Academic journal article Journal of Character Education

SOCIO-EMOTION AL AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: A Theoretical Orientation

Academic journal article Journal of Character Education

SOCIO-EMOTION AL AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: A Theoretical Orientation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

People have been talking about socio-emotional and character development (SECD) for centuries (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998; Elias, 2009). SECD education goes back at least to Socrates in the West (Berkowitz & Bier, 2004) and Confucius in the East (Park & Peterson, 2009) and has occurred in some form in the United States since the inception of public schooling (Howard, Berkowitz, & Schaeffer, 2004; McClellan, 1999). Over the last 20 years, research and interest in SECD has intensified (Berkowitz & Bier, 2007; Dusenbury, Weissberg, Goren, & Domitrovich, 2014). Possible reasons for this trend include growing public concern about violence and drug abuse, increasing attention to "youth assets" in the research community (Benson, 1997; Larson, 2000; J. V. Lerner, Phelps, Forman, & Bowers, 2009; R.M. Lerner, 2005) and an increase in funding for SECD-related research and pro- gramming. In addition, there is growing understanding that many, if not all, health behaviors are linked (Catalano et al., 2012; Flay, 2002), and SECD-related programs have the potential to positively affect multiple behavioral domains such as conduct-related problems, social and emotional skills, and academic achievement (Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 2004; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). From a cost-benefit perspective, a recent report by the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education at Columbia University noted that SECD interventions offer strong economic returns (Belfield et al., 2015). Indeed, researchers have suggested that SECD-related fields should become integral to education (Cohen, 2006; Elias, 2014; Elias, White, & Stepney, 2014).

As further demonstration of growing interest, numerous organizations have been established to promote SECD-related concepts, such as the Character Education Partnership (CEP; http://character.org), the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL; http://casel.org), Character Counts (http://charactercounts.org), and the European Centre for Educational Resilience (http:// www.um.edu.mt/edres). United States federal, state, and local legislators have increasingly acknowledged SECD-related concepts as important components to education and civil society. The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools of the U.S. Department of Education has awarded Partnerships and Character Education Program grants (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Even public figures, such as U.S. General Colin Powell, who was the first recipient of the CEP's American Patriot of Character Award, have been candid proponents for enhancing SECD among youth ("American Patriot of Character Award," 2009).

Even with this escalating support for SECD, practitioners and researchers have noted difficulties that schools face in trying to implement SECD-related programs in the midst of the standards-base environment of present-day U.S. public schooling. Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 passed, core content standards have come to dominate teaching in an effort to improve academic scores, particularly in reading and mathematics, and schools are being judged on their record of test score improvement (Hamilton et al., 2007). Teaching aimed at the behavioral, social, emotional and character domains has narrowed, and teachers spend relatively little instructional time on them (Greenberg et al., 2003; Jones & Bouffard, 2012). This trend, however, has been mitigated in recent years as states (i.e., Illinois, Kansas, and Pennsylvania) have begun to adopt standards for SECD (Dusenbury et al., 2014). In addition, U.S. teachers understand and endorse the importance of SECD-related learning (Civic Enterprises, Bridgeland, Bruce, & Ariharan, 2013). This support for SECD is strengthened by the reality that successful implementation of common core standards requires schools to provide a safe learning environment, manage classroom behavior, prevent drug use, and other health-compromising behaviors (Flay, 2002; Fleming et al. …

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