Breakout session recap from the 2016 National Forum on K-12 Philanthropy.
On the morning of September 14 at the 2016 K-12 National Forum, one of four breakout sessions dug into what defines social-emotional learning (SEL), the benefits of integrating non-cognitive skills into the classroom, and how donors can both tangibly see social-emotional learning in action and gauge its success.
Before delving into the definition of SEL, session moderator Katie Jaxheimer Agarwal of the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, asked the audience for questions that the panelists could respond to during their remarks.
Right out of the gate, donor attendees asked pointed questions to include:
- What are some tangible examples of SEL in the field?
- How do SEL best practices differ by age group?
- Can the panel share recommendations for how to influence policy and measure success?
But first thing’s first. What is social-emotional learning?
“Social-emotional learning means that every kid is known, seen, and valued. It is shifting the focus of a generation of human doing to human being,” said Dr. Nicole Assisi, founder and CEO of the Thrive charter network in San Diego, California.
Panelists agreed on the importance of instilling social-emotional well-being in educators, which transfers to students in the classroom.
Following Assisi, was Heather Hough, executive director of the CORE-PACE research partnership that is currently working on measuring the level of SEL development within student populations, described SEL as the development of both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills within kids.
“I don’t know about y’all, but I never talked to my husband about his SAT scores or his grades,” said Michelle Kinder, executive director of the Momentous Institute in Dallas, conveying that communication and social skills are just as important as academic competency.
Kinder then listed off research demonstrating the positive effects of socially and emotionally well-developed students and positive outcomes in life such as higher earnings and less drug addiction. Parents are also an, “underutilized asset” in education, and parental engagement is critical to student success.
Assisi and Hough both emphasized philanthropic investment in areas such as teacher-training programs so educators are well-versed in SEL, as well as the development of measurement rubrics to better understand whether SEL practices are meeting expectations.
Kinder stressed that partnerships and grantees should be able to be fearless about taking risks entering this tough work, and not being fearful of showing results that may not be as shiny/successful as planned. Funders shouldn’t look at SEL as a separate funding category, but rather look for SEL interwoven into the work of the grantee.