Research shows

Teaching social skills boosts achievement

Academic achievement rises when schools include social and emotional learning programs — also known as SEL — in their curriculum, says a new study in the January/February issue of Child Development, a peer- reviewed journal.

Students who took part in SEL programs improved in grades and standardized test scores so that their achievement rank jumped 11 percentile points. This gain, which was statistically significant, was equivalent to moving a student at the 50th percentile on standardized tests to the top 40 percent of students.

SEL programs teach students skills in self-awareness, self-management, getting along with others and decision-making to lay a foundation for academic learning. The programs are based on research showing that students who are more self-aware and confident about their learning capacities try harder, persevere in the face of challenges, set high academic goals, discipline and motivate themselves, and manage their stress in healthy ways.

In this study, the SEL students showed significant behavioral gains such as: reduced emotional stress, enhanced social skills, better attitudes, and fewer conduct problems. These positive behaviors were sustained for at least six months after the programs ended.

Moreover, classroom teachers and other school staff successfully implemented the programs that yielded the academic gains, suggesting that SEL programs can be delivered effectively by existing school staff and do not require outside consultants.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr. Joseph A. Durlak, Ph.D, of Loyola University, using a research technique called meta-analysis, which combines findings from many studies in order to examine the intervention’s effectiveness over a large demographic.

This SEL meta-analysis included research conducted over the past decade at 213 schools of various sizes, located in urban, suburban and rural areas. Approximately 270,034 students in kindergarten through 12th grade participated.

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