Socio-emotional learning – why is it important and how do you do it?

By on October 17, 2021 0

For a long time, our young people, Generation Z, have experienced mental difficulties. Depression and anxiety have long been considered epidemics of this generation. Yet recent figures have led Israel’s education ministry (and counterparts around the world) to prioritize the mental needs of adolescents and put emotional and social learning (SEL) at the center of assimilation programs. of this year, along with the emphasis on lower levels. on reading / writing skills and preparing for final exams in upper grades. This decision is, of course, a good start, but the road to implementation is continuous and fraught with challenges for the system, challenges that require new thinking, and perhaps new working groups as well.

Yael Shafrir, CEO of ReShuffle. Photo: Uri Taub and Ronit Cohen

First of all, what is SALT?

The Branco Weiss website (an Israeli institute responsible for developing innovative models of teaching and learning) defines emotional-social learning: “a process in which you acquire and use knowledge, skills, positions and capacities allowing to face the daily challenges, to develop curious people, able to express their feelings and those of the others, to interact positively, to act on the internal motivation, to show flexibility, to consistency, emotional and behavioral balance, and responsible decision making.

Trying to understand better, I looked at the report whose definition (which in turn It took the purpose of an international organization called CASEL), which summarizes the work of a committee of experts to promote emotional learning -social in the education system. This work began in the summer of 2017 and ended in 2020, while producing an interminable report that ended up in a dead end.

“The national curriculum will be based on the many materials available in the psychological counseling department and other departments of the Ministry of Education, but due to the development of guiding terminology and the committee’s recommendations regarding socio-emotional learning and integration between different departments, it will need to be reviewed. ”

The report fails to determine who is responsible for the task of socio-emotional learning (educators? Dedicated professional teachers?), Makes no reference to its impact on the young people who should benefit from the programs, no reference to the technological tools that can help or critical situations that require such preparation. Bottom line – the report is mostly full of research on topics that were not relevant in 2017 and certainly not relevant in 2020 (let alone 2021). A look at the recommendations at the end of the report only accentuates the complex problem and the obstacles that block almost any solution.

Mapping of challenges and reflections on solutions

So what?

First, let’s look at the target audience for which programs like this are built. Teenagers, of college age, in 2021. What is their life like? What are they doing? What is it that bothers them completely? What are their goals ? What prevents them from filling them? What helps them? What is missing? What do they trust? What are they afraid of? What do they have in common and how are they different from each other?

To answer these and other questions in a practical way that allows solutions, I propose to divide the question into three main elements:

  1. Awareness
  2. Skills
  3. Emotions

1. Knowledge

In a world so loaded with information, knowledge is not the problem. After reading a lot of research on the topic, in-depth conversations with teens, and in-depth knowledge of Gen Z content consumption and content consumption habits, the problem seems to be the motivation to expand specific knowledge and knowledge. ability or willingness to enter. deepen and develop knowledge, ideas or applications on the basis of acquired knowledge. Young people exposed to such broad information, partly in highly addictive formats, may have difficulty identifying their topics of interest and self-researching around those topics. The problem is not an attitude but an overload; they get confused, become passive, sink into what comes to them instead of making an effort, looking for content that interests them, or inventing their own.

It’s our job to create motivation for them to come out of this situation. How? ‘Or’ What? Through building personal choice, inventing equally compelling and addicting formats, creating inspiring and engaging content, and a clear definition of what lies on the other side of the effort. In the marketing world, this is called “value creation”. To get Generation Z to put in the effort in their learning and personal development, they must be able to answer the question “What do I gain?” Relatively easily. By the way – this is not due to indulgence. In a world with so much content, a person has to prioritize and naturally they will prioritize higher content with a clear contribution to their life.

2. Skills

Personal identity, well-developed communication, goal setting and other “soft skills” are processes that usually last into adulthood but start at a young age. As part of the endless distraction that is humanity’s lot in 2021, alongside helicopter parenting and an education system stuck in the past – the acquisition of relevant skills has been rejected, both in terms of understanding these skills and the level of skills’ assimilation. Well, to help the next generation reach their goals and cultivate a sense of their abilities, you have to get started quickly.

Skills are abilities learned by actively experimenting. There is no point in thinking and talking about skills, you have to define them and then practice them over and over. Just as the sculptor exercises his drawing skills as part of the carving process and the businessman exercises his negotiation skills as part of making a deal, life skills must be learned as part of the process. process of learning, realization and conclusion. What should be included in these skills? In my opinion, when it comes to defining the set of skills that a teenager needs to acquire, it is right to rethink their level of motivation. After several years in which studying for him has been perceived as irrelevant, one needs to focus on the most relevant. What tools will maximize their potential, help them choose and make their choices? These are the skills required.

3. Emotions

A generation in mental distress will find it difficult to step out of their comfort zone, question themselves, evolve or recognize the development they have achieved – that’s pretty obvious. Another justified concern is that a generation that spends an average of 9 hours a day in front of a screen is probably addicted. As a result, they are also likely to have difficulty forming relationships, seeing each other, developing emotional and social skills like empathy and intimacy. This understanding of the general state of Generation Z and the private state of each of them is essential to improve learning. Therefore, the decision to implement SEL is welcome. Indeed, the road is winding. It’s hard to assume that many teens are interested in sharing their sincere feelings with adults at school.

What can help? A deep and quality dialogue between them. Frameworks that link the different generations of the community. To bring hearts together, you need to focus on creating the physical and educational conditions for working together, replacing competitive formats with formats that produce teamwork and mutual accountability, or even encouraging sincere self-exposure. to cultivate trust and acceptance.

Food for thought

In 2020, Karen Niamey, CEO of CASEL, updated the definition to SEL. Realizing that the long-awaited moment of broad assimilation has arrived, Niamey explained that social and emotional learning is an integral part of human education and development. This is the basis of the definitions cited in the report and work plans that I have mentioned, and it is the simplest and most meaningful working hypothesis. Defining work plans for socio-economic learning is not the direction, but the idea that all areas of learning must undergo a change that includes socio-emotional development within them. More insight into the order of skill acquisition or what is most urgent – like instruction on the plane that seeks to put on the oxygen mask, before dealing with another , here too – before teens embrace empathy and teamwork, they need to reveal their own identity, so that their journey is authentic and compelling.

How do you translate these ideas into a work plan?

Socio-emotional learning is not something you put into your schedule. It’s not part of an amorphous curriculum where you want to teach students how to learn – when most of them aren’t interested in all that current learning has to offer anyway. Socio-emotional learning is a redefinition of learning goals and how to achieve them, an end-to-end change in content and learning formats. It requires a shift from long-term think tanks and interminable relationships to experimentation and research that takes place on the move. It is a path that will be paved with new daily activities, collaborations and the ability to go fast. The positive side is that there is no longer any need to wait for this or that committee. The goal is clear and the working hypothesis is obvious – the past is in the past.

Yael Shafrir is the co-founder and CEO of ReShuffle, a personal development platform for adolescents.

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