New report emphasises the need for social and emotional skills in US high schools
How important are traits like compassion, managing emotions and setting and achieving positive goals for high school students? Source: Shutterstock

Before entering university, it’s essential that students experience a fair and balanced education.

That’s why many high school teachers in the US aim to integrate Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) into their lessons.

Exposing learners to SEL skills such as positive goal setting, empathy, compassion and responsible decision making gives them a much better chance of living independently and excelling in life beyond high school.

To address the importance of SEL strategies, the new Respected: Perspectives of Youth on High School & Social and Emotional Learning report by Hart Research and Civic on behalf on the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), listened to the perspectives of US high school students and recent graduates who are in college, employed or still finding their path.

Researchers were particularly interested in whether schools were helping students develop social and emotional skills – such as the ability to understand other points of view, the ability to get along well with others and the confidence to persist through challenges and stress.

Key findings of the report

The report identified three key themes:

1. Students and young adults from strong SEL schools report a more positive social climate and learning environment. They feel that they’re doing better academically and feel better prepared for life than those in weak SEL schools.

2. Schools that emphasise social and emotional skills development broadly appeal to students across background, race, ethnicity, income and geographies. Students recognise the benefits of such schools, but fewer than half believe their high schools are doing a good job of helping them develop SEL skills.

3. Some of the most vulnerable students surveyed cited social and emotional problems as significant barriers to “learning, doing their best and fulfilling their potential”.

So, if fewer than half of the students surveyed believe their high school does not have effective SEL strategies in place, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Plus, if SEL techniques boost students’ self-confidence, enable them to understand other people’s feelings, teach them how to solve disagreements in a positive style and help them decipher their own emotions, shouldn’t every school in the US and beyond be practicing these strategies?

“I wouldn’t have talked to kids who are different from me at my old school. Now I will. If I don’t understand anything I can ask a teacher. I went from D’s to A’s and I was ready to stop going to my old school,” one student commented on their SEL-focused school.

“It’s (SEL) is going to help us in the long run, learning how to communicate with people and be open to others’ opinions. It helps me get along better with other kids my age. We all have the same skill set and if you believe that you can do something, you will most likely succeed- like getting good grades in all your classes,” noted another respondent.

As something that drives such a positive impact and rewarding graduate prospects, the power of SEL is clear.

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