Quality Assessment and Targeted Intervention Boost Social Emotional Learning: Improve Students' Behavior and Academic Performance by Focusing on the Development of Critical Soft Skills

By Schmitz, Terry | District Administration, November 2016 | Go to article overview

Quality Assessment and Targeted Intervention Boost Social Emotional Learning: Improve Students' Behavior and Academic Performance by Focusing on the Development of Critical Soft Skills


Schmitz, Terry, District Administration


Social emotional learning helps students learn the coping skills critical for dealing with themselves, other people and their schoolwork. While SEL has become more mainstream over the past few years, you have been researching it since the mid-1970s. What piqued your early interest?

In those years, we did a lot of work with at-risk populations. Because of that work, it just made sense as something very important to pay attention to when I first heard about it. At that time, the sole focus in schools was on academics. Then a popular psychologist, Daniel Goleman, wrote a book on how social emotional learning was going to grow in relevance, and how one handles oneself and others is a much more accurate predictor of future success than academic grades.

What are the different SEL needs that elementary, middle and high school students have?

In elementary school, students are developing their intra- and interpersonal awareness, which is the foundation for SEL. Once those skills are developed, then you can begin working with students on critical skills like empathy, stress management, physical wellness and self-control. Middle school students should begin to work on their self-management, particularly time management and motivation. Students at this age need to learn how to commit and to work toward a goal. Leadership is the primary skill high school students need to develop. They need to learn decision-making, how to be a positive influence on others and to develop relationship skills.

What are some of the hallmarks of a successful SEL program? …

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