Social & Emotional Learning

I recently read an article in the Education Week publication that made some interesting comments regarding Social and Emotional Learning. This, in essence, a focus on wellbeing, has been the main thrust for a number of schools and seems to be a growing focus across education globally. Rightly so.

The article raises the question about how we have managed to get to this stage. How we managed to make the assumption that children learn better when they are respected, happy and safe. The environment we operate in now is geared towards ensuring our students are ready for learning, are comfortable in our classrooms and have a solid relationship with their classroom teacher. These are hugely important elements that contribute to the overall success of our kids.

The Aspen Commission co-chair, Tim Shriver, made some interesting comments.

This embrace of social, emotional, and academic learning is a moment of opportunity. Done wisely and well, it's an opportunity to translate growing knowledge about how people learn into real-world practices that benefit students. It's an opportunity to focus on values and student needs that matter deeply to parents and unite Americans across the ideological spectrum—things like integrity, empathy, and responsible decision making.

Most importantly, it's an opportunity to put an end to the era of false choices in education. Schools should not have to choose between chemistry and character; between trigonometry and teamwork. Since the dawn of the republic, teachers and schools have been tasked with teaching content and modeling character . . . What might strike some as a faddish enthusiasm for the "whole child" should be nothing more than a measured call for schools to once again unapologetically be about academic achievement and also the social and emotional skills that equip students for citizenship, life, and work.

The idea here is to achieve a balance. A balance between social and emotional skills and academic focuses. This is of course the ideal.

However, one might ask whether this balance needs to be weighted further towards social and emotional learning given that the issues tend to be highlighted here - increasing depression and anxiety amongst our young people. Has the current climate, and the one immediately preceding this, lent towards testing and production style education at the expense of student's personal development and relationships?

Ben Ward-Smith


Lytton Street School, Feilding

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