A toolkit to kickstart Social-emotional Learning

हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे 
क्लिक करा.

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

In our last article in this series(Article 1 and 2 ) we attempt to consolidate our learning from the enriching interactions with organizations that are making Social-emotional learning (SEL) accessible to students across the country. To help make sense of this in a simple yet practically applicable way, we present to you a list of FAQs about SEL as you begin your journey with it. 

To begin with, it will be critical to acknowledge what the intention of SEL is for us to help design and facilitate it while centering this articulated intention. While we may be clear on what SEL is, we may have different reasons to want to introduce and design SEL experiences where we work. The way we set this intention will have repercussions on all the other decisions on our design, implementation, and assessment of the programs. “ SEL is intended as a framework for learning that teaches students to understand and respond to their own emotions and those of the people around them…But when SEL is pitched to schools as a trendy way to regulate student behavior, we’re missing the point—and the opportunity to equip children with leadership-building tools to use their voices and exercise their agency.” (Source: When Social-Emotional Learning Is Misused). As you read through the different practical, technical, and theoretical nuances of implementing SEL we urge that we continue to remind ourselves of the danger of regulating rather than empowering in our effort to bring SEL to our respective settings. 

  1. How does SEL look the same yet different in different places?

In  a conversation with one of our 4th-grade students about individual differences, we asked our students, “What makes us similar and what makes us different?” One of the students replied, “Bhaiya(brother) we all have a heart, yet our feelings are different.”

When we think of the core belief of all the organizations we have spoken to, it is that  SEL is very important for students’ holistic development.  To add to this, while the frameworks that each organization builds their design on may be named differently. However, all the work appeared to point to the direction of three key areas: 

  • Self: Focusing on making meaning of one’s own identity, emotions, beliefs, values, interests, strengths, goals, and managing these in our own contexts
  • ‘My’ world: Focusing on the relationships with those part of my life, nurturing them, appreciation, navigating challenges in them 
  • ‘The’ world: Focusing on my place in society, unpacking systems and their impact on me and vice versa 

While these themes may offer commonality for us to see, where they may appear different, is the shape, form, and method the programmes take. The strengths, needs, and resources of respective communities have determined how each programme design has been contextualized. . While in some places the modality may focus on mindfulness, others may rely more on discussions and conversations, art or movement, and in some cases, it may be a combination of all or some of these. One way to approach this may be to select themes or issues and weave SEL competencies into the theme. While another way may be to identify the SEL competency and weave in the themes. For eg: A session may focus on the issue of bullying and in doing so the objective may be to build relationship skills of empathy, communication, etc, where a session may also focus on activities that allow space to build empathy and communication skills while weaving the topic of bullying and experiences related to it. 

  1. How much time should be dedicated to SEL in my school/org?

Exploring the structure and format of the different programmes/initiatives offered us some insights into this question. While in some cases the attempt is to integrate SEL into the curriculum, in others a separate SEL instruction time or circle time may respond to the SEl needs at the school. The time dedicated to this ranges from 20 minutes a week to about 3 hours a week depending on the format of the program.  It is also critical to acknowledge that we are working within systems where we are still destigmatizing conversations on wellbeing and hence it may not always be possible to have the ideal scenario. Each organization finds its unique way to ensure that access to SEL time is made possible each week while taking into account some systemic challenges in each of our contexts. 

  1. What skills, knowledge, experiences should a facilitator of SEL have?

All of our collaborators have worked differently with their SEL  facilitators. Some areas of training that may be applicable across the board for SEL facilitators include: 

  • Design Skills
  • Facilitation skills 
  • Differentiating instruction 
  • Introduction to SEL

However, some areas of training remain focused on a particular modality, principles, or approaches that an organization may choose to focus on. These may include:

  • Fine and Performing art

 This is not an exhaustive list of the possible areas of training since many different modalities lend themselves to SEL facilitation. Some of the commonalities in the approach to facilitation also involved an element of exploring SEL for oneself while also facilitating it for others. The training on many of these areas, therefore, involves facilitators themselves engaging with their own SEL which plays a critical role in creating safe spaces and learning experiences for the communities they work with.    

  1. How does one know if SEL is making a difference? 

While the global movement in SEL still acknowledges the difficulty with the assessment of SEL impact, there are many different ways that organisations have used to evaluate the impact of their work. Here is a list of some that you can consider starting off with: 

  1. Can SEL be modified in the changing times? How?

The short answer to this is Yes! SEL can be modified to adapt to changing times. All of the collaborators in our previous two articles exemplified the quote “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. They shared the practices that allowed them to tweak their programme designs, innovate new ways to ensure access to SEL. Let’s look at how they did it.  

  • Minimizing SEL session timings to ensure limited screen time 
  • Use of phone calls to connect and build relationships with students as a stepping stone to further initiatives 
  • One to one sessions or small group SEL sessions with students
  • Adapting in-person session designs to new channels like Radio/IVR messages/Video recordings/Whatsapp for greater access 
  • Focused support groups for students (based on SEL or wellbeing needs identified through initial one to one conversations)
  • Designing new lesson plans that are contextualized to the wellbeing needs of students 
  1. What does a change in systems look like towards creating more spaces of care, compassion, and psycho-social support for young people?

At Apni Shala, our approach to SEL has been on the one hand to create safe spaces and opportunities for the development of SEL competencies in students but also on making systems more compassionate, inclusive, and caring. What this means is that while we may work with students to build resilience, nurture relationships and make responsible decisions, their contexts must allow for these skills to be nurtured. This would include work with the teachers, caregivers, and any others that are part of the system that students access for their education. Through our conversations with the organizations, we spoke to it was clear that at some level each has found a way to work with systems they are part of. Here are a few different initiatives that you might want to consider: 

  • Check-in calls with parents and caregivers of students  
  • Creating spaces for teachers to explore and address their own SEL and wellbeing 
  • Caregiver engagement through Whatsapp Groups 

We hope that these act as a toolkit for you in your journey with SEL. Our deepest gratitude to all our contributors in making it possible to document the wonderful work in the space of SEL that is happening in our country. Please share your thoughts in the comments or questions for all our contributors in the section below. 

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