Integrating Social Emotional Learning and Academics

इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए, यहाँ क्लिक करें।

हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे क्लिक करा.

With the passage of time and the buzz around Mental Health, educators, mental health professionals and policy makers are becoming aware of the need to teach Social-Emotional skills in schools. For instance, the National Education Policy 2020 states that the goal of the education system should be to “develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy”. Research has conclusively established that Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lays the foundation for a safe and positive learning experience, and that it enhances students’ ability to succeed in school, careers, and more broadly, life. In the context of academic learning, a 2014 meta-analysis showed that SEL increases students’ achievement scores by an average of 11 percentile points. In the context of children’s holistic development, SEL in the early years leads to children being less prone to aggressive or violent behaviors, since SEL teaches them to deal with triggers and manage emotions in adverse conditions. The link between SEL and academic learning is also acknowledged by the National Education Policy 2020 which goes on to state that not implementing SEL in the curriculum will lead to gaps in learning outcomes for children. 

Considering the above, it is crucial for us, as educators, to be able to teach SEL in our classrooms and to integrate SEL into the existing/ ongoing curriculum we teach. In this article, we have tried to share some best practices to make SEL possible and accessible for our students and some steps which could help make the integration process easier and more relevant for educators across the globe. 

  1. Remember that SEL is a long-term process. It’s not a quick-fix. Do not rush, take it slow. When you are planning a lesson, establish a purpose for the same, keeping in mind the academic and SEL connection. Ask yourself questions such as – what is the objective of the lesson and what do I want my students/ participants to learn.
  1. Try to think of skills such as teamwork and self-confidence when you ask your students to share their learnings. Think of all the possibilities such as pair-sharing, working in groups, sharing in small groups, and serial testimony, so that everyone is heard in the classroom.
  1. Include check-in activities. A check-in at the beginning and at the end of your session can help create a space for students to express their emotions and their authentic self. It can simply be “how are you feeling today/ in this moment?”
  1. Set targets for your class and keep conversational spaces open. Use phrases like “where can we support you?” and “we can work on this together”. This takes away the blame and shame from a child and develops a sense of oneness and cooperation.
  1. Use specific instructional strategies and classroom management techniques, including those that foster a supportive and caring classroom environment.
  1. Ask the students what competencies are needed to achieve their academic goals and reasoning out with them why they think so. Further, link their responses to SEL: for example, if a child responds that they would need to focus when a difficult math problem needs to be solved, remind them that they would need confidence, problem solving and critical thinking- all of which get enhanced with the practice of SEL.
  1. Use class discussions to explore ideas or new concepts. This would encourage students to think and be more creative. Further effective classroom discussion also provides important opportunities for students to practice social and emotional skills, including grappling with multiple perspectives, communicating effectively, and disagreeing respectfully.
  1. Set agreeable norms in class to make space for more respectful conversations. Involve your students: ask if they agree with the norms, negotiate with them and remind them that the norms are meant to create a favorable learning environment by guiding students and teachers in relation to their participation in class.              
  1. Promote the idea that “the problem is the problem; people are not the problem”. Develop the practice in the class to challenge the idea and not the person sharing it.
  1. Create spaces for reflection in your session. When a child reflects, they can assess themselves better. It also develops their self and social awareness. Thus, taking a pause and reflecting is important.

The following examples highlight integration of SEL in academic content: 

  1. Self-Management and English Language 

This example is from a grade 5 English textbook (the image has been attached below for reference) In the following activity the students have to read the following questions and place a tick mark in the options given. The questions are mainly focusing on the ways in which an individual can manage their emotions.  The following activity encourages the students to introspect and list down ways of self-managing them. 

(Image 1: Maharashtra State Board, Grade 6)

  1. Relationship Skills, Responsible decision-making skills, and Hindi Text

This activity allows the students to interact with one another in teams. Through this exercise, students get a chance to share their ideas and engage in the process of decision making. 

(Image 2: Maharashtra State Board, Grade 7)

The following examples highlight the ways in which we can integrate SEL and academics. We believe, there is a possibility for SEL everywhere. We only have to search for those spaces.

  1. Math and Social Awareness. 

In these Math books, we can see some integration possibilities. You will notice how gender, religion, and attempts to break stereotypes visible. There’s still some scope of improvement, for example, in many places you will notice girls are more shown to play with marbles and flowers and boys with balls. Word problems are a great place to build a sense of self-representation and social awareness for students. Likewise, statistics could also be a good place.

2. Self-Awareness and Social Awareness, Kindergarten (Khoj Community school) 

This is an example from our own school when a few students started making fun of a volunteer who was darker in skin color:

The teachers, Priyanka Shrivastav and Sangeeta Zombade decided to do Gatila, a book about a cow who is black and wants to change her color. Then they led an inquiry-based session on how students related to skin color, how their beliefs formed, and helped them see their prejudices. Students, towards the end, started recognizing and helping each other see it differently. This article was published in Teachers plus and the entire piece is available for you to read there.

3. Self-Awareness and Social Awareness, 10th Grade Science 

Likewise, in the science textbook, you will see that while girls have come on the book cover, most of the human body-frames are male. Only when there’s a concept or an image specific to the female body (for e.g., reproductive system) is when a female body-frame is used. This makes female students feel unrepresented and alienated, and that they have to fight for representation. These unconscious and subtle messages go a long way and take a lot of time to go away from students’ minds.  

(Image 4 and 5- Science textbook, grade 10)

While incorporating SEL into the classroom requires purposeful planning, developing the social emotions skills of students is well worth the investment. We believe the resources highlighted in this blog can increase the efficiency and simplicity of the process, so do take advantage of them!



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