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Emotions Matter for All Learners

             In the October Inspire and SEL Harmony webinar, there was a discussion of what it meant for all students to be included in social-emotional learning (SEL) conversations. Dr. Christina Cipriano, an assistant professor at Yale Child Study Center and Director of Research at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, shared her decade of research into this concept.

              In describing the current state of SEL in the US, Dr. Cipriano characterized the growth of SEL in terms of where it is practiced. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every state started implementing SEL concepts into multiple school curriculums, whereas only 39 states had done so in 2019. Research found that educators with SEL incorporated into the classroom noted the higher quality of student performance as well as more satisfaction when asked how they viewed their teaching experience. Another discussion point was how different SEL techniques were used in the elementary years to better prepare students for expected behaviors in their middle and high school years. Pieces were missing in the conversation around SEL, and that was the focus of Dr. Cipriano and her colleagues.

              The team of researchers developed a meta-analysis looking at over a decade of studies concerning SEL. They found that pieces were missing, such as no mention in a majority of studies about how SEL may have impacted students of different underserved populations with higher needs. Students from various racial and ethnic backgrounds may not feel included in the classroom and may experience higher feelings of isolation, disengagement, and academic/emotional performance issues. Students with disabilities often experience stigmatization from educators and students by their later years in elementary. Out of 244 studies examined, nearly 75% did not consider that race/ethnicity or disability status when evaluating the efficacy of the SEL models or checking whether these students specifically benefitted from SEL curriculums. Dr. Cipriano mentioned that this lack of active inclusion by researchers could make it more difficult to generalize how well these models support students who often need this support even more. That led her team to consider some of the barriers in many SEL curriculums and how to develop actionable solutions.

              These barriers included physical, sensory, and cognitive accessibility; emotional accessibility; language, text, discourse; and executive functioning. For physical, sensory, and cognitive accessibility, Dr. Cipriano encouraged educators and curriculum developers to develop multiple modalities that can be used. A standard tool used is the mood meter, wherein educators can ask younger students to check in on how excited and pleasant they are. This tool is typically color-coded, but she mentioned how someone could work with students to develop this into a tactile tool as well. Emotional accessibility can vary widely among students. She said how important it is to check in with students and encourage them to check in on themselves throughout the day to better understand their positive or negative emotional responses. Most SEL curriculums depend on a text format. It can be helpful to recognize the different ways this can be altered to other designs, such as an audio option and how to incorporate student backgrounds into the SEL curriculum better as cultural norms may influence perceptions of emotions. Lastly, Dr. Cipriano discussed how executive functioning could differ widely based on various factors such as student interest. It can be beneficial to adapt the curriculums so that relevant SEL goals for the students are included alongside their academic goals. These were some resources mentioned by Dr. Cipriano, but she also highlighted how they are working to create even more free materials for educators.

              This webinar highlighted just how important it is to have multiple voices at the table. It also highlighted how adapting the curriculum as a proactive measure rather than an add-on can improve student community belonging.

              To watch this webinar, you can go to this link: Link. If you want to see the previously recorded webinars from Inspire and SEL Harmony, you can go to this link: Link. If you would like to check out the free course/additional resources offered by Dr. Cipriano and colleagues, you can go to this link: Link.
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