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Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Schools has a Lasting Impact
2017-07-15 06:00:00
Liza Tan

Learning programs that involve the youth socially and emotionally help boost social skills, mental health and eventually learning outcomes.These go a long way in equipping children with the right tools to thrive and succeed in life.According to new research conducted by UBC (University of British Columbia), Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, the programs continue to benefit children for many years later.

The aim of social-emotional learning is to help children understand and recognize their emotions, build and maintain relationships, feel empathy and make right decisions.These programs have an immediate effect on children.Previous studies had shown that integrating these programs into the classrooms reduced anxiety and behavioral issues among students, and improved their performance in general.However, until recently psychologists had not proven that the skills had an impact way longer after being taught.According to Eva Oberle, an assistant professor at UBC's Human Early Learning Partnership in the school of population and public health, the goal of the research was to ascertain the length of time over which the skills stuck with students, thereby concluding whether social-emotional learning programs were worth investing time and financial resources.

In the study, researchers examined results from 82 separate programs participated by over 97,000 students ranging from kindergarten to middle school.The research was conducted in the U.S, U.K, and Europe, and the effects analyzed at least six months after completing the program.The results brought researchers to a conclusion that social-emotional learning had not only positive results in the classroom but also long-term positive outcomes.

Findings showed that student participants in the program made it through college at a rate of 11% higher than their counterparts while their high school graduation rate was also significantly higher by 6%.The program participants were also affected by drug abuse problems at a lower rate by six percent, arrest rates by 19 per cent and had lower diagnoses of mental health disorders by 13.5 per cent.Oberle and her team of researchers also concluded that all participants benefited from the program irrespective of their school location, race, and socioeconomic background.

"Teaching social-emotional learning in schools is a way to support individual children in their pathways to success, and it's also a way to promote better public health outcomes later in life.However, these skills should be implemented over time, and we would like to see schools incorporate social-emotional learning programs systematically into the curriculum, rather than doing them as a 'one-off.'" Said Oberle (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170712072752.htm).

Psychologists believe schools offer an ideal environment for executing these interventions because they make it possible to reach all children, inclusive of the disadvantaged.Some schools have already embedded programs such as MindUp and Roots of Empathy in their classrooms while other schools have introduced it more systemically.

In another paper published in the journal Future of children by Oregon State University in May, researchers suggest that equipping early childhood educators with training in social-emotional daily practice teaching techniques and involving families in these efforts would help increase the success rate of these interventions. "We know these skills are crucial for children, but there's still a lot we don't understand concerning ways to enhance them." Said Megan McClelland, the paper's lead author and the Katherine E.Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

McClelland's research focuses more on the essential role of self-regulation skills (the emotional and social skills that help children form healthy relationships, pay attention, stay on task, follow directions and persist through difficulty).She has made outstanding progress in developing and testing social-emotional learning programs that involve games like "Red Light, Purple Light." In this game, the teacher uses circles on paper to symbolize instructions such as stop and go, which children follow.Additional rules are introduced later in the game to increase complexity.The game enhances participants' ability to listen, pay attention and remember instructions.

In the paper, McClelland and her colleagues evaluated the concept and science behind the effect of some social-emotional programs.The review indicated that the most effective interventions are more of fun for kids, low cost, easy to implement and can be incorporated into classroom lessons on literacy and math.Social-emotional learning programs provide emotional intelligence that is key to student success and a lifetime of achievements.Although a lot of research is still going on to find out the best methods of implementing such interventions, there already exists some concepts that work alright.Educators should be on the forefront when crafting new education policies because they are the ones who interact with students in the classroom the most.They are essential in providing a better understanding of what is likely to influence children the most.


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