School leaders and staff devoted to social emotional learning (SEL) in their practice can experience transformational change in their classrooms and alternate learning spaces. A commitment to develop, evaluate, and continually improve a high-quality SEL curricular component is the first step in ensuring its effectiveness. Buy-in at all levels of the learning community is essential to building a culture around the importance of SEL and successful outcomes.
By actively listening and monitoring output from individual students, teachers will be the first to witness the benefits in their classrooms. A growing culture of wellbeing will be expressed in nuanced ways and represent the harbingers of an effective SEL program.
Gathering in supportive faculty groups to share best practices and qualitative data in the form of classroom experiences is crucial, especially in the initial phases of an SEL program, when foundational decisions are being made. Teachers who spend most of their day alone with students will be incentivized through regular interaction with their colleagues. Newer teachers will have the opportunity to gain insights from more experienced staff in non-judgmental and supportive spaces. Time should be carved out in meetings to focus on successes and challenges pertaining to SEL and testimonials from participants, including:
- What works
- What areas need improvement
- How to encourage hesitators
- What positive changes are being seen and why
- How the data collection is enhancing and influencing classroom practice
Regularly scheduled reflective meetings can bring into focus the areas for improvement in SEL programming, incentivize staff, reveal training needs, identify trends, prompt brainstorming, and build stronger relationships. Never underestimate the power of storytelling (anecdotal data)—it can lead to real change.
With a commitment to SEL, schools will experience its impact daily and see positive results. Educators will know that their SEL program is having the intended effects when teachers report:
- An increased ability to manage stress and depression
- Students having better attitudes about themselves
- An uptick in prosocial behaviors in social interaction
- Positive classroom behavior and fewer incidents of students acting out
- Improved communication skills and use of expressive language
Top leadership may need to step up their game. Designating someone to act as the SEL coordinator in a learning environment provides an extra layer of support to teachers and a direct line of communication to decision-makers. It gives administrators insights into what is happening on the ground to help shape SEL policy and leverage support. Research suggests that 80% of educators and 81% of parents believe that positive emotions are critical for academic success, and 53% of learning environments have backed up that belief by incorporating an explicit wellbeing policy.
Schools that include a high-quality technology platform like ei Pulse to regularly monitor wellbeing stay attuned to student sentiment and perform better. A continuous stream of evidence-based data helps guide decision-making and ensures that programs are responsive to students in real time. Longitudinal data collection, or data collected weekly over time from the same respondents, enables schools to tweak programs on a regular basis and reveals any gaps in programming when carefully tracked.
Quantitative data collected using ei Pulse can reveal individual students’ shifts in mood and school-wide trends. With weekly ei Pulse check-ins, students reflect on their mental health and answer science-backed engagement and wellbeing questions that take just sixty seconds from a mobile device. Schools then gain relevant, usable data to drive positive change.
With statistically significant data being collected every week from every student, teachers and administrators gain insight into what supports their students’ needs as their challenges evolve. Interventions become more agile and responsive in real time. The continuous feedback loop helps schools strategize and monitor the impact of a SEL program already in place.
An example of effective data monitoring is a teacher who recognizes that a student’s studies are slipping and that their wellbeing data is fluctuating more than usual. The teacher will then develop an approach to support this student. It could involve something as simple as waiting to see if the situation clears up, instigating a chat to try to elicit a deeper understanding of what is going on, or in more concerning cases, setting up a referral. Getting SEL programming right includes having clear pathways to ameliorate challenges and helping schools understand if their strategies are effective.
The gains of high-quality SEL grow over time. Schools that are tracking data and evaluating programs and are dedicated to continual improvement will experience substantial gains, including:
- Increased academic performance
- According to research, participation in an SEL program increases students’ academic outcomes up to 11% compared to those who don’t.
- Increased social emotional skills, including in test situations
- Better relationship skills
- Responsible decision-making
- Fewer conduct problems
- Less emotional distress
- A strong return on investment
- Research suggests that every dollar invested can lead to an $11 return
Leaders and teachers can gain insight into the effectiveness of their SEL programs when they use ei Pulse to gather evidence-based student data to inform their strategies. Keeping a pulse on your students and the school environment will foster engaged learning communities that work together to deliver the best outcomes for everyone.
Here at Educator Impact, we help school leaders keep a pulse on their students’ wellbeing and empower them with tools that leverage real-time student insights to inform SEL strategies, identify which students need further support, and enable them to continually improve their SEL initiatives.
To see how we can help you do the same for your school community, feel free to reach out to our SEL and wellbeing experts today!