Developing OUR OWN Social and Emotional Competence: SEL Isn’t Just For Our Students (SSWN Forum)
As a school psychologist and a 2nd year student in the School Mental Health Advanced Practice Program at Loyola, I am in the midst of a school change project in my small rural school district. The project I’m steeped in is to build teacher capacity to implement a tier I social and emotional curriculum in our 4 year old kindergarten through 6th grade classrooms. Professional development and on-going training is a big part of the success of this project. As we train our staff to teach the SEL curriculum to our students, we can’t neglect to acknowledge that to teach SEL to students, we as adults must be competent in our own social and emotional awareness and abilities. If we engage our staff in ongoing adult social and emotional learning, we will hopefully foster a supportive environment not only for students, but for staff as well. For this SSWN Forum, I start with summarizing a widely-cited article on teacher social and emotional competence (SEC) and then offer some further resources for us to look at and discuss over at our SSWNetwork site this week before our LiveChat Saturday morning.
Jennings, P.A., & Greenberg, M.T. (2009). The Prosocial Classroom: Teacher Social and Emotional Competence in Relation to Student and Classroom Outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 79 (1), 491-525.
What was this article about?
The authors of this article offer three areas of focus in regards to teacher social and emotional competence as it relates to student and classroom outcomes. First, they propose a model of the prosocial classroom that focuses on the importance of teachers’ social and emotional competence (SEC) and how that impacts outcomes such as supportive teacher-student relationships, effective classroom management and successful social and emotional (SEL) program implementation. Next this article reviews research suggesting a relationship between SEC and teacher burnout and reviews interventions that focus on mindfulness and stress reduction to support teachers SEC. Finally the authors discuss an agenda for future research on the topic to promote teacher SEC and improved student outcomes.
The authors illustrate the prosocial classroom model with teachers’ SEC and well being influencing the classroom atmosphere and student outcomes. Teachers with higher levels of SEC engage in supportive relationships with students as well as recognize student emotions and behavior. It is also proposed that teachers higher in SEC are likely to be more skillful and proactive in using their emotional expressions and verbal support to guide, support and manage student behaviors. Another factor the authors discuss that I find to be most relevant to my own interest in student SEL, is the idea that teachers with higher SEC will implement social and emotional curriculum more effectively. This is because they are exceptional models of social and emotional behavior that students can aim to follow. Finally within this model, the authors recognize that there are contextual factors that may influence teachers’ SEC such as school leadership, school climate, community culture and others that are either inside or outside of the school building.
How did the authors define SEC?
The authors used the definition developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that involves five competencies: self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision making, self-management and relationship management. Within these five competencies the authors suggest that teachers who understand and practice these competencies are more likely to be culturally sensitive, exhibit prosocial values and understand different perspectives. They are more successful at negotiating conflict, can effectively set limits, and are comfortable with letting students figure things out for themselves. Even though there has been a connection noted to SEC and well-being, the authors share that there has been little attention given to supporting teachers’ SEC at the time this article was written in 2009. Currently, in my own efforts to find current research on this topic, I found very little. There appears to be a continued lack of preservice or professional development aimed at teachers’ personal development.
What link does teacher SEC have to burnout?
Another important insight that the article highlights is how teacher SEC is related to emotional stress and burnout. Teachers can encounter high emotional demands in their jobs which can lead to an inability to cope over time and results in emotional exhaustion and other negative factors. Due to these factors, teachers are at risk of leaving the profession. Teachers have limited options for self-regulation when a situation provokes a strong emotional reaction and coping with their own negative emotional response can be a big stressor for some teachers. The authors cite some exploratory research that suggests that teachers with inadequate SEC have difficulty with their classroom management, have difficulty managing their emotions and their classroom climate is poor. Another study noted in the article identifies burnout and reduced teacher performance significantly associated with negative affect provoked by stressful work related experiences.
What about teacher effects on student and classroom outcomes?
The authors aim to theoretically link the core principles of teacher SEC to their model that includes healthy student-teacher relationships, effective SEL program implementation and effective classroom management. In the article they review and cite research supporting these links and the links between the principles and the classroom and student outcomes. Results of the different studies varied and the authors feel that there is a need for more research to better understand what individual teacher characteristics and contextual factors contribute to their ability to offer social support and academic encouragement as it relates to student teacher relationships.
How are the dimensions of teacher SEC related to SEL implementation quality and classroom management?
The authors cite a study that indicates that diverse factors such as teachers’ own efficacy, the support of an effective principal and the quality of the relationship with those providing the ongoing coaching in an SEL program can all affect the quality of the implementation. Other findings of research discussed in the article suggest the following; In one study teachers’ SEC was associated with implementation quality that predicted students’ personal, social, and ethical attitudes, values and motives, as well as reductions in students’ drug use and other problem behaviors. In another study cited, the quality of teacher implementation of the PATHS Curriculum was related to improvements in classroom climate. Teachers who were rated higher on understanding the program concepts, generalizing the skills throughout the day through coaching and modeling and having effective classroom management showed reductions in classroom aggression. The focus of another study with the PATHS program found that teachers that have positive emotional regulation skills were predictive of curriculum implementation quality.
The authors discuss models of classroom management that integrate positive behavioral support and SEL that demonstrates effectiveness in reducing problem behaviors among students. When this article was published in 2009, little research was available on teacher SEC and classroom management. One research study is shared that identifies a paradigm shift in how teachers approach management and that it requires a greater degree of teacher SEC than was essential for classroom management in the past. Constructs that this paradigm shift identify include a teacher’s ability to manage that requires SEC dimensions of self-awareness, awareness of others, and the ability to make responsible decisions. It also requires the capacity for self-regulation, a cognitive affective perspective, and fostering active student centered learning.
What do the authors suggest for promoting teacher SEC and well-being?
The authors suggest the following programs to facilitate the development of SEC among teachers: The Emotionally Intelligent Classroom (Brackett and Caruso, 2006). This program was designed to promote teachers’ emotion related skills and emotional awareness and application of these skills in the school environment as support for the SEL program for students. Courage to Teach is a program developed by Parker Palmer (1998). Focus is on supporting the personal development of teachers and other educational professionals. The authors also include mindfulness based interventions. Contemplation and mindfulness practices can increase awareness of one’s internal experience and promote reflection, self-regulation and caring for others.
The authors touch briefly on the lack of attention given in teacher training programs to social and emotional development in childhood. At the time this article was written (2009), the authors were not aware of any preservice or in-service training programs that focus on improving teachers’ knowledge and skills regarding students’ social and emotional development.
What do the authors suggest for future research?
The authors share that the research reviewed in the article has demonstrated evidence of relationships among various components of the proposed prosocial classroom model. In the future the authors suggest a second line of research that employs the use of case studies, longitudinal, observational studies, and more extensive randomized controlled trials. They suggest a series of questions to be addressed: Can interventions be developed to improve SEC? Do these interventions result in reduced teacher stress and burnout and increased well-being? Do these interventions result in improvements in teacher-student relationships, classroom management and classroom climate? Do these interventions improve student academic outcomes and well-being?
Why is this information important?
As school districts continue to establish their tier I SEL plans, consideration should be given to teacher SEC and it’s implications on the prosocial classroom, and in implementing SEL programs effectively. This requires districts to focus on the growth and development of their staff’s SEC, and to have an implementation plan for providing training that cultivates adult social and emotional skills. This article gives a big picture understanding of how focusing on teacher SEC could potentially lead to improved outcomes for students.
Questions For Reflection & to Share on SSWNetwork
Many school districts are implementing universal SEL instruction for students. To support student social and emotional competence, it’s important that the adults that are teaching them have cultivated their own social and emotional competencies, and that our schools are providing that support to do so. Does your school district provide professional growth and development for staff that places emphasis on learning and modeling adult social and emotional competence? If so, how?
Resources to Share
1) Personal Assessment and Reflection—SEL Competencies for School Leaders, Staff, and Adults (Open-Access CASEL Tool)
From the tool description: "This tool was designed for self-reflection. It should not be used to evaluate performance. Principals, administrators, SEL team members, and staff members can use it to assess their personal strengths and think about how they can model those strengths when interacting with others. The tool also offers prompts that encourage thinking about strategies to promote growth across areas of social competence."
2) Further resources from CASEL on doing this work with adults school-wide
From the CASEL website: "Strengthen Adult SEL: Cultivate a community of adults who engage in their own social and emotional learning, collaborate on strategies for promoting SEL, and model SEL throughout the school."
3). CARE Program for teachers
The CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) program for teachers is a mindfulness-based professional development program designed to promote teachers’ social and emotional competence and improve the quality of classroom interactions.
Editor’s Note: all of our current Loyola School Mental Health Advanced Practice Program (SMHAPP) students are “hosting” a week on our site, sharing information about their SMHAPP project work and responding to critical issues impacting K-12 schools and school mental health practice. We’ve had some awesome resources and practice wisdom shared already from our SMHAPP students, and we’re keeping it going this week with another crucial topic–how to build SEL for the adults in the schools that are trying to implement SEL across the various levels of MTSS.
As we move into March, I’m proud to welcome Dorey Delikowski, a member of the 3rd Loyola SMHAPP cohort, who will be leading discussion and sharing resources on her topic of building the SEL of ourselves and our teacher colleagues. Just as we’ve done before, Dorey will help us end the week over at SSWNetwork with a LiveChat March 14th from 9 a.m.-10 a.m. central time where we’ll come together to discuss what we learned over the past week. Hope to see you then–rsvp over at SSWNetwork and join here if you haven’t already (it’s always 100% free to join, and we now have over 2,300 of us there supporting each other).
The Loyola SMHAPP Certificate is a 99% online, 2-year, 15-credit program that offers all school-employed clinicians the chance to join a dynamic professional learning community and to take their practice to the next level. Click here for more info and contact Dr. Kelly, SMHAPP Director at [email protected] if you have questions. Applications for our 5th Fall Cohort are due on or before August 1st, 2020.