Social and Emotional Learning – A Critical Component for Academic Success

Before the pandemic, anxiety, depression, and behavior disorders were on the rise. As we return to the classroom, the need for supporting the social and emotional skills of students becomes even more important. A year or more of remote learning has left many students struggling with the social skills needed to participate fully in a learning community. Isolation has led to increased depression. There are so many things for students, especially those who were vulnerable before the pandemic, to be anxious about.

In recent years, the educational community has become more involved and focused on caring for and teaching the “whole child” as opposed to strictly focusing only on academic success. If students are to move forward successfully, it is critical for SEL to be at the forefront. Nowhere is the phrase “it takes a village” more appropriate than in the education community. In addition to the standard educational supports, schools have been giving larger roles to campus counselors, and they’ve added licensed therapists, social workers, and other mental health professionals to provide essential support. The overall goal is to help students learn the “non-academic” skills needed to bolster academic growth and success.

Key Components of Social and Emotional Learning (as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making

Ripple Effects – Customized, web-based program to support SEL 

Ripple Effects is a personalized suite of programs that addresses risk factors, mental health, trauma, inequity, behavior issues, SEL skill deficits, and everyday challenges. It is the only digital SEL and mental health support shown to improve depression scores and resilience. Ripple Effects programs address the needs of students ranging from early learners (PK -1) to secondary. There is also a program, Educator Ally, that provides professional development and tools for teachers and support staff.

The programs address the key CASEL components but go beyond to address other key transformative elements as well.

  • Self-efficacy/empowerment – not control and compliance as both a means and an end
  • Learner-directed experience as a path to self-efficacy. Instructors are critically trusted partners and facilitators of learning, but not primarily the mediators of content
  • A lens of equity that informs content, process, and distribution of SEL resources in ways that reflect, support, and help bind together a broad and diverse community
  • A personalized universal approach that gives every student the SEL training and supports they need, not through one-size-fits-all instruction, but through a shoe-fit match that provides meaningful content and differentiated instruction.
  • Explicit inclusion of trauma – psychological, physical, interpersonal, social, systemic – as a force that directly impacts learner’s ability to thrive (both adults and children)
  • Well-designed technology to support a personalized, holistic approach to SEL.

Ripple Effects is listed by the following national organizations as effective support for vulnerable students and those impressed by personal adversity and structural injustice

  • NIH/SAMHSA National Registry (NREPP) lists it as a comprehensive children’s mental health intervention for all three levels of intervention
  • National Dropout Prevention Center model program for all three tiers of intervention
  • Several states approve Ripple Effects as an evidence-based intervention
  • Recognized with National Awards of Excellence from Education, Technology, Health, and Communications Industries.

Formal studies show a positive impact on empathy, assertiveness, problem-solving, learner engagement, GPA, summer school referrals, problem behavior, disproportionate referrals, ISS, and suspensions.

In a world filled with unknowns and change, schools offer the opportunity for stability. They also can be crucial for the social and emotional growth that supports lifelong learning and success.

Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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