School & District Management

Scientists to Schools: Social, Emotional Development Crucial for Learning

By Evie Blad — September 13, 2017 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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

That’s because students’ social, emotional, and academic development are “deeply intertwined,” and all are central to learning, says the brief.

“Students who have a sense of belonging and purpose, who can work well with classmates and peers to solve problems, who can plan and set goals, and who can persevere through challenges— in addition to being literate, numerate, and versed in scientific concepts and ideas—are more likely to maximize their opportunities and reach their full potential,” the brief says.

It’s 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, policy makers, and philanthropists to clarify a vision for social-emotional learning in schools.

While many educators support a “whole child” approach that emphasizes areas beyond traditional academics, they can struggle to synthesize research that focuses on narrow but related ideas, like persistence and self-control. And that search for clarity hasn’t been helped by a public debate about what to even call this work—social-emotional learning, soft skills, or something else.

So the commission brought together heavy hitters in the field— like Harvard University Professor Stephanie Jones, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Director Marc Brackett, and University of Pennsylvania Professor Angela Duckworth—to create a document that could set an agenda for future research and clarify what they agree on to this point.

As I wrote earlier this year, that work included one-on-one phone conversations between scientists and educators to discuss what is and isn’t working in schools.

“This body of research demonstrates what parents have always known—the success of young people in school and beyond is inextricably linked to healthy social and emotional development, such as the ability to pay attention, understand and manage emotions, and work effectively in a team,” Jones, who co-authored the report, said in a statement. “The evidence should move us beyond debate as to whether schools should address students’ social and emotional learning to how schools can effectively integrate social, emotional, and academic development into their daily work.”

Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

Beyond academic development, the skills students need to be successful in the classroom and in life can be grouped into three areas, the brief says:


  • “cognitive skills including executive functions such as working memory, attention control and flexibility, inhibition, and planning, as well as beliefs and attitudes that guide one’s sense of self and approaches to learning and growth;
  • emotional competencies that enable one to cope with frustration, recognize and manage emotions, and understand others’ emotions and perspectives; and
  • social and interpersonal skills that enable one to read social cues, navigate social situations, resolve interpersonal conflicts, cooperate with others and work effectively in a team, and demonstrate compassion and empathy toward others.”

Among the other areas of agreement:


  • These skills can be taught and developed.
  • Effective social-emotional learning programs can improve teachers’ effectiveness and well-being.
  • These programs must engage families and communities to affect children’s development.
  • Effective implementation, training, and teacher support are necessary to make social-emotional learning work.

The brief emphasizes that schools can’t effectively carry out social-emotional learning work alone. They need policies at the state and local level that support this broader vision of student success and resources to carry it out.


More reading on social-emotional learning:

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.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion 'Futures Thinking' Can Help Schools Plan for the Next Pandemic
Rethinking the use of time and place for teachers and students, taking risks, and having a sound family-engagement plan also would help.
17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion The Consequence of Public-Health Officials Racing to Shutter Schools
Public-health officials' lack of concern for the risks of closing schools may shed light on Americans' reticence to embrace their directives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Best Ways for Schools to Prepare for the Next Pandemic
Being better connected to families and the community and diversifying the education workforce are some of the ways to be ready.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educators' Support for COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Is Rising Dramatically
Nearly 60 percent of educators say students who are old enough to receive COVID vaccines should be required to get them to attend school.

4 min read
Mariah Vaughn, a 15-year-old Highland Park student, prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during the vaccine clinic at Topeka High School on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021.
Mariah Vaughn, 15, a student at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kan., prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at her school in August.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP