We’ve long known that SEL-related skills like time management, interpersonal relationships, goal-setting and resilience are keys to success in school and in life. For example, most workplaces require collaboration with others and knowing how to manage your time and competing priorities.
These qualities are crucial, but they are harder to measure than, say, solving math problems or evaluating reading comprehension. That doesn’t mean we can’t use data to understand the direct impacts of learning SEL.
Looking at achievement data alongside SEL data may provide additional insights to help answer the “why” behind achievement gaps. It's one thing to look at data from a product like aimswebPlus alone, but when you look at it with data from the BASC Behavioral and Emotional Screening System or the BASC Social Wellness Skills System you are able to put additional pieces of the puzzle together. For example, maybe the student is easily distracted or needs to work on their organizational skills.
SEL can help. A recent report published by the Yale School of Medicine found that students who participated in SEL programs showed improvements in academic performance, overall well-being, and feelings of safety and security. The report was incredibly comprehensive, assessing 424 separate studies of SEL in K-12 to come up with its findings.
One particularly exciting finding was that these programs correlated with an increase in attendance, which is music to the ears of educators who are struggling with chronic absenteeism. One of the biggest barriers to learning is not being in school at all. I don't think it's an accident that students who reported better relationships with their teachers and felt more supported were more likely to attend school.
It was also inspiring to read that SEL programs are associated with a positive impact on mental health. Students who learn resiliency are better equipped to cope with challenges, which means they’ll do better at puzzling through a thorny problem in their schoolwork. Kids who have strong social and interpersonal skills forge more positive relationships with teachers and peers, which makes them more excited to come to school. Those who can better manage their time and get their work done are likely to fare better on their assignments.
Each of these successes helps promote a positive self-image, and they work together to create that protective factor that contributes to overall better mental health. It’s exciting when you consider how they all are intertwined.