Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Trust Your Team: Our Journey to Embed Social and Emotional Learning in a Teacher Education Program Focused on Social Justice

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Trust Your Team: Our Journey to Embed Social and Emotional Learning in a Teacher Education Program Focused on Social Justice

Article excerpt


Every year my family gathers for a exuberant game of charades. No quote 
is out of bounds and newcomers to the game quickly learn to recite the 
mantra "Trust your team;" within the group someone will be able to take 
the idea and run with it. As we wrote this article, I recalled my 
daughter, saddled with acting out an obscure concept from biology: 
"ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" (the development of the fetus traces 
the development of the species). She was saved by the combined insights 
of Grandma (who continues to believe all children should learn Latin), 
her ability to reenact a hatching fish, and the historical insight of 
the emerging biologist on her team. This vignette captures two ideas 
that ground our story--first, the importance of trusting the diverse 
talents of your team, and second, the biogenetic premise of a slow and 
wondrous development from the simple to the magnificently complex.

P. Swanson

Chair, Department of Teacher Education

This case study is a story of our attempts to organically yet systematically embed social-emotional and cultural learning in all its complexity within a fifth year combined Masters and multiple subject teacher preparation program. Our story offers insights to other universities contemplating similar systemic curricular change.

The history of school reform documents a trail of failed reform movements that neglected to include teachers in their conceptualization (Cuban, 1993). As programs designed to embed social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools proliferate (Dusenbury, et al., 2011) research suggests that SEL integration should focus on developing teachers' ability to embed SEL in academic content instruction (Jones & Bouffard, 2012). The field, however, is in the nascent stages of understanding the role of teacher preparation in this regard. A recent national scan of teacher preparation courses reveals that while most programs explicitly reference building teachers' SEL skills, few attend to preparing teachers to build students' SEL skills, and emphasis appears to focus more strongly on relational and decision-making skills than self-awareness or management skills (Schonert-Reichl, Kitil & Hanson-Peterson, 2017). There is scant literature about how teacher educators develop SEL competencies in specific courses and no literature about how teacher preparation programs connect and develop SEL concepts across courses. This narrative seeks to address that gap.

We took a narrative approach to this inquiry into our work to integrate SEL throughout our program (Glesne, 2017; Ellis, 2007; Bruner, 1996; Polkinghorne, 1995; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Noddings & Witherel, 1991). We offer a window into the story of each author's course, and focus on narrative as the unit of analysis rather than phrases or keywords, with a goal to unearth more of the "fullness of human experience" (Polkinghorne, 1995, p. 8). This approach to uncovering the the less-than-tangible understandings of teaching is based on the view that when researchers conduct research with pre-defined reductive lenses in an attempt to reduce the unwieldy to something more readily described in a traditional research-report format, they often gloss over the subtleties of personalities and contexts that are key to a robust and situated understanding of a given phenomenon. Our hope is that affording each member of our team a chance to include their story might offer a way to avoid the kind of problems that often travel with a more inductive approach that at times can undermine one's capacity to appreciate the parts that make up the whole. This approach afforded us the opportunity to unearth and share our various and sometimes conflicting perspectives and to better encompass the complex nature of our disparate processes to uncover more holistic understandings of how a quite different group of trusted teammates came to revise their courses.

The goal of social-emotional learning (SEL) is to help children (and adults) "enhance their ability to integrate thinking, feeling, and behaving to achieve important life tasks" (Zins et al. …

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