Understanding the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Gap in U.S. High Schools: Do Teacher Mindset and Prior SEL Exposure Predict Receptiveness to SEL Adoption in Secondary Schools?
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CitationBatchelor, Danielle. 2021. Understanding the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Gap in U.S. High Schools: Do Teacher Mindset and Prior SEL Exposure Predict Receptiveness to SEL Adoption in Secondary Schools?. Master's thesis, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education.
AbstractDecades of research have indicated that social and emotional learning (SEL) programs in schools broaden students’ psychological resources and improve their outcomes–from better grades to fewer mental health struggles. Importantly, the focus of this work has largely not been high schools, as the majority of experimental research has centered on earlier grades. Despite this, there is an abundance of data in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and education that emphasize the importance of SEL competencies during adolescence. Social and emotional skills (e.g., self-regulation) are related to a smoother transition to adulthood, with associated long term positive outcomes that include academic achievement, college matriculation, and higher future earnings. Therefore, the conspicuous absence of high school SEL is notable, and it is unclear why a focus on SEL seems to have bypassed schools serving older teens. One step toward addressing this question is to understand the factors that predict teacher support for SEL, as teacher views are known to heavily influence the beliefs and outcomes of their students. This paper explored what high school teachers think about the benefits of explicit SEL curricula at the high school level, by investigating the relationships between teacher mindsets and SEL exposure (school programs and teacher training) and their attitudes about SEL adoption in high schools, using an anonymous online survey. Teacher mindset was found to be the only statistically significant predictor of SEL receptiveness in this study. Also of note was the overwhelming endorsement of high school SEL expressed by participants, regardless of background or contextual factors (e.g., type of school, years spent teaching). Based on these findings, it is clear teachers want to see universal, contextually relevant SEL integrated into U.S. high school curricula, and they are open to—even enthusiastic about—professional development in support of it. Understanding how high school teachers view SEL and what they need in order to confidently deliver it (e.g., growth mindset training, personal SEL cultivation, training on how to embed SEL into academics) is an important precursor to asking school systems and classroom teachers to dedicate valuable teaching time to it. This inquiry explored teacher opinions on reported challenges to SEL adoption (e.g., parent buy-in, structure of the high school day) as well. Expected and unexpected findings are reported and directions for future study are discussed.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367683
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