Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Teacher Change and Development during Training in Social and Emotional Learning Programs in Sweden

Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Teacher Change and Development during Training in Social and Emotional Learning Programs in Sweden

Article excerpt


A growing international literature supports the implementation of universal school-based preventive approaches, called social and emotional learning (SEL), to reduce problem behavior and promote academic learning among young people (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). SEL programs, which were formerly prevalent only in the US, are now being initiated in Europe as well, for example the Social and Emotional Learning (SEAL) initiative in the UK (Humphrey, Ledrum, & Wigelsworth, 2010), and projects in Germany (von Marées & Petermann, 2010) and Portugal (Moreira, Crusellas, Sá, Gomes, & Matias, 2010).

SEL is a set of educational techniques, based on cognitive and behavioral methods, developed to train students to improve self-control, social competence, empathy, motivation and self-awareness (Diekstra & Gravesteijn, 2008). Although many factors have been identified as influencing the implementation of school- based prevention programs (Cohn, Brown, Fredrickson, Milkels, & Conway, 2009; Jacobsson, Pousette, & Thylefors, 2001), training of the teachers is probably the most important factor. Such training has been found to cover many different aspects of program delivery, such as general classroom management, preparation, understanding students, and engaging high-risk young people (Durlak & DuPre, 2008).

Social and Emotional Training (SET) is an SEL program which was implemented in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden, between 2000 and 2005. Its outcomes for students on a variety of mental-health variables, generally favourable, have been extensively reported upon in quantitative studies (Kimber, 2011; Kimber & Sandell, 2009; Kimber, Sandell, & Bremberg, 2008a, 2008b), but so far the views of teachers have not been systematically examined. For this paper, we performed a qualitative analysis of the views of SET teachers/trainers and their development, based on process diaries written during their training.

Teacher professional development and training

Teacher professional development, including teacher quality and teacher training in general, have been in focus, not only in societal debate, but also in a substantial body of the international research literature (Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney, 2006; Eriksson, 2012; Parker, Martin, Colmar, & Liem, 2012). It refers to the ways in which teachers acquire the knowledge, skills, and values needed to serve the people with whom they are involved. Researchers have also examined training and teacher quality in relation to school-based prevention programs (Chang, 2009; Fredrickson, Coffey, Pek, Cohn, & Finkel, 2008; Gu & Day, 2007; Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Jennings & Greenberg, 2009; Jennings, Snowberg, Coccia, & Greenberg, 2011; Larsen & Samdal, 2012).

Despite this extensive body of research, there is still no clear answer to the question of how teachers should be trained (see McEwen & Sapolsky, 1995), which is also the case for SEL training in particular. Thus, new approaches to the study of teacher development might be needed. One possible way of improving understanding in this regard, is to listen to what teachers themselves have to say about the training process (Larsen & Samdal, 2012). It might also be important to study teachers' personal development in relation to working with SEL programs, given their nature and content (Brown, Ryan, & Cresswell, 2007; Larsen & Samdal, 2012). Although observations of teachers have been used in evaluating and developing the teaching of SEL (see, for example, Farrell & Collier, 2010), little attention has been paid to teachers' views on their own personal and professional development during SEL training. We are concerned to see whether considering such qualitative matters illuminate implementation issues in Sweden and internationally

Teacher development -- theory and implications

In general, there are a variety of theoretical approaches to teacher development, which, for our purposes, we can divide into two categories: those that are concerned with stages or phases of development, and those that are concerned with how teachers, through activities in workshops and courses, develop their professional abilities. …

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