Emotional Learning: Rules for Engagement’s Biggest Posts of 2017

By Evie Blad — December 22, 2017 4 min read

From the controversial issues of national anthem protests to the personal reasons some students procrastinate, Rules for Engagement readers’ favorite posts of 2017 largely focused on how to engage and motivate students—both inside and outside the classroom. If web traffic is an indicator, readers of this blog are concerned about respecting and amplifying student voice, understanding what drives them to succeed (and, in some cases, to fail), and how to weave an understanding of social and emotional development into the learning process.

And, because 2017 was a year defined by divisive national politics, there was a little of that thrown in, too.

Protests During Anthem, Pledge Made Their Way Into Schools

Tensions between President Donald Trump and professional athletes over protests during the national anthem spilled into classrooms and onto the sidelines of high school football games. Some students refused to stand during the anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance, and free speech advocates reminded schools that they couldn’t compel them to do so.


A Misunderstood Betsy DeVos Quote Showed How Much Readers Value Free School Lunches

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been at the center of controversy since the day Trump nominated her. After her February speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference included the aphorism “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” advocates and media outlets spread rumors that she planned to slash free and reduced-price lunches for low-income kids. But, as this post clarifies, DeVos had no such plans. And the Education Department doesn’t even control the National School Lunch Program.


The Muppets Made Plans to Aid Refugee Children

The Sesame Workshop hopes the friendly faces of Sesame Street characters will help refugee children navigate the complex social and emotional effects of trauma and displacement.

The organization teamed with the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian organization, to “deliver transformative early learning and social-emotional support to millions of refugee children in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria,” a February post explained.

In December, the organizations’ plans got a big boost after they won a $100 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for their ambitious plans, which include home visits and special learning materials for relocated families.

Much of that work builds on research about the effects of toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences, which U.S. schools and child welfare organizations have increasingly sought to address.

Also, photos of Muppets playing with kiddos are really cute.


Scientists Urged Schools to Be Mindful of Students’ Social and Emotional Development

Schools must broaden their approach beyond a narrow focus on academic work, a group of nationally recognized scientists said in a consensus statement released in September.

That’s because students’ social, emotional, and academic development are “deeply intertwined,” and all are central to learning, said the brief, the product of a year of work by 28 academic researchers who study issues like student motivation, school climate, and social-emotional learning. The panel, known as the council of distinguished scientists, was organized by the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, which has set out to bring together educators, scientists, policymakers, and philanthropists to clarify a vision for social-emotional learning in schools.


Social-Emotional Learning Researchers Sought New Ways to Measure Students’ Progress

As social-emotional learning continued to grow in popularity, researchers continued their quest for precise and reliable ways to measure students’ growth in areas like self-control and relationship skills. Schools have largely relied on self-report surveys to measure SEL growth, but researchers say tracking their responses to things like computer games, video testimonials, and challenging tasks may yield more accurate results.


Researchers Explored Students’ “Self-Handicapping” Habits

Some students engage in “self-handicapping” behaviors like procrastination because they are trying to protect themselves from the negative emotions they might feel if they fail at an academic task, this post explains. So they put off studying for the big test, giving themselves an excuse in advance for a low score. And they might not always realize why they are doing it.


Some School Leaders Said They Struggle to Implement Social-Emotional Learning

School leaders see students’ social and emotional development as important factors in school success but, in a nationally representative survey of principals, just 35 percent of respondents said their school was fully implementing a plan for incorporating social-emotional learning into policies and classroom work.

Principals reported several barriers to putting social-emotional learning strategies into place, including a lack of time, inadequate teacher training, and a need for further evidence of its link to academic success.

Photos, Top to Bottom: Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, AP file, Sesame Workshop, Unsplash, Getty, Getty, Unsplash


More 2017 education round-ups:

Follow @evieblad on Twitter or subscribe to Rules for Engagement to get blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.

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