Learning occurs in a social context. Childrens’ ability to understand their emotions, to empathise, to problem-solve and to be able to draw on these skills to establish and maintain positive relationships, not only impacts on their social and emotional development, but also their academic attainment. This is the finding from a recent study by Schonfield et al. (2015) exploring the impact of enhancing pupil’s social and emotional learning on their academic attainment. The study evaluated the results of a social and emotional intervention program (PATHS) on academic attainment. The study found that pupil’s enrolled in the PATHS intervention, demonstrated higher levels of basic proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics. These findings indicate that social and emotional development may be a promising approach to promoting academic attainment.
The Character Education in UK Schools report reveals that 80% of school teachers feel that the narrow focus on academic attainment in core subjects is hindering the development of pupils’ characters. The Good Teacher report found that 37% of school teachers believe that they do not have enough time to do their job to a standard they believe is right, with many highlighting the impact of increasing workloads and the narrow focus on assessment. Many schools are limiting classroom time devoted to any subjects that do not prepare children for assessment in reading, writing and mathematics, and teachers are increasingly finding their job performance linked to their pupil’s achievements in core subject areas.
As a result, many important aspects of children’s education, including social and emotional development, are being seriously neglected or abolished entirely. It is therefore particularly relevant that Schonfield’s study has demonstrated that in schools where children engage in social and emotional learning, this does not lower attainment in core subjects, but has a significant positive impact on pupils’ achieving basic academic proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics. If we can spread the message that social and emotional interventions can not only facilitate the development of children’s self-esteem, emotional awareness and interpersonal problem-solving skills, and not distract from but enhance academic attainment in core subjects, it is hoped that social and emotional development programs will be more readily supported in schools.
Reference/Original source: Schonfeld, David J.; Adams, Ryan E.; Fredstrom, Bridget K.; Weissberg, Roger P.; Gilman, Richard; Voyce, Charlene; Tomlin, Ricarda; Speese-Linehan, Dee. Cluster-randomized trial demonstrating impact on academic achievement of elementary social-emotional learning. School Psychology Quarterly, Sep 2015