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The Practice Base

For How We Learn


Supporting Students’
Social, Emotional, and
Academic Development

Consensus Statements of Practice


From the Council of Distinguished Educators

National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development


The Aspen Institute

Sheldon Berman with Sydney Chaffee & Julia Sarmiento

March 12, 2018


The National Commission on Social, Emotional,
and Academic Development

The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic


Development is engaging and energizing communities to re-envision what constitutes
success in our schools. Scientific evidence demonstrates that social, emotional, and
academic development are interconnected in the learning process. The Commission
is drawing from research and promising practices to explore how to make all these
dimensions of learning part of the fabric of every school. Building upon existing work
in schools, communities, and states across the country, the Commission is working to
identify specific action steps in research, practice, and policy that will help shape and
sustain a new era of education that reflects what we know about how learning happens.

The Commission’s 25 members are leaders from education, research, policy, business,
and the military, and the full Commission team includes a Council of Distinguished
Scientists, a Council of Distinguished Educators, a Youth Commission, a Parent Advisory
Panel, a Partners Collaborative, and a Funders Collaborative.

About This Report


These consensus statements of practice are part of a series of reports that are being
issued by various councils and panels that have been convened to inform the work of
the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. The official
research, practice, and policy recommendations of the National Commission itself, which
will be released later this year, will incorporate a wide range of feedback and information,
drawn from these reports, site visits by the National Commission, feedback from partner
organizations, and many other sources.

AUTHORS:
Dr. Sheldon Berman is the Superintendent of Andover Public Schools.

Sydney Chaffee is the 2017 National Teacher of the Year and a humanities
teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School.

Julia Sarmiento is the SEL Coordinator of Hillsborough County Public


Schools.

March 2018

For more information, visit: www.aspenSEAD.org


FOREWORD
The Consensus Statements in this document contain profound wisdom. The educators
who together forged this consensus represent great distinction and diversity: they are
teachers and counselors; they are superintendents and social entrepreneurs; they come
from traditional public schools and charter schools; they come from Anchorage, Alaska to
Andover, Massachusetts and from Tampa, Florida to Tacoma, Washington. They articulate
an inspiring vision for learning in our public schools, and state clearly the conditions that
need to be in place to make this vision a reality for all students.

These statements of practice build on and complement scientific consensus statements


regarding The Evidence Base for How We Learn that were jointly developed by leading
neuroscientists, psychologists, physicians, economists, and education scholars and
published in September 2017. Taken together, these statements reinforce deep insights
that parents and educators have always understood, and that science now establishes
empirically: the social, emotional, and academic dimensions of learning are inextricably
linked in the brain; healthy development across all these domains is essential for
success in school and in life; schools have the ability to positively shape students’ social,
emotional, and academic development, in partnership with families and communities; and
integrating social and emotional learning with academic instruction contributes to greater
achievement and equity in education outcomes.

The Aspen Institute deeply appreciates the contributions of these distinguished educators,
who unanimously endorse The Practice Base for How We Learn. Their collective effort
lays the cornerstone for achieving much better learning outcomes for students. We are
especially grateful to Shelley Berman, Julia Sarmiento, and Sydney Chaffee, who took the
lead in drafting these consensus statements, with active participation and guidance from
the whole group throughout the process.

THE ASPEN INSTITUTE 2018 1


COUNCIL OF DISTINGUISHED EDUCATORS

David Adams Daren Dickson


Director of Social-Emotional Learning, Chief Culture Officer, Valor
Urban Assembly Collegiate Academics

Jillian Ahrens Joan Duffell


Teacher, Memorial School; Vice President, Executive Director, Committee for Children
Cleveland Teachers Union

Roberta Duvall
Jim Balfanz Principal, Cold Springs Middle School
President, City Year

Shayne Evans
Ron Berger Founder and Managing Partner, The
Chief Academic Officer, EL Education Academy Group

Sheldon Berman Joshua J. Garcia


Superintendent, Andover Public Schools Deputy Superintendent, Tacoma Public Schools

Sara Burd Eric Gordon


Director, Guidance and Social Emotional Learning, Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Metropolitan
Arlington Public Schools School District

Meria Carstarphen Paul D. Goren


Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent, Evanston/Skokie District 65

John Deasy Kris Hinrichsen


Superintendent-in-Residence, Teacher, Chinook Open Optional Program,
The Broad Center Anchorage School District

2 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


Tanika Island Sonja Brookins Santelises
CEO, UChicago Charter School CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools

Kersten Johnson-Struempler Julia Sarmiento


Senior Director, Secondary Schools, Anchorage SEL Coordinator, Hillsborough County
School District Public Schools

Linda Lantieri Eric Schaps


Adjunct Assistant Professor, Teachers College, Former President, Development Studies Center
Columbia University (DSC); Executive Consultant, Collaborative for
Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

R. Keeth Matheny
Teacher, Austin High School Joshua P. Starr
CEO, PDK International Family of Associations

Meg Mayo-Brown
Superintendent, Barnstable Public Schools Michelle Steagall
Chief Academic Officer, CORE Districts

Pamela Moran
Superintendent, Albemarle Schools Lyon Terry
2015 Washington State Teacher of the Year, Lawton
Elementary School
Mauricio Pineda
Teacher, Frank Reilly Elementary School
Wynne A. Tye
Assistant Superintendent, Hillsborough County
Christopher Poulos Public Schools
Instructional Leader/Teacher, Joel Barlow
High School
Antwan Wilson
Former Superintendent, Oakland, Calif., and
Jonathan Raymond District of Columbia Public Schools
President, Stuart Foundation

Nilufar Rezai
Personalized Learning SEL Specialist, Chicago
Public Schools

ASPENINSTITUTE
THE ASPEN INSTITUTE2018
2018 33
and academic development are deliberately
and thoughtfully interconnected, students
benefit from learning experiences that enrich
WHY SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND their understanding of academic content and
ACADEMIC DEVELOPMENT IS IMPORTANT strengthen their critical thinking skills. Such
experiences enable students to be more effective
As educators, we envision a world in which
contributors in their classrooms today and in their
students graduate from high school not only
workplaces and communities tomorrow.
prepared for college and career, but accepting
their responsibility to take an active role in their Schools and districts across the country already
communities and contribute to civic life. We have set in motion strategies that pave the way
envision a world of principled, compassionate forward. These promising practices, highlighted
civility, where students learn through guided throughout this report, can serve as catalysts
practice in real-life situations how to engage in for education leaders and policymakers to fully
open dialogue and to treat one another with integrate social, emotional, and
dignity and mutual respect. We envision a world academic development.
in which school is where children learn how to
be the best possible versions of themselves and
to pursue the positive difference they can make
in the world. We see the integration of social,
emotional, and academic development as the WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT HOW WE LEARN
pathway to learning that achieves these ends.
In September 2017, the Council of Distinguished
Social and emotional development is the process Scientists of the Aspen Institute National
through which people acquire and apply the Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic
knowledge, attitudes, and skills to understand Development issued The Evidence Base for How
and manage emotions, set and achieve positive We Learn—a brief on the connections among
goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish social, emotional, and academic development.
and maintain positive relationships, and make Drawing from research in brain science, medicine,
responsible decisions. Weaving together social, economics, psychology, and education, these
emotional, and academic development creates 28 scientists concluded that learning, by its very
high-quality learning environments in schools nature, is both social and emotional.
and classrooms. In these environments, children
can confidently do their best work because In essence, cognitive abilities, emotional
they interact with a cooperative and welcoming competencies, and social and interpersonal
community of learners. When social, emotional, skills intertwine in the learning process. Since

We envision a world in which school is where children learn how


to be the best possible versions of themselves and to pursue the
positive difference they can make in the world.

4 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


strength or weakness in any one of these three mental health problems and provide internal
areas can foster or impede growth in the others, support for children who experience the
academic learning is best achieved when its social, stress of poverty, violence, and trauma in
emotional, and cognitive dimensions are all their families or neighborhoods. They have
well supported. the potential to help create a more equitable
society where all children can succeed.
The scientists also agreed that the research
provides clarity on several deeper issues.
The Council of Distinguished Scientists closed
its report by noting that, “Integrating social
• Social, emotional, and academic development
and emotional development with academic
matters. These interdependent competencies
instruction is foundational to the success of
are essential to success in school, workplace,
our young people, and therefore to the success
home, and community. Their integration
of our education system and society at large.”
also improves school climate and teacher
The Council’s work encourages us—as parents,
effectiveness, and children benefit regardless of
educators, and community members—to elevate
where they live, their racial/ethnic background,
the nation’s vision of high-quality programs and
or their socio-economic status.
practices and to hasten the integration of social,
emotional, and academic development for
• Social and emotional skills are malleable. As
all students.
with cognitive skills, we can teach and develop
them throughout childhood, adolescence, and
beyond. High-quality programs and practices
shape environments and experiences to
positively affect students’ social and emotional NATIONAL COMMISSION’S COUNCIL OF
learning as well as their academic outcomes. DISTINGUISHED EDUCATORS

• Schools play a central role in fostering healthy Responding to the urgent need to weave social,
social, emotional, and academic development, emotional, and academic development into
particularly when their work is reinforced by preK-12 education, the Aspen Institute National
safe and supportive family and community Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic
environments. Success depends upon Development convened a Council of Distinguished
consistent implementation, modeling by Educators. The Commission charged the Council
adults and peers, and professional with developing a consensus report that frames
development that deepens school staff’s what we know about effectively integrating social,
social and emotional skills. emotional, and academic development within
our schools.
• Supporting the integration of social, emotional,
and academic development is a wise public The Council is composed of teachers, school
investment, well worth the expenditure counselors, principals, system leaders,
of effort and resources. Higher social and superintendents, and community partners from a
emotional competencies are associated with diverse range of schools and educational
wage growth, job productivity, and long-term systems across the country. The members
employment. Such competencies can reduce bring wide experience in the emerging field
violence, drug use, delinquent behavior, and of integrating social, emotional, and academic

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development, including myriad models of teaching a social and emotional endeavor.
practice. Their views build upon and validate Research provides clear direction for instruction
the earlier brief, The Evidence Base for How We that best supports student engagement and
Learn, presented by the Council of Distinguished intellectual risk taking, and for the environments
Scientists. The Council of Distinguished that foster strong learning communities. The
Educators drew on its collective, firsthand way teachers and administrators interact with
experiences in schools and classrooms to students, facilitate relationships among students,
develop this companion document, The Practice and model positive relationship-building plays
Base for How We Learn, which corroborates the a critical role in students’ sense of belonging,
interconnectedness of the social, emotional, and emotional safety, ability to collaborate
cognitive domains as essential to all learning. It with peers, and identities as learners. These
also examines how the role of the teacher, as attributes enable students to engage with
well as the classroom and school environment, rigorous academic content.
encompass these same three dimensions—
parallel conditions that our profession needs to Educators typically develop frameworks for
recognize and capitalize on if we are to maximize academic learning by creating a scope and
the learning outcomes of all students. The sequence in each curricular area. However,
conclusions of the Council members underscore we have not paid the same close attention to
the critical role that preK-12 institutions can structuring the social and emotional environment
and must play in the full integration of social, of the classroom or to sequencing students’
emotional, and academic development. social and emotional development. The Council
of Distinguished Educators endorses the Council
of Distinguished Scientists’ assertion that it is
time to move the nation “beyond the debate as
to whether schools should attend to students’
LEARNING AND TEACHING ARE SOCIAL social and emotional development, to how we
AND EMOTIONAL can integrate social, emotional, and academic
development into the mission and daily work of
Learning necessitates taking risks. It means all schools.” The following principles articulate
challenging oneself to master new skills and pathways to accomplishing this goal.
explore new understandings. It means tolerating
ambiguity and being willing to make mistakes.
Effective academic development requires an
environment where students feel socially and The social and emotional
emotionally safe in taking the risks necessary to
learn and grow. The essential character of that
environments of the
environment is the degree to which students feel classroom and school
known, cared about, included and supported.
The social and emotional environments of the have a profound impact
classroom and school have a profound impact on
students’ ability and willingness to learn. on students’ ability and
Just as students’ academic learning is integrally
willingness to learn.
tied to social and emotional factors, so is academic

6 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


CONSENSUS STATEMENTS ON PRACTICE
academic instruction, educators create a culture
and climate that enhance the growth of each
student’s social and emotional competencies
SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND ACADEMIC in ways that also support equity and excellence
DEVELOPMENT IS FOR ALL STUDENTS in academic achievement. As educators, as
policymakers, as parents and community leaders,
The integration of social, emotional, and
we must consciously design, implement, and
academic development shifts the emphasis to
support environments where all students can
learning environments.
successfully develop the social, emotional,
and academic skills required for success in an
Integrating social, emotional, and academic
increasingly complex world. To do otherwise is to
development enables all students to work
risk accelerating and deepening inequality.
together well to achieve the goals of the
classroom, while appreciating and respecting
interpersonal differences. Social and emotional The integration of social, emotional, and
learning is sometimes regarded too narrowly academic development promotes equity.
as a targeted intervention just for students who
experienced trauma or who have behavior issues The mission of public education is to provide
or other special needs. Although the integration all individuals with access to the opportunity to
of social, emotional, and academic learning does be successful. However, preK-12 education in
benefit students who are confronting challenges, the United States is providing neither equitable
this integrated approach is for all students. This opportunities nor equitable outcomes for
reality shifts the emphasis from addressing all students, as evidenced by markedly and
particular students’ behavior or motivation to persistently lower rates of high school graduation
understanding the central role of the learning and college access and completion for low-income
environment. By not viewing students as the students, English language learners, students with
problem, this approach directs adults to explore learning differences, and students of color.
the broader environmental and social context in
which students learn. A key goal of integrating social, emotional,
and academic development is to foster
The goal is to create an inclusive environment a school climate and culture as well as
where each student feels affirmed and valued, learning opportunities that are inclusive of
receiving the supports and developing the and responsive to the diversity of interests,
competencies to be successful. Through aptitudes, perspectives, races, and cultures
approaches such as explicit skill instruction, represented in the classroom. Enabling students
classroom community-building activities, and the to feel respected for their cultural identities and
embedding of social and emotional learning into perspectives and to learn culturally relevant

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material is an essential element in creating safe, academic development, teachers get to know
affirming, and inclusive classrooms. For example, their students better, recognize the strengths
various cultures approach social situations that each student brings to the class, and create
differently. Drawing out and valuing this diversity an environment where all students’ cultures
acknowledges students’ cultures while promoting and backgrounds are leveraged as assets for
equity and expanding choices and opportunities learning. Teachers can further personalize the
for all students. Open conversations about learning environment by providing customized
culture and cultural experiences teach students instructional strategies and evidence-based
to appreciate the perspective of others and the supports and by promoting positive relationships
richness that diversity brings to learning. with multiple adults in the school. We need to
ensure that all schools, especially those in high-
In addition, far too many students come to poverty areas, have sufficient person power,
school from circumstances of poverty, violence, resources, and the necessary partners to provide
and/or childhood trauma. These adverse students with the educational opportunities
experiences generally put them at a disadvantage they deserve. Combined, these strategies can
compared with students from more privileged serve as a buffer against the effects of chronic
environments. We know that the chronic stress stress, enabling students’ social and emotional
associated with growing up in poverty, especially competencies to blossom and heightening their
intergenerational, concentrated poverty, can have engagement in academics.
long-lasting consequences for learning, behavior,
and well-being.

Integrated learning ensures that the underlying


skills that give some students a social, emotional,
SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND ACADEMIC
or academic advantage in learning are explicitly
LEARNING FOR STUDENTS STARTS WITH
and intentionally developed in all students,
ADULTS
enabling them to express themselves and perform
at their highest levels. By addressing the social Professional and collegial support for integrating
and emotional dimensions of learning along with the three dimensions of learning enhances
educators’ effectiveness in the classroom.

Teachers who integrate social, emotional, and


Open conversations about academic development are more effective at
culture and cultural engaging students in learning, managing their
classrooms, and resolving conflicts. They create
experiences teach students safe and supportive settings where students can
take the necessary risks for academic growth
to appreciate the perspective and personal development. Adept at managing
of others and the richness relationships within the classroom and supporting
challenged students equitably, these teachers
that diversity brings foster highly effective learning environments.

to learning. To fully integrate social and emotional dimensions


of learning with academic instruction, teachers

8 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


and other adults need support. Colleges seldom the relational trust they build with colleagues,
incorporate this integrated method of teaching students, and families. Just as students need to
into programs for prospective teachers or into reflect on their evolving social and emotional
advanced degree programs. However, high- skills in order to improve them, teachers need the
quality professional development can provide opportunity to not only learn how to teach these
practicing teachers with the knowledge, skills, skills, but to understand how they can advance
and strategies to integrate social, emotional, and their own social and emotional development.
academic learning. Through guided practice, teachers can learn to
recognize the messages they are sending and to
The best professional support takes place not model positive social and emotional approaches.
in one-time workshops, but through ongoing
dialogue and interaction with colleagues and Managing emotions, setting and achieving
coaches/consultants over an extended period. goals, expressing empathy, maintaining positive
Teachers learn by engaging peers in rich relationships, and making responsible decisions
conversations about lesson design, about the are as relevant for how staff work together as
ethical handling of challenging situations, and they are for fostering the social and emotional
about applying an integrated approach to best development of students. As teachers refine
practices. When schools routinely enable such their own competencies, the resulting collegiality
conversations, they foster continuous growth and enhances professional morale, which in turn
professional expertise that result in more effective improves student performance. It also correlates
classroom instruction. with greater retention of early-career teachers,
prevention of mid-career burnout, and increased
Adults model social and emotional skills in their public respect for the role of educators.
interactions with students and other adults.
Social, emotional, and academic development
Students learn by what they hear and observe as flourishes when everyone in the school
adults relate to students and other adults. They is involved.
notice whether adults’ actions are congruent with
their words and whether adults demonstrate the Essential to creating and sustaining a positive
same social and emotional competencies they school culture is the degree to which students
expect of students. Whether they are aware of it feel known, cared about, appreciated and
or not, adults are always on display and students included, and have a meaningful voice in the
are absorbing subtle lessons about how to community of the classroom and the school.
communicate with and treat other people. Social, emotional, and academic development
By heightening adults’ mindfulness of the impact is best achieved when all adults—teachers,
their words and actions are having, schools administrators, support personnel, and
can intentionally take advantage of daily community partners—share a commitment, use a
interactions to further develop students’ social common language and approach, and model the
and emotional competencies. mindsets and behaviors they seek to develop in
students. When social, emotional, and academic
Ideally, on-the-job training offers occasions for development becomes the collective effort of
teachers to reflect on the language they use with faculty and administration within a school, the
students, the way teachers themselves manage culture and climate improves teaching and
their emotions in challenging situations, and learning across the entire school.

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A consistent approach across all classrooms is for teachers and specialists, it is still valuable
and administrative offices creates a reliable in ensuring the success of social, emotional,
environment with well-defined social norms, and academic development. The expectation
understandable terminology, and clear that support staff will contribute to a positive
expectations. This consistency provides the kind climate and culture, and the importance of
of structure and culture that supports children as their contributions, can be clearly expressed by
they work to develop their own social, emotional, professional staff and formalized in personnel and
and academic competencies. contracting processes.

Creating consistency in culture extends beyond


teachers and administrators. Students learn every
day from every interaction with adults. The driver’s
greeting as students board the bus; the cafeteria STRONG LEADERSHIP IS CENTRAL
worker’s attention to individual children’s food
preferences; the office administrator’s respect for A clear vision, mission, and strategic plan provide
students’ queries; the way custodians maintain the foundation for integrating social, emotional,
the building and value students; the attitude of and academic development throughout preK-12
community partners toward students inside and education.
outside the school setting—all of these elements
contribute to the climate and culture of a school Most schools and districts develop statements
and help to determine whether it is inclusive, of their vision, mission, core values, and beliefs.
welcoming, fair, and supportive. The language These statements reflect the organization’s
that staff use, their receptivity to students, their culture. They are intended to establish meaningful
responsiveness when there is a problem—these goals for student outcomes and to inspire the staff
factors make a genuine difference in how children and community to align resources and strategies
feel about their school and their place in it. to achieve those outcomes.

School climate and teaching and learning are These stated commitments provide an
enhanced when all staff understand the direction opportunity for the district or school to publicly
the school is taking and receive the necessary articulate its commitment to integrating social,
training to create consistency and coherence. emotional, and academic development. If well
Although professional development in this area crafted, the statements can focus attention on
may not be as intensive for support staff as it reshaping the school environment. In addition,

A consistent approach across all classrooms and administrative


offices creates a reliable environment with well-defined social
norms, understandable terminology, and clear expectations.

10 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


because they serve as a framework for decisions
from the administrative level to the classroom,
they constitute an important vehicle for moving States play a significant
the integration of social, emotional, and academic
development forward. policy role and can support
Strengthening the collective investment in the districts that are pursuing
district’s vision and values involves collaboration
by school board members, administrators,
the integration of social,
teachers, parents, partner organizations, and emotional, and academic
community members. To formally set expectations
for staff and partners at all levels, these development. A number
statements can be followed by specific activities
and targets within a strategic plan as well as of states have embedded
through the standards and indicators embedded
in processes such as hiring, induction, evaluation,
this integrated approach in
and selection of partner organizations. Each of their vision and mission.
these processes presents another opportunity to
affirm the district’s support for social, emotional,
and academic learning.

States also play a significant policy role and can


support districts that are pursuing the integration achievement. The challenge for educational
of social, emotional, and academic development. A leaders is to create conditions where both explicit
number of states have embedded this integrated and embedded approaches are complementary to
approach in their vision and mission, modeling and coordinated with other curricular initiatives.
support through their own culture and policy One effective strategy is to establish positions
statements as well as through state standards for focused on this responsibility.
social and emotional learning. In addition, some
states have supported the integration of social, Internal leadership, coordination, and expertise
emotional, and academic development through strengthen these integration efforts and improve
funding initiatives, standards for district and implementation, although roles and titles will
school improvement plans, and acknowledgments vary with the size of the school system. A
for achievement. leadership position such as director of social
and emotional learning or program coordinator
Leadership positions dedicated to the integration for integration of social, emotional, and academic
of social, emotional, and academic development development sends a signal from the district
strengthen and speed its implementation. leadership to staff that this field is valued and
merits concerted effort. Such a position can help
Authentic integration requires new ways of ensure that the social and emotional dimensions
working. Many systems have pursued social and of learning are incorporated into professional
emotional learning through discrete, add-on development, school culture and climate, review
programs that are disconnected from broader of instructional materials and programs, and other
efforts to improve instruction and academic instructional initiatives.

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Identifying and elevating internal expertise There is also interest in directly measuring
also enhances a school’s or system’s ability to students’ growth in competencies related to social
implement and sustain an integrated approach and emotional development. Valuable research is
to social, emotional, and academic development. under way on more useful measures of learning
These internal “experts” may be instructional environments and direct measures of students’
coaches who work directly with teachers to growth and development, such as observation
model integration and social and emotional protocols, simulations, and engagement in
learning strategies in the classroom. They may tasks with diverse groups. Again, however,
also be lead teachers who open their classrooms assessment tools are lagging. Given the risk that
so other teachers can visit and observe, or who such measures could be used inappropriately
support colleagues in adapting practices for to label individual students, it is prudent at this
their own classrooms. Investing in in-house time to focus on data for large-scale, continuous
expertise demonstrates the value placed on improvement purposes. Educators, researchers,
this effort and the willingness to support teachers and policymakers would benefit by working
and administrators as they seek to improve together to enrich the knowledge and evidence
their practice. base for the field and to support continuous
improvement, while avoiding the pursuit of
Monitoring progress promotes continuous accountability before the measures—and the
improvement in the integration of social, field—are ready.
emotional, and academic development.

In recent years, assessment practices have


mushroomed relative to social and emotional
development. Commercial and open-source EXPLICIT AND EMBEDDED INSTRUCTION
survey instruments can provide data on school AND A CARING CLASSROOM AND SCHOOL
culture and climate, as well as on the degree of CLIMATE DEVELOPS SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL,
connection, support, and safety that students AND ACADEMIC COMPETENCIES
experience—factors that are critical to deep
engagement with rigorous academics. Such Explicit instruction in social and emotional
instruments enable educators to identify strong competencies provides students with a
and weak points in implementation, monitor foundation for further development.
short-term progress, and detect longitudinal
trends in attaining social, emotional, and academic Cooperating with others, resolving conflicts
development goals. productively, managing emotions, and navigating
social situations are social and emotional
Still, caution is warranted in interpreting the competencies learned over time. Explicit
assessment results. While learning-condition instruction provides students with understanding
surveys are valuable in guiding next steps, and ways of interacting that enable them to
they are not valid for accountability purposes. develop and expand skills in these areas. As with
Policymakers and system leaders should resist traditional subject areas, social and emotional
basing sanctions or incentives on the results, abilities can be taught with a scope and sequence
instead taking time to learn from school systems and with dedicated time and space in the
that are using the data effectively to move curriculum. However, explicit instruction does
practice forward. not mean teacher-led lectures. Instead, it involves

12 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


creative and engaging learning experiences engagement in learning is essential if we want
such as role-playing, story writing, interactive students to understand material more deeply
discussions, and problem-solving real situations in and retain it longer.
the classroom or school environment.
To more effectively engage students in learning,
Instruction in social and emotional skills is best regular classroom instruction in every curricular
designed around a competency framework area includes opportunities for students to
that provides clarity and structure to lesson share ideas, discuss differing perspectives, work
and program development. Schools and cooperatively, and engage in group projects. For
evidence-based programs are using a number these strategies to be successful, students need
of overlapping competency frameworks to to be able to listen to and respect the views of
structure their approach to social and emotional others, work together to achieve group goals,
instruction. One such framework highlights the and seek support as well as offer it to others. The
five core competencies of self-awareness, social goal is not simply to agree but also to learn how
awareness, self-management, relationship skills to disagree civilly and productively while moving
and responsible decision-making. Another focuses forward on common objectives.
on cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility,
empathy, and self-control. A third emphasizes Students who learn to resolve their differences
cognitive skills such as attention control, with words are unlikely to become adults who try
inhibition, and planning; emotional competencies to solve interpersonal problems with violence or
such as coping with frustration, recognizing and discrimination. Student engagement strategies
managing emotions, and taking the perspective of thus become fertile ground both for learning
another; and social and interpersonal skills such academic content and for acquiring and refining
as reading social cues, resolving interpersonal
conflicts, and cooperating with others. Regardless
of the specific competencies selected, the key to
fostering social and emotional development is a How we teach is as
continuing loop in which we first help students
instructive as what we
understand why the skills are important and
how they can be used effectively, then create teach. Just as the culture
opportunities for students to practice those skills,
and finally provide feedback and time of the classroom must
for reflection.
reflect social belonging
Academic instruction is most effective when and emotional safety, so
teachers deliberately embed the social and
emotional dimensions of learning. can academic instruction
Learning is not a passive activity. How we teach is embody and enhance
as instructive as what we teach. Just as the culture
these competencies and
of the classroom must reflect social belonging
and emotional safety, so can academic instruction be enhanced by them.
embody and enhance these competencies and
be enhanced by them. In fact, student

THE ASPEN INSTITUTE 2018 13


social and interpersonal skills. Providing students Creating inclusive and caring classroom and
with opportunities to reflect on and improve their school culture deepens and enriches students’
social and emotional skills as they engage in social and emotional competencies.
these activities can help them become more
successful learners. Classroom and school environments can
enhance or diminish students’ social and
Every academic subject area provides emotional competencies. To effect positive
opportunities for students to think through change, the culture of the school and classroom
social and emotional issues. Literature and social needs to embody the social and emotional
studies offer occasions to discuss how fictional or skills we want students to develop. When students
historical characters handled social or practice these skills often and consistently, the
emotional situations and what might have classroom and school become inclusive and caring
happened if they had dealt with these situations communities in which students experience being
differently. The study of science requires known, valued, and influential contributors to the
investigations, observations, the formulation and work of the classroom and to other students. This
testing of hypotheses, coping with ambiguity, process is reinforced through the daily modeling
and making judgments based on evidence. of these competencies by both adults and
The learning of mathematics occurs best when students within the community.
students collaborate to solve problems and
understand concepts. The creation of caring communities entails
giving students opportunities to get to know
The study of the arts invites students to ponder one another, to help fashion classroom rules, to
the artist’s intention and frame of reference. articulate common goals, to bridge differences,
Classes in physical education and health offer and to resolve the conflicts that naturally arise in
direct instruction in social and emotional every classroom, such as sharing in playground
competencies and provide context for learning games or addressing hurtful statements made
to serve on a team, handle emotions, and about a classmate. It also extends to classroom
display positive sportsmanship. Service-learning management strategies. Specific strategies for
opportunities exist in all curricular areas, enabling addressing conflicts and disciplinary issues—such
students to demonstrate the social and emotional as restorative practices, developmental discipline,
skills of empathy, compassion, and responsibility. and logical consequences—reflect the principles
of social, emotional, and academic development.
Through the planning of daily instructional Through classroom-based community-building
processes, the very content students are studying strategies, students connect to others and have
can offer seamless ways of fostering social, a constructive voice in making their classroom
emotional, and academic development. School community and school better places for everyone.
leaders can bolster this work by organizing
educators to review curriculum materials for Building a sense of community within a classroom
the explicit integration of social and emotional or school necessarily involves recognizing and
dimensions of learning; to adapt scope and affirming the diverse cultures and backgrounds
sequence documents, unit guides, lesson plans, that are present. Through open conversations
and student tasks in order to make integration about culture and cultural experiences, the
more visible; and to provide easily accessible inclusive classroom engenders respect for diverse
resources to support integrated learning. cultural identities and helps children learn how

14 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


to make their peers feel safe and acknowledged. in the area of managing conflict, help bridge
As community members, students have an gaps between school and home by advocating
opportunity to recognize how their actions affect consistent use of language and discipline. These
others and to develop a sense of responsibility programs can take place in partnership with other
toward them. organizations and in community venues that
attract parents and families who may not have
These three strategies—explicit instruction, had positive school experiences.
embedding social and emotional competencies
within academic instruction, and community However, partnership with families goes beyond
building—are mutually supportive. Applied parent education programs. School-sponsored
together, they bring a positive and productive events can draw families in and build a sense of
consistency to the culture and climate of the inclusive community. Parent meetings can model
classroom and school. They also reflect a the same community-building strategies that
commitment to equity in education by teachers use in classrooms and administrators
supporting the growth and development of all use in faculty meetings to generate a sense of
students. Investing classroom time in all of collegiality and community. Engaging families—
these strategies yields significant dividends in the for example, by ensuring they have a voice
form of more efficient, effective, and equitable through committees or other parent leadership
learning environments. opportunities designed to enhance school climate
and culture—is mutually supportive to the school
and to parents. Involving families in the early
planning for integrating social, emotional, and
academic development not only educates them
about the concepts but gives them ownership
HOME-SCHOOL-COMMUNITY
in their child’s progress. Above all, school must
PARTNERSHIPS MATTER
be—and must be seen as—a welcoming and safe
Parents, families, and caregivers are partners harbor for families.
in extending social, emotional, and academic
development. Community service and service learning enable
young people to exhibit and strengthen their
Parents, families, and caregivers play a critical social, emotional, and academic competencies.
and foundational role in students’ social and
emotional development. Just as young people Demonstrating social and emotional competencies
feel valued, heard and included at school when in real situations extends and deepens these
social, emotional, and academic development abilities. Volunteering in community organizations,
is integrated, so do they benefit when family participating in local food and clothing drives or
members engage in similar experiences at home disaster relief efforts, and mentoring younger
or in concert with the school and community. peers are powerful ways for students to apply the
Family involvement can take many forms, from social, emotional, and academic competencies
working with the school on policy statements they have been developing. Even more effective
to attending family education programs to are service-learning activities that integrate service
participating in home-based social-emotional into academic instruction, such as participating
learning activities. Family education programs that in environmental cleanup efforts while studying
explore social and emotional learning, particularly ecosystems or volunteering at a local service

THE ASPEN INSTITUTE 2018 15


organization as part of a civics course. Service resilience and success. When educational, social,
and service-learning experiences provide unique religious, and civic organizations apply common
opportunities for students to express empathy language and consistent strategies, young people’s
and compassion while displaying their ability to social, emotional, and academic development is
make responsible decisions. Helping others as reinforced and the sustainability of these efforts is
part of a school-sponsored undertaking often has enhanced.
a profound impact on a young person’s confidence
and willingness to reach out and assist people in
need, even many years later.

Community partnerships provide support for CONCLUSION


social, emotional, and academic development
during the school day and beyond the Learning, by its very nature, is both social and
schoolhouse doors. emotional. Creating the right conditions for learning
brings dramatic benefits for students, staff, and
Students’ in-school and out-of-school lives are parents. A caring school community intentionally
touched by many organizations, including after- generates opportunities for students to develop
school programs, local youth services, social the competencies they require to be successful in
service organizations, faith-based communities, school, work and life; it also offers all of us a vision
and municipal agencies such as the courts and and model of the way the world could be.
police and fire departments. Because a number
of these organizations focus on positive youth The vision articulated by the National Commission
development and provide services to schools on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development
and students, they serve as valuable allies in the is achievable. As educators who represent varied
work of supporting social and emotional growth roles, geographical locations, and community
and development. They often know students demographics, we know from experience that the
from perspectives that schools don’t and thus practices outlined in this report are effective. Like
can shed new light on students’ strengths and the Council of Distinguished Scientists, we believe
struggles. Where students experience the stress that integrating social, emotional, and academic
of poverty and trauma, community partners development is foundational to the success of
can strengthen schools’ capacity to provide our young people and will enhance the success of
responsive learning environments. By welcoming our schools and our society as a whole. The time
organizations’ representatives to professional has come to accelerate the work of bringing the
development opportunities and community integration of social, emotional, and academic
partnership meetings, schools extend the impact development to every district, every school,
that community adults have on young people’s every classroom, and every student. This work
development of positive social and emotional deserves a place at the forefront of our nation’s
competencies. education agenda.

The relationships built across organizational


boundaries and the care exhibited by adults
throughout the community serve to strengthen
the support system for all young people, weaving
a seamless safety net that promotes their

16 THE PRACTICE BASE FOR HOW WE LEARN


For more information, visit: www.aspenSEAD.org