Since the early 90s, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) has moved from a “soft” subject on the periphery of curriculums to an essential component of how students learn and thrive. SEL’s proven academic, behavioral, and health benefits have caught the attention of employers, too. Our society now touts the value of a workforce that’s collaborative, communicative, self-aware and capable of self-regulation. This is a welcome shift in both our culture and in education, though as with all great changes, it’s often easier to implement in theory than in practice.
With competing priorities for limited instructional hours, how are teachers bringing SEL lessons into their classrooms? How are they measuring the success of their students within those competencies? Here’s what we know:
1. Teachers believe in the benefits of SEL instruction but say their schools could be doing more.
Teachers see massive benefits to SEL instruction and few drawbacks. In a recent survey of nearly 2,500 educators, nine out of ten teachers cite SEL as a factor in improving teacher-student relations, reducing bullying, and improving academic performance.
Unsurprisingly, the greatest challenge teachers face when it comes to SEL instruction is finding the time: 34% of teachers say SEL instruction eats into valuable time needed to teach core academic competencies. This current snapshot shows us that teachers incorporate SEL where they can - most teachers say they teach SEL informally (72%) when the opportunity to teach a lesson presents itself naturally.
44% of teachers express their school places “too little emphasis” on developing students’ social-emotional skills. While most teachers are currently incorporating SEL into their classroom, just under half said they’re providing SEL instruction through dedicated lesson plans focused on SEL skill-building.
2. In our increasingly connected world, teaching SEL through digital resources provides unique advantages to both students and their teachers.
Teachers say the top advantage of using digital tools to teach SEL is that digital education can reach students who are normally unengaged (71% of teachers agree). Additionally, 94% of teachers say teaching SEL digitally allows their students to explore sensitive topics with more privacy than group instruction.
Digital education is uniquely suited for SEL instruction - especially when it comes to student privacy. Online platforms provide a fail-safe environment. We have to give students the space to explore delicate topics on their own without the pressure of performing well for their peers. In fact, 87% of teachers say digital education can provide important feedback about their students’ SEL skills.
3. Though they’ve embraced SEL, teachers are most concerned about the lack of support and training.
Nearly half (48%) of teachers noted there’s not yet enough training or support for using digital resources for SEL instruction. Not all teachers feel confident integrating digital lessons in general, let alone digital instruction focused specifically on SEL competencies. With that in mind, it makes sense that educators express concerns about not having enough or the right tools to teach SEL digitally.
The desire for support extends beyond technology, and similar surveys find teachers have a strong desire for more training on SEL overall. Fortunately, the resources educators need are out there, along with training and support. A team of former educators at EVERFI has created evidence-informed digital resources that are free for K-12 teachers, schools and districts. The turnkey social-emotional learning lessons cover topics ranging from character and compassion to bullying prevention and mental wellness. In addition, EVERFI provides schools and districts with local, on-the-ground support as they integrate digital SEL lessons.
Download the full report on Teaching SEL Digitally and request access to free social-emotional learning resources and training for your school or district.