The intentions of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs are good—and so are the results. With outcomes like increased academic success, improved relationships with peers and teachers, and decreased risky behavior, few could deny that implementing SEL in Schools s is a win-win situation.
But recent studies have found that there’s no guarantee that a student will use SEL skills outside the classroom, a finding that requires us to ask the obvious question: “Why not?” And perhaps even more importantly: “What is our ultimate purpose in teaching SEL?”
Other mitigating factors included students’ values and beliefs—and whether they felt an SEL skill was relevant and would actually work in a given situation. One girl thought that the strategies of staying calm and taking deep breaths when facing a bully would encourage rather than hinder a bully.
These and many other examples from the study show that, when teaching and designing SEL programs, we need to take into account factors such as students’ cultural values and beliefs about emotional expression and social interaction, along with exposure to racism, prejudice, and violence all of which affect whether and how a student will use SEL skills. This research strongly suggests that we need to widen the lens in how we view and teach SEL.