How To develop a safe and nurturing community, where we engage and challenge learners to think, to take risks, to collaborate and to become confident, independent, life long learners who contribute as resilient, caring, global-minded citizens.
Or programming for Social-Emotional Learning using a Continuum of Supports.
Or creating engaged, resilient, academically successful, collaborative 21st century citizens.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL)
Social/emotional learning is a process through which students acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and constructively problem solve their way through challenging situations.
- Self-Awareness: identifying and recognizing emotions; accurate self-perception; recognizing strengths, needs, and values; self-efficacy
- Self-Management: impulse control and stress management; self-motivation and discipline; goal setting and organizational skills
- Social Awareness: perspective taking; empathy; difference recognition; respect for others.
- Relationship Skills: communication, social engagement, and relationship building; working cooperatively; negotiation, refusal, and conflict management; help seeking
- Responsible Decision-making: problem identification and situation analysis; problem solving; evaluation and reflection; personal, social, and ethical responsibility
SEL programming promotes the development and use of these SE competencies in the context of creating safe, caring, and supportive school, family, and community learning environments in which children feel cared for, respected, connected to school, and engaged in learning.
A CONTINUUM OF SUPPORTS
Multitiered problem solving models are the most effective and efficient way to address social-emotional needs. In Multitiered problem-solving models, interventions are linked to the social, emotional, or behavior needs of students. Approximately 17% of school-aged students require social-emotional/behavioural/mental health services. However, only 1% of these students receive such services in special education (Merrell & Walker, 2004).
A multitiered problem-solving model allows for early support before problems develop or worsen.
Services provided through a multitiered model range from system-wide, preventative services that provide support for all students, to intensive, individualized supports for severely struggling students.
Multi-tiered problem solving models have the following common features:
- They are evidence-based. Intervention strategies are selected according to their proven effectiveness, implemented with fidelity, and student progress is monitored through objective and validated measures.
- They use a systemic multi-tiered problem solving and data-based decision-making approach to support the needs of all students.
- There is a focus on prevention strategies that lead to positive behavior and social–emotional learning and high academic achievement.
- They are culturally responsive.
Tier 1: Universal Support. All students are taught expected behaviors and reinforced for practicing them. All students are also taught skills related to self awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. At this level, data is used to identify school-wide needs and to directly teach positive social, emotional, or behavior skills. Typically, 80–85% of students in a school are successfully supported at this level.
Tier 2: Targeted Support. At the targeted level, groups of students are identified who struggle behaviorally, socially, or emotionally, despite systematic and evidence-based school-wide interventions. Teams review data to identify students and select appropriate interventions to deliver in addition to Tier 1 strategies. Staff select procedures to objectively and frequently monitor student progress. An extra 10–15% of students are successful in school when Tier 2 group level supports are provided in addition to Tier 1 supports.
Tier 3: Intensive Support. Students who continue to struggle behaviorally, socially, or emotionally despite high quality Tier 1 and 2 interventions require the most intensive and, sometimes, individualized intervention and progress monitoring. A team determines the need for more intensive supports, based on a variety of assessments and a lack of prior responsiveness to less intensive science-based interventions. Tier 3 interventions may require services from specialized personnel and wraparound planning.
WHY SEL PROGRAMS?
Improve student behaviours and attitudes
- Studies show positive impacts from well-implemented SEL programs, including reductions in conduct problems, emotional distress, risk-taking behaviour, and aggression.
- In review of 43 studies, SEL programs significantly decreased the number of suspensions and expulsions while improving school attendance, students’ attitudes towards school, and students’ grades.
Safe and caring
- Classrooms filled with socially and emotionally skilled students are more caring and safe.
- SEL Decreases Behaviors that Interfere with Learning. SEL programs decrease the prevalence of high-risk behaviors (e.g., violence, drug and alcohol use) that interfere with learning (Zins et al., 2004). Programs that foster engagement in school lead to reductions in problem behaviors such as drug use (Hawkins, et al., 2004), student misconduct and rebellious behavior in school (Gottfredson et al.), and violence and sexual activity in later life (Hawkins et al., 1999).
All learners achieve personal success
- Despite SEL programs take time out of the school day, they enhance academic performance. In one study, students receiving SEL scored 11 percentile points higher on academic achievement tests, and attained higher grades. Even as grades were improving, behaviour, feelings about self, and emotional problems were improving.
- Research shows that social and emotional factors are integral to academic learning and positive educational outcomes for children. SEL improves academic attitudes (motivation and commitment), behaviors (attendance, study habits, cooperative learning), and performance (grades, test scores and subject mastery) (Zins et al., 2004).
Nurture supportive relationships
- SEL Helps Students Collaborate. Incorporating cooperative learning techniques into the classroom enhances the quality of student learning and academic performance. However, unless the students have good social and emotional skills the academic benefits of cooperative learning groups can be minimized or even negated (Munro, et al., 2006).
Relevant and connected learning
- SEL Promotes Deeper Understanding of Subject Matter. SEL instruction is a particularly effective way of promoting both social-emotional and academic competence. When students are asked to use SEL skills such as perspective-taking and problem-solving to understand and analyze events or stories in class, learning improves (Elias, 2004).
- SEL Increases Student Engagement in School. Student perceptions of teachers’ warmth and support, and of teachers as promoters of positive and respectful social interactions in the classroom, are significant predictors of student’s academic motivation, engagement, and performance (Blum, et al., 2000). Students who are emotionally connected to their peers, who have bonded with adults who value learning and expect high levels of academic performance, adopt the value of academic achievement and have a positive academic orientation (Hawkins et al., 1999).
- Improving the social and emotional competence of students and the climate of schools advances the primary academic focus. SEL also ensures that schools will address a broader mission of educating students to be critical thinkers, good problem-solvers and caring, responsible, and engaged citizens. SEL learning gives students the basic skills they need to be successful in school and more importantly in life.
High expectations for all
- The most impressive finding was students’ improvement on standardized test scores, which increased by the equivalent of 11 percentile points (Dymnicki, 2006).
SEL=21st Century Learning
Critical Thinking - Focuses thoughts and actions to secure responses that are supported by evidence;
Problem-Solving - Identifies strategies and tools that help analyze, develop, and refine solutions;
Innovation - Looks beyond the norm for solutions or opportunities that can overcome obstacles;
Communication - Seeks to understand, interpret, and express thoughts, ideas, and emotions;
Collaboration - Builds relationships and works in teams to achieve common goals;
Self-Directed Learning - Takes ownership of learning;
Global Awareness - Contributes to the sustainability of the environment and the community;
Civic Engagement - Commits to democratic governance, social participation, and advocacy;
Information & Media Literacy - Uses technology to explore new knowledge in an ethical and responsible way; or
Financial & Economic Literacy - Understands and evaluates critical economic issues.
WHAT WORKS IN SEL IMPLEMENTATION
Only programs and interventions characterized as “S.A.F.E.” achieved significant gains. S.A.F.E. programs and interventions:
- Use a Sequenced set of activities to develop SE skills in a step-by-step fashion;
- Use Active forms of learning, such as role-plays and behavioral rehearsal that provide students with opportunities to practice SE skills;
- Focus attention on SEL, with at least eight sessions devoted to SE skill development; and
- Explicitly target particular SE skills for development, with skills identified in lessons’ learning objectives.
More intense programs of longer duration (multiyear) have greater effect than shorter, less intense programs. SEL should be started in preschool and continued through high school.
Leadership (principal, district-level) support is a critical factor in high-quality implementation. Such support means that schools will likely have the resources and ongoing professional development they need to implement programs and that SEL is an integral part of overall school improvement efforts.
SE competencies improve more when classroom teachers were the primary implementers (as opposed to outside researchers or community agencies).
Programs that focus on changing behaviors tend to be more effective when addressed in multiple settings, for example, school, home, and community.
Linking school programs to community locations and including parent training/information enhances the success of SEL programs.
Students achieved significant gains across all of the outcome areas studied only when the SEL program was well implemented and measured and research-based. Program effectiveness is compromised if staff do not conduct parts of the intervention, or new staff members arrive and are not prepared to deliver the program. 80% of children showing signs of anxiety disorder no longer display that disorder after completing the program. For children who are not clinically anxious, SEL programs significantly increases their level of self-esteem and reduces worry.
FEAR, ANXIETY, AND DEPRESSION
Fears are a natural and normal part of life. We all experience fear from time to time (e.g. Turbulence on airplane). Fear is essential to our survival – it stops us from getting hurt. When confronted with a life-threatening or dangerous situation (e.g a vicious dog) we automatically respond with the “flight or fight” response. Chemical messengers such as adrenalin are produced which prepare our body for a defensive reaction –e.g. muscles tense, heart rate increases supplying extra oxygen to the body, vision and hearing becomes more acute and focused. Fear allows us to run away as quickly as we can (flight) or attack back (fight). Fear is an appropriate reaction to REAL danger or threat
Fears of childhood are “normal” aspects of development, and occur, almost without exception, among all boys and girls from all races, nationalities, religions, ethnic groups and socio-economic backgrounds. Humans are pre-programmed from birth to develop certain fears that have contributed to the survival of our species- children who possessed certain fears and avoided these objects and situations were more likely to survive. These fears are age-appropriate and usually transitory.
- Each of the common fears is linked to a particular age period, e.g. Stranger anxiety (under 2 years)
- Separation anxiety is common throughout the preschool years
- 8 to 10 year olds may worry about death- become more aware of concepts related to time and are able to understand death as a permanent thing
- middle childhood – fears shift to performance/school anxiety (e.g. taking tests, giving oral reports, performing in school, competence in sports)
- Adolescence – social concerns- physical appearance and others’ perception of them, whether they are popular and have enough friends, larger global issues
Fear vs. Anxiety
Children can understand that anxiety can be unhelpful and it is like having an alarm go off when you don’t need it. False alarms can become tiresome and annoying, even distressing. It is like having your smoke detector over your toaster. The smoke detector may be working fine, but it is in the wrong place at the wrong time- unnecessary. It will be going off often- even when you don’t need it. With anxiety, your alarm system or fear response is working fine (even over-working) and is being activated when you don’t need it.
Many children go through their day in a high state of arousal, which is exhausting and hinders performance and enjoyment in daily life. SEL programs help children learn how to turn off the fear response and turn down their anxiety and physiological arousal.
Fends to be experienced in the presence of a real, immediate danger
Fear response in absence of or out of proportion to environmental threat
Tends to be associated with worrying about future or past difficulties.
Is Anxiety Good or Bad?
Anxiety can be functional and helpful
- prevents excessive risk-taking
Mild to moderate levels of physiological arousal can help you to perform optimally:
- on tests
- before a presentation
- in sports
- other performance activities
Why Focus on Anxiety?
Anxiety is the most common mental health concern for children
- 10% of 8-year year-olds
- 15% of 12-year year-olds
- 21% 17-year year-olds
(Kessler, 2005; Offord, 1995; Great Smoky Mountain study, 1995)
Fewer than 1 in 6 will see a professional for any mental health concern (Stanley, 2002)
When is Anxiety a Problem?
Firstly, the child experiences significant DISTRESS, which is out of proportion to the threat. It is more intense than is what is normally experienced by a child that age (e.g. severe stomachaches and throwing up or separation anxiety distress persisting into middle of school year).
INTERFERENCE with a child’s or family’s life. A child or family’s relationships and daily functioning are impaired- interferes with child’s ability to participate in age appropriate activities and meet age-expected norms such as making and keeping friends and meeting expectations at school (e.g. regular attendance, homework completion, taking tests, giving oral reports) Activities may become restricted e.g. avoiding going to a park because they are worried there will be a dog there or avoiding birthday parties because of shyness.
DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE- age inappropriate- appears in the wrong developmental period or persists past expected lifespan (e.g. trouble separating from parents in middle school)
DURATION – when the fear is not transitory, but lingers (eg. Separation distress persists whole year). Anxiety disorder – difficulties have existed for a period of 6 months or more
Anxiety- The Impact
Anxiety is a real and serious health problem. (causes significant personal suffering). Anxiety interferes with normal functioning (social isolation, underachievement, depression). Anxiety is highly co-morbid with other mental illnesses. 65-95% of children will be diagnosed with more than 1 anxiety disorder. 9% will experience depression. All children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder have an increased probability of substance abuse.
Anxiety is the most common mental health problem among children today (more than ADHD, or conduct disorders). Having an anxiety disorder increases the risk of developing other anxiety and mental health disorders. 15% of preschoolers suffer from atypically high levels of depression and anxiety
Anxiety is chronic – without intervention likely to lead to significant problems into adulthood.
Symptoms of Anxiety/Depression
The number one descriptor for anxiety is WORRY and AVOIDANCE. The number one descriptor for depression is SADNESS and a cognitive style of hopelessness and helplessness. Youth who are depressed tend to lose pleasure in things they previously enjoyed. They often withdraw socially, and may refuse to be with friends or participate in activities. Anxious youth want to socialize but are nervous and avoid social situations because of fear of rejection or embarrassment. Depressed youth often present with flat affect- no emotion, while anxious children demonstrate physiological arousal and physical complaints. Both anxious and depressed youth have low concentration, sleep difficulties, and may appear irritable and uncooperative.
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Worry (anticipatory)
- Attention to threat
- Fast/sustained physiological arousal
- Psychosomatic complaints
- Difficulty in resting and going to sleep
- Social withdrawal
Symptoms of Depression
- Loss of pleasure
- Social withdrawal
- Early morning insomnia
- Hopelessness and helplessness
- Negative memory biases
- Poor concentration
- Flat affect
- Appetite changes
- Temperament Sensitivity
- Threat-Focused Attention
- Traumatic Life Events
- Cognitive style
Resilience = to spring back, or rebound. Or the ability to overcome adversity; achieving good outcomes regardless of life events or circumstances.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FUN FRIENDS PROGRAM
- Developed by Dr Paula Barrett (http://pathwayshrc.com.au)
- 12 week course to be delivered once a week for 30 minutes in the classroom as a school based universal prevention program
- Designed specifically for 4-7 year olds, positive, play-based program that focuses on increasing social-emotional competence and wellness
- Effective in decreasing anxiety and behavioural inhibition.
- Matches Alberta Curricula
- Gives students skills to resolve conflict and teaches empathy to reduce bullying
- Actively involves children, parents and teachers and teaches them practical, strategies for coping with stress, worry, fear and sadness.
- Empathy and kindness toward others
- Friendship and pro-social skills
- Cognitive problem-solving skills
- Being brave and facing feared situations
- Behaving assertively
- Identifying emotions in self and others
- Relaxation and self-soothing
DESCRIPTION OF THE FRIENDS FOR LIFE PROGRAM
- 12 week course to be delivered once a week for 1 to 1 ½ hours in the classroom
- Appropriate for ages 7-11
- Matches Alberta curricula
- Skills from the FRIENDS program are vital for 21st century learners.
- Gives students skills to resolve conflict, and teaches empathy to reduce bullying.
- Be a friend to ourselves and others
- Recognize signs of anxiety
- Positively manage our emotions
- Demonstrate empathy for others
- Use relaxation to calm down
- Use positive, helpful self-talk
- Change unhelpful to helpful thoughts
- Solve problems
- Look for the positive in situations
- Build support teams
COGNITIVE-BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY MODEL OF INTERVENTION
(CBT) forms the theoretical basis for the FRIENDS program. Cognitive behaviour theory focuses on thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
CBT provides strategies and skills that can be taught to help people feel better. The theory is that thoughts drive feelings, which drive behaviours, which then impact thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Attentional biases – anxious people tend to focus their attention on the negative aspects of a situation. Another cognitive feature of anxiety is negative memory bias – this refers to only remembering the bad things that happened in a situation. An anxious child might at the end of the day dwell on the fact that the teacher yelled at them rather than other more positive parts of their day.
Home activities are included at the end of each FRIENDS session. These are to help the students practice and show family skills learned. It also helps transfer skills to different contexts.
A 1.5-2 hour parent workshop is provided before the program begins. Parent involvement increases likelihood that children will maintain the resilience and coping strategies learned. It also builds awareness and helps the students to change habits with support from their parents.
- Send summary sheets (tips for parents) home after each session
- Invite parents to observe program sessions
- Invite parents to a special classroom event featuring the student’s art, songs, games, puppet shows.
- Send home a recommended book list that supports and reinforces the program concepts
We know that anxiety creates distress for children and families.
Many of these families are not getting the help they need
We know strategies that can help
It is important that we teach these strategies to prevent disorders and other mental health problems.
These strategies enhance learning and social-emotional skills, help meet the needs of all learners, and build the skills required to be a successful 21st Century Learner
Most of this material is based on information gathered from the following SEL resources.