Net Exchange Response


Title: Impact of Learning Supports Frameworks on SEL, Teacher Motivation, Equity

Date Posted: 6/3/2015

Question: I am looking at how SEL approaches improve educational equity and influence teacher development. I read about your frameworks for learning and support and spoke to Gainesville City, GA's learning supports director about how they use the frameworks. I'm interested in knowing more about best practices in other districts on how the frameworks translate into teacher motivation, whether that's intrinsic, extrinsic, or through evaluations. What have you seen in your work? I have a related question about the extent to which schools using this framework are attempting to evaluate students' SEL growth, and how they are capturing that.

Response: The questions you ask involve complex answers. Here’s a start.

(1) SEL is part of both the instructional and learning supports component.

SEL can be (a) part of the regular curricula, (b) part of efforts to address barriers to learning and teaching and re-engage disconnected students, and (c) pursued as part of natural opportunities throughout the school day to facilitate development and respond to problems.

We have discussed matters related to SEL and our frameworks in many documents. See our Quick Find on SEL at http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/qf/p2102_05.htm

As we note in the Center document entitled: Embedding Bullying Interventions into a Comprehensive System of Student and Learning Supports http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/embeddingbullying.pdf:

“Ragozzino and O’Brien (2009) state: ‘While bullying is a pervasive problem in many schools, schools can take specific steps to improve the school climate and encourage positive interactions designed to reduce or prevent bullying. Schools using a social and emotional learning (SEL) framework can foster an overall climate of inclusion, warmth, and respect, and promote the development of core social and emotional skills among both students and staff. Because bullying prevention is entirely congruent with SEL, it can be embedded in a school’s SEL framework.’

The SEL framework is described as having the following ‘five core categories of social and emotional skills:

  • Self -awareness – accurately assessing one’s feelings, interests, values, and strengths/abilities, and maintaining a well -grounded sense of self -confidence

  • Self -management – regulating one’s emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and persevere in overcoming obstacles; setting personal and academic goals and then monitoring one’s progress toward achieving them; and expressing emotions constructively

  • Social awareness – taking the perspective of and empathizing with others; recognizing and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences; identifying and following societal standards of conduct; and recognizing and using family, school, and community resources

  • Relationship skills – establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation; resisting inappropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and resolving interpersonal conflict; and seeking help when needed

  • Responsible decision -making – making decisions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, appropriate standards of conduct, respect for others, and likely consequences of various actions; applying decision -making skills to academic and social situations; and contributing to the well -being of one’s school and community.’”

Ragozzino and O’Brien describe these skills as enabling children to “calm themselves when angry, initiate friendships, resolve relationship conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices. To develop these capacities, children need to experience safe, nurturing, and well -managed environments where they feel valued and respected; to have meaningful interactions with others who are socially and emotionally competent; and to receive positive and specific guidance”

Comprehensive System to Address Barriers to Learning and Teaching

Our Center goes a step beyond the SEL efforts by advocating for embedding all efforts to provide student and learning supports into a system to address barriers to teaching and learning. Rather than establishing so many separate initiatives and enacting so many piecemeal and fragmented policies for specific subgroups of students and problems, we highlight the commonalities in the underlying dynamics causing behavior, emotional, and learning problems. Our intent is to fully embed the concerns about behavior, learning, and emotional problems into a system of student and learning supports designed for all students. And we see the growing emphasis on school bullying as an opportunity to accelerate development of such a comprehensive, multifaceted, and cohesive system.

Follow up question from the colleague: “Thank you so much for this thoughtful reply. I appreciate the comprehensive framework that you are offering for schools. One of the reasons why I've chosen to take on this topic is that many folks are interested in more comprehensive approaches in districts and statewide I'm taking a look at LA, Gainesville City, and Alabama to get a sense of how cities have approached these issues.

I'm still trying to figure out how districts are making this framework (and others that are less comprehensive) part of teacher evaluation and professional development. The Learning Supports Director in Gainesville was generous in explaining their team model and how the framework has helped them to have an integrated approach to serving the whole student and ready a continuum of services that are driven by data. How has your comprehensive framework trickled down or influenced directly teacher evaluation in some of the other districts that you have worked with? I'm specifically interested in how teachers buy into learning supports coordination re-envisioned; SEL is one piece, but your model goes further. I know that evaluation might be hard to reach because of a number of factors, but if you have an example of what that looks like when it's done well, I'd love to know more.”

Center follow up reply: Good questions. In our work with Iowa, the SEA developed a variety of tools to help move the work forward. See http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/summit2002/trailblazing2.htm#iowa

One was an accountability framework –– http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/wheresithappening/iaaccountability.pdf

Changes in the staffing have reduced the implementation in Iowa, but there are still remnants and the products have been useful to others.

Right now the most ambitious work is being done in Alabama. See http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/summit2002/trailblazing2.htm#alabama

Peruse their design document and their most recent progress report. They started with 10 districts last year added 30 more this year and plan to add that many next year.

Colleague’s Response: “Thanks so much for being responsive and helpful. I'll take a look at Iowa and Alabama. I will start with a larger look at how SEL and learning supports get into the classroom. One focus will be on how these larger policies get to the instructional core and are reinforced. I'm a former law professor who is making the transition to ed policy. I have the opportunity to continue to work on SEL for our state and they can benefit from looking at how policy is operationalized in other states and districts.”


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UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
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