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Social Emotional Learning and Inclusion in Schools  

Laura Sokal and Jennifer Katz

Inclusive classrooms provide new opportunities for group membership and creation of effective learning environments. In order to facilitate the success of inclusion as an approach and philosophy, it is important that all class members as well as their teachers develop the skills to understand one another, and to communicate and work together effectively. Social emotional learning (SEL) is aimed at developing these skills and is generally defined to involve processes by which individuals learn to understand and moderate their own feelings, understand the feelings of others, communicate, resolve conflicts effectively, respect others, and develop healthy relationships. These skills are important to both children with disabilities and to those without, in terms of overall social development, perceptions of belonging, and promotion of overall mental wellness, as well as mitigation of the development of mental illness. Research suggests that SEL programming has the potential to effectively enhance children’s academic, social, and relational outcomes. Moreover, teachers who teach SEL in their classrooms have also demonstrated positive outcomes. Despite these encouraging findings, implementation of SEL has been hampered by some limitations, including the lack of a consistent definition—a limitation that in turn affects research findings; lack of teacher education in SEL, which erodes confidence in the fidelity of implementation; and concerns that current SEL programs are not sensitive to cultural differences in communities. Together, the strengths and limitations of SEL illuminate several policy implications regarding the most advantageous ways for SEL to contribute to the success of inclusion in classrooms and schools.

Article

Social and Emotional Learning in the Physical Education Curriculum  

Paul M. Wright, Barrie Gordon, and Shirley Gray

Physical education as a subject area simultaneously addresses psychomotor, cognitive, and affective learning objectives. Despite the recognized potential of physical education to promote affective learning objectives, these have been ill-defined in the curriculum and often neglected in practice. However, with a growing interest in social and emotional learning across the curriculum, physical education is now expected to better articulate and demonstrate its contributions in this area. While the framework may be new, social and emotional learning competencies (e.g., self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making) can be seamlessly integrated into quality, student-centered physical education. Given the growing policy support and existing best practice for teaching personal and social skills, it seems clear that with continued advocacy and teacher education, social and emotional learning competencies can be integrated into the physical education curriculum in a much more intentional and coherent way.

Article

Taking a Well-Being-Centric Approach to School Reform  

Helen Cahill, Babak Dadvand, and Annie Gowing

The well-being challenges of the 21st century are deeply ethical in nature and require activation of collective as well as individual responsibility for the ways in which others are treated. For this reason, school reform initiatives need to equip young people with a wide range of capacities to engage with the challenges of advancing both the wellness of humanity and that of the planet. There is a robust body of theory and research available to inform school reform efforts that aim to accomplish improved individual and collective well-being. This knowledge base emanates from different paradigms and disciplinary traditions. Brought together, these knowledge sources highlight the importance of ensuring that schools invest efforts toward developing ethical, critical, personal, social, and creative capabilities that enable young people to enact care for self, others, society, and the planet. A transdisciplinary approach that expounds on research and theory from diverse disciplines, including well-being education, critical, feminist, and postmodern traditions, and scholarship on youth voice and participation can help efforts toward well-being-centric school reform. Evidence suggests that research-informed well-being education programs can have positive impacts in terms of improved mental, social, and relational health, contributions to learning, and fostering critical thinking skills. These are the skills that are needed by young people to navigate and respond to ethnical challenges with care, compassion, and a sense of responsibility as a relational ethos. Taken together, these advances in thinking and knowledge, derived from different traditions of scholarship, can be harnessed to inform a “well-being-centric” approach to schooling reform that is responsive to the past, present, and future lives of persons, peoples, and the planet. A well-being-centric approach to school reform should harness developments in education knowledge and thinking generated across diverse disciplines within the past 50 years, since the 1970s. This, in turn, requires disrupting the ways in which the disciplinary structures and assessment regimes of secondary schools work as impediments to the transformative change needed to advance student well-being and learning in these changed and challenging times.

Article

Leadership That Bridges Arts and Social-Emotional Learning  

Marco A. Nava, Imelda L. Nava, and Jan Kirsch

Over the last 40 years, due to the combination of cuts to school and district budgets and an overemphasis on standardized testing, arts instruction has been severely cut back in public schools. Minority and low-income students are the ones most negatively impacted, as the schools they attend generally have lower standardized test scores. A study, Arts and Social-Emotional Learning (ASEL), provided training for 44 elementary school administrators serving high-needs students. Through a theoretical framework of social-emotional and brain-based learning, participating administrators received 40 hours of professional development that supported them in creating safe classroom learning environments to foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration. The research may provide insights to assist school and district leaders to provide all students with equitable access to the arts and social-emotional learning.

Article

Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching Learners with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders  

Jessica Whitley

Students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) comprise a diverse group in terms of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Identification and diagnostic criteria and terminologies vary widely across and within many countries and school systems, resulting in a complex research base. Estimates of prevalence range from 4 to 15% of students meeting criteria for an emotional and/or behavioral disorder or difficulty. Approaches to teaching learners with E/BD have shifted since the turn of the 21st century from an individual, deficit-focused perspective to a more ecological framework where the environments interacting dynamically with the learner are considered. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) where the needs of most students can be met through universal preventative and whole-class approaches. Students who do not find success at the first level of supports receive increasingly specialized services including intensive, wraparound services that involve partners beyond school walls. MTSS are common across North America and beyond and are typically focused on externalizing behaviors; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is the most prevalent multi-tiered system currently being implemented. Since the mid-2000s, efforts have been made to focus on academic as well as behavioral goals for students, often through the inclusion of response-to-intervention approaches. Comprehensive strategies that combine academic and behavioral support while drawing on learner strengths and relationship-building are successfully being adopted in elementary and secondary settings. Approaches include social and emotional learning, mindfulness, peer-assisted learning, and a range of classroom-based instructional and assessment practices that support the academic, social, and emotional development of students with E/BD.