Good News About Academics: SEL Programs Work
Here’s some good news about academic achievement: When you teach students social and emotional skills, you are also giving them a boost in their school performance.
That’s one of the conclusions of a "meta-analysis" of 207 research studies recently announced by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
The study, "The Effects of Social and Emotional Learning on Behavior and Academic Performance of School Children," found that social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, such as the SECOND STEP and STEPS TO RESPECT programs, can have a positive impact on achievement test scores and grades.
By the Numbers
CASEL's research found that SEL programs produced the following gains for students:
- 11 percentile-point gain in achievement test scores
- 23 percent improvement in social and emotional skills
- 9 percent improvement in attitudes about self, others, and school
- 9 percent improvement in school and classroom behavior
- 9 percent decrease in conduct problems, such as classroom misbehavior and aggression
- 10 percent decrease in emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression
Involving more than 288,000 students from school districts of all types and sizes, the study is the largest, most scientifically rigorous and up-to-date review of research on interventions that promote children's social and emotional development, according to CASEL.
Enhancing Academic Achievement
The analysis was conducted by Joseph A. Durlak of Loyola University Chicago and Roger P. Weissberg at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with the assistance of graduate students Allison Dymnicki, Rebecca Taylor, and Kriston Schellinger. A full report will be released later this year.
"These positive results do not come at the expense of performance in core academic skills, but rather enhance academic achievement," CASEL researchers said.
"Moreover, among those studies that collected follow-up data in each of the above categories, the positive benefits to students were found to persist over time."
Program Fidelity Is Important
Committee for Children recently published research that points to the importance of teachers teaching its SEL programs as they were intended. The CASEL study does, too. "Program implementation had a strong influence on outcomes. When a program is not well-executed, the chances of it benefiting students are greatly diminished," researchers said.
The CASEL study also reported that, in contrast to programs conducted by researchers, classroom programs conducted by teachers were effective in each of the six outcome areas.
Reprinted with the permission of the Committee for Children. © 2007 Committee for Children.
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