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Social-emotional learning affects academic success in adolescent years, case studies show, says WKCD

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Feb. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Five new case studies of U.S. public secondary schools, released today, underscore the complex interplay of academic, social, and emotional factors that affect adolescent learning.

The series Learning by Heart—funded by the NoVo Foundation—focuses on effective practices at five diverse high schools that regarded social-emotional learning (SEL) as inextricably tied to academic mastery. It was issued by the Center for Youth Voice in Policy and Practice, the research arm of What Kids Can Do (WKCD).

Previous research has shown positive effects of school-based SEL programs on academic achievement, largely in the elementary grades. In contrast, Learning by Heart documents how three high schools and two 6­–12 schools integrate SEL practices as a systemic approach.

Their examples support recent research challenging the dichotomy between "cognitive" and "noncognitive" skills, said authors Barbara Cervone and Kathleen Cushman. "Academic, social, and emotional factors are deeply mutual," they asserted.

The schools studied were East Side Community School in NYC; Fenger High School in Chicago; Oakland (CA) International High School; Quest Early College High School in Humble, TX; and Springfield (MA) Renaissance School.

Though each had its own strategy, the researchers identified six key elements all shared: a web of structural supports; an intentional community; a culture of respect, participation, and reflection; a commitment to restorative practices and meeting students' basic needs; a curriculum of connection and engagement; and a focus on developing student agency.

Each school embedded SEL in teaching and learning via practices, programs, and structures that responded to its distinct conditions and climate. Policy implications, the authors pointed out, could include state learning standards that treat SEL as integral to the curriculum and assessments that involve performance-based measures.

Audiovisual elements bring alive the voices of teachers and students in all five studies, which reflect a mix of research methods. They speak of belonging and self-confidence, engagement and high expectations.

What are the policy implications of what these schools have shown us?

"At this school, they go all out around the student's emotions," said a Chicago student named Jameisha. "They ask, they listen. Me, I feel comfortable here. I don't wake up and think, 'Oh I hope this don't happen. I hope that don't happen.' You go in with an open mind and a clear mind and you think like, 'I'm okay. I'm fine. I'm ready to learn.'"

SOURCE What Kids Can Do, Inc.

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