What Role Should Schools Play in Social Emotional Learning?

For most of the last 100 years of K-12 schools in the United States, more attention has been given to cognitive and academic improvements rather than social emotional learning. Schools have more leeway in constructing curriculum around curriculum content of English and history, math and science rather than the feelings of students.

A recent Report by Fordham University revealed that most parents want schools to teach social emotional learning to their children. The importance of this survey finding is that schools have a very important role to play in the instructional learning of social emotional learning.

Fordham Survey Findings

There is broad support among parents for teaching SEL-related skills in schools, although the term “social and emotional learning” is relatively unpopular.

Democratic parents favor schools allocating additional resources to SEL more than Republican parents do. They’re also more comfortable with the terminology.

Across the political spectrum, parents regard families as the most important entities for cultivating SEL, yet there are partisan differences regarding how and where to emphasize SEL instruction.

Republicans are somewhat more wary than Democrats that SEL might divert schools away from academics or conflict with their own values.

Differences by parents’ race, class, and religion are rarely as pronounced as differences by political affiliation.


Research Support for SEL

The Learning Policy Institute has recently commented on this survey of SEL support by parents:

“It is heartening to note the report’s major finding that nearly all parents, regardless of political persuasion, want their children to acquire social-emotional skills and believe that schools have a role to play in providing that instruction.”


Schools Are Already Doing Social Emotional Learning

There is broad support in schools for this as well because teachers notice the difference in learning when students are able to concentrate, when they feel good about themselves, and when something in their social emotional learning is being attended to by teachers.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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