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SEL report

Here’s how teachers think SEL can truly help students

A new survey analyzes how social and emotional learning contributes to a positive school culture

A resounding majority of administrators, teachers, and parents say they believe social and emotional learning (SEL) is just as important as academic learning.

SEL is the process that helps students understand and regulate their emotions, understand different points of view and show empathy toward others, and develop intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies. Many believe these skills contribute to safer and more positive schools and communities.

Of the more than 1,000 people surveyed in McGraw-Hill Education’s 2018 Social and Emotional Learning Report, 96 percent of administrators, 93 percent of teachers, and 81 percent of parents overwhelmingly say SEL is as necessary as core academic subjects.

Seventy-nine percent of teachers believe SEL should be explicitly included as a part of state academic standards, and 65 percent of teachers want even more class time to devote to teaching these skills.

Most administrators (88 percent) and teachers (74 percent) say SEL skills are being taught at their school, but only 32 percent of parents say they are aware of these skills being taught at their children’s schools.

In addition to wanting more time to teach SEL, educators want more support, too, with just 22 percent saying they feel “very prepared” to teach it. Fifty-one percent say the level of SEL professional development offered at their school is not sufficient.

Teachers are most interested in receiving professional development training on SEL instruction via in-school training at their school (with 85 percent indicating they are at least “somewhat interested”), followed by in-person training at professional conferences, workshops or seminars (77 percent).

Many teachers (46 percent) say parental engagement is one of the top three things that would help them teach SEL more effectively.

Most educators and parents say SEL has a positive impact on school culture–83 percent of teachers and 76 percent of administrators feel such instruction is “very important” in helping improve negative student behaviors like bullying.

Teachers and administrators also cite school safety (76 percent and 66 percent), lack of student motivation and engagement (75 percent and 66 percent), and a negative school climate (71 percent and 69 percent) as areas where SEL could help.

Most teachers think SEL is very important in contributing to a variety of positive and short-term benefits for students, including:

  • Positive attitudes about self and others (85 percent)
  • Positive social behaviors in and out of school (83 percent)
  • Ability to regulate emotions (83 percent)
  • Reduced behavioral problems (82 percent)
  • Responsible decision-making (81 percent)
  • Less emotional distress (81 percent)

When it comes to long-term benefits, teachers pointed to:

  • Improved overall mental health (86 percent)
  • Improved likelihood of positive relationships (84 percent)
  • Increased likelihood of graduating from high school (77 percent)
  • Lower likelihood of negative involvement with the justice system (77 percent)

Administrators and teachers are in virtual agreement about many of the skills they rank as “very important” for students:

  • Self-management (95 percent and 93 percent)
  • Relationship skills (93 percent for both groups)
  • Responsible decision-making (92 percent for both groups)
  • Self-awareness (90 percent for both groups)
  • Social awareness (88 percent and 89 percent)

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Laura Ascione

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