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Social-Emotional Intelligence allows us to negotiate our own and others’ emotions and feelings. No wonder it is vital to success in relationships, academics, jobs, sports, and other life activities. Employers, for example, have discovered that 67 percent of the skills they are looking for in new employees are directly related to Social-Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence). Yet schools spend only 1.6 percent of the school week developing these skills in students.
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Research highlights the importance of teaching students social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. Here are some interesting findings:
- Fear and anxiety interfere with learning, while safety and security support and facilitate learning.
- Emotion plays a major role in every intellectual process and affects the organization of children’s brains.
- Children who can learn by age 10 to delay gratification, control impulses, and modulate expression become healthier, wealthier, and more responsible (Terrie Moffitt of Duke University and a team of researchers who followed a group of 1,000 children for 32 years).
- Students who are taught SEL skills are better behaved, more positive, and less anxious than students who aren’t taught these skills.
- Students who learn to identify, manage, and express feelings constructively are less likely to develop anxiety issues, depression, and other mental-health disorders (Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence).
- Students in schools with SEL programs score an average 11 percentile points higher on standardized tests than students in schools without SEL programs (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning—CASEL—a four-year study of 207 school-based SEL programs).
Legislators are responding to this research. Many are touting the link between social and emotional learning skills and higher academic performance, and they are taking action. Here are some legislative highlights:
- The Illinois State Legislature passed the Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003. It mandates that social and emotional learning skills be taught in schools from kindergarten through high school.
- The Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2013 (H.R. 1875) was introduced in the House of Representatives to support evidence-based social and emotional learning programs in schools. Recently, the Supporting Emotional Learning Act (H.R. 4509) was introduced in the House. It requires that teachers be trained in social and emotional learning and submits that “social and emotional learning should be included as a central component of our education system.” Read CASEL’s summary of these two bills.
- The states of New York, Washington, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Kansas, Tennessee, and Illinois have developed statewide standards concerning social and emotional learning.
Teaching SEL Skills
The research clearly shows that social and emotional learning skills are critical for success in academics, relationships, and jobs. And the movement to teach these skills in the classroom is growing. My book, In Focus: Improving Social-Emotional Intelligence, One Day at a Time, can help teachers accomplish the important task of developing their students’ Social-Emotional Intelligence in just minutes a day.