Magazine article District Administration

Study: Teaching Social Skills Raises Test Scores

Magazine article District Administration

Study: Teaching Social Skills Raises Test Scores

Article excerpt

A widely used K6 teaching technique that integrates social and emotional learning into the school day improves academic performance, according to a study published in the American Educational Research Journal in March. Though the approach, known as Responsive Classroom, has been used for some 25 years, this is the first comprehensive study of its impact on student achievement.

Teachers use Responsive Classroom strategies to foster cooperation between students and to create a sense of community that promotes sharing and learning. A key element is morning meetings, during which students greet one another and are encouraged to share their feelings. The teacher then leads a brief activity, such as dancing or singing, to enhance group cohesion. The teacher also gives an overview of what students will be learning that day.

"We know there are kids who may have had a rough start to the day, and the morning meeting is a good way to say, 'Today is a new day, everyone is going to be taken care of, and here is what we'll be doing,"' says Matt Miller, principal of Roundtown Elementary School, part of the Central York School District in York, Pa.

Teachers using Responsive Classroom also help students set goals at the beginning of the year. One Roundtown student's goal this year was to create a bench on the playground where students who were feeling lonely could sit to signal others that they wanted to talk or play. The school gained national media attention after Miller helped the student bring the "buddy bench" to fruition.

Roundtown Elementary began training all 350 teachers in Responsive Classroom in 2006, and students have performed above the 90th percentile in reading and math for the past eight years. "One of the core beliefs of Responsive Classroom is that the social curriculum is as important as the academic," Miller says. …

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