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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.


Youth Studies  

Johanna Wyn

The field of youth studies is important to education for many reasons, but two stand out. First, understanding the learner is a central component of high-quality teaching. The vast majority of educators are working with young people, so having an understanding of young people’s lives underpins good educational practice. Second, education is “forward looking” in the sense that it is preparing young people for their next steps in life. This means that educators have a vested interest in understanding how social change impacts youth. Youth studies emerged in the early 1950s, in English-speaking countries, as researchers sought to account for the changes in young people’s lives brought about by mass secondary education and new youth consumer markets. At the outset, developmental psychology provided a framework that characterized youth as a stage of life between childhood and adulthood—a vulnerable stage that required monitoring and support. Critical of this approach because of its tendency to universalize youth out of context, sociological approaches have taken up a range of positions. These include a focus on young people as deviant or problematic; as consumers and as the instigators of new social and cultural approaches. Young people’s situation in 2019 reflects the opaque nature of the relationship between education and work, and there has emerged, on a global scale, a new “precarious” generation, one that has high levels of unemployment and underemployment and that also experiences high levels of poor health. Although the approaches to youth studies that were established at that time still resonate today, the situation of contemporary youth has ushered in new approaches. These include methodological innovations and developments, such as participatory research involving young people that ensures research is with, not just about, them and the opportunities that technological advances offer in the form of new digital methods and approaches to data archiving. Youth studies has shifted from concerns about how the young generation will “fit in” to society to an awareness that social and political decisions are required to ensure that young people can take their full place in the economic, political, and social processes and institutions of society. This development also shifts the focus from education as a producer of human capital for economic development to considerations of the role of education in equipping young people to participate fully in our changing world.