Giving Teachers the Tools to Integrate Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning

A new report notes highlights the importance and difficulty of implementing the multiple dimensions of social, emotional, and academic learning to support students in the classroom, community, and future workplace. This consensus report was developed by the Council of Distinguished Educators, composed of administrators, teachers, and community partners. The Council was convened by the Aspen Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development to bring their wide expertise and experience on the subject of social emotional learning, academic achievement, and student engagement. To effectively put strategies into practice, the report notes, teachers need the tools and guidance to fully integrate the interdependent competencies of  social, emotional, and academic learning.

What are the benefits of implementing social, emotional, and academic learning that is interconnected? An integrative strategy creates a high-quality learning environment school and culture that enables students to feel confident and supported in growing and making mistakes. And beyond just targeted interventions for students with behavioral problems or a trauma history, SEL has been shown to have a major impact on all students.

Unfortunately, colleges and programs for prospective teachers rarely incorporate strategies for integrating social, emotional, academic instruction, so this hasn’t been something that teachers learn early on. But the good news is that, according to the report, professional development can provide teachers with this missing piece, giving them the tools and strategies for cohesively blending social, emotional, and academic learning.

But teachers need more than simply an SEL curriculum for students: they need time to collaborate and discuss SEL strategies with one another. To better support students in the classroom, teachers also need professional development in SEL that includes “rich conversations with peers.” And as the report notes, “Just as students need to reflect on their evolving social and emotional skills in order to improve them, teachers need the opportunity to not only learn how to teach these skills, but to understand how they can advance their own social and emotional development.”

For teachers to better support students, they need to understand and support their own emotions and relationships so that they can implement the skills and model them in the classroom. Beyond collaboration focused solely on students, teachers also need time and strategies to boost their own social and emotional health as well. Mawi often describes this as “finding your sunlight”, or taking time for yourself and your passions to relax, recharge, and take care of your social and emotional health. Read more about strategies for finding your sunlight in this blog post by Sarah Said.

To truly benefit the school climate, the report says, everyone at the school needs to be involved in integrating SEL with academic learning. This means all teachers, administrators, community partners, parents, and support personnel are speaking the same language and modeling the same positive behavior. Because of this, all strategies need to also include family engagement, community partnerships, and should be implemented at the district level to get all schools, teachers, and students on the same page.

Implementing a successful and interconnected program of social, emotional, and academic learning involves a lot of moving pieces for students, educators, parents, and the entire community. Mawi Learning’s solutions provide a basis for setting up a schoolwide full integration of social, emotional, and academic learning. Learn more about our solutions here.

Alea Thompson

Alea Thompson

School Partnership Lead Alea Thompson is the School Partnership Leader at Mawi Learning. A former high school teacher, she is currently a PhD candidate in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago .Outside of work, she is an avid Red Sox fan, voracious reader, and beginner quilter.