Einstein defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. Sounds silly perhaps, but not that uncommon.
Take education, for example. What do we do when children struggle with maths? We get them to solve more math problems – over and over.
What if we could approach this from a different angle?
What if we go beyond academics to address other inhibitors of learning?
What if we addressed the social emotional learning needs of students to help them learn?
This means not just repeating exercises and learning by rote, but working on the nuances required to be a good learner and indeed a good human.
While this may sound a bit utopian, many teachers and school leaders agree there is great need for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools.
After surveying school principals in the USA, CASEL[i] co-founder Tim Shriver, former Michigan Gov. John Engler, and Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond wrote: “Interest in social emotional learning is overwhelmingly high, principals and administrators are hungry for the expertise necessary to adopt new strategies”.
They went on to state: “While the majority of leaders believe that social emotional learning is essential to education, the pathway to change is not always clear. The time and training to make the necessary changes are in short supply.”
While valuing the importance of SEL has been difficult in the past, research now proves that it has a positive impact on individuals, school environment and academic results.
In 2011, Durlack and colleagues released a report titled ‘The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning’[ii]. This report affirmed the effectiveness of school-based SEL programs and indicated that the academic performance of students improved 11 percentile.
SEL has been shown to improve classroom behaviour dramatically, saving valuable teaching time as well as reducing stress levels. For example, data shows that Holyoake’s DRUMBEAT program results in improvements in social inclusion, behavioural improvement, communication and increased respect, trust, empathy, understanding and manners displayed.
In addition, studies reveal that youth without adequate social emotional knowledge can have a detrimental impact on society.
‘The Economic Value of Social Emotional Learning’ study [iii] clearly demonstrated an approximate $11 benefit for every $1 spent on a comprehensive SEL program. It confirmed that SEL reduces the number of students dropping out of school – giving them greater opportunity in terms of higher income, better health, and lower likelihood of involvement in the criminal justice system.
This study further states: “The taxpayer also makes an investment in education by paying a considerable portion of its direct cost and gets a return through higher tax revenues and lower costs of public services for health, public assistance, and criminal justice. And, society obtains returns by using its resources in its most productive ways, at least partially reflected in economic returns.”
With all the evidence proving the positive impact of SEL programs, perhaps it is time to stop replaying old methods, and fast forward to a different approach.