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The Impact of Social and Emotional Learning on Key Student Outcomes

The Impact of Social and Emotional Learning on Key Student Outcomes

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased focus in districts and schools on supporting students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) skills. As many districts work to reengage students; connect them to their school community; and roll out programs that tie into chronic absenteeism, academic performance, graduation rates, and college/career readiness, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest research and findings when it comes to SEL.

In a research brief, Panorama Education outlined the connections between SEL and what the organization identified as the ABCs of student success (attendance, behavior, and course performance). Below, we’ve highlighted the findings and provided strategies and additional resources to help you better understand the research and to better support every student in your classroom or district.

Attendance + SEL

It’s not currently known how disruptions caused by the pandemic impacted chronic absenteeism rates among students, but some early data show that chronic absence is likely to have dramatically increased, potentially doubling in size from one out of six to one out of three students. Attendance is a critical issue facing schools. It is important to provide support to students who may be facing chronic absenteeism. A study in California published in February 2021 found: “Being absent from school harms SEL skills . . .  particularly those related to social awareness, self-efficacy, and self-management . . . more so for middle school students than others. Absences are detrimental to SEL for all subgroups” (particularly vulnerable are low-income students, students with disabilities, and homeless and foster youth).

There are many factors that affect student attendance which fall outside of the students’ or the school's control, but a school culture rooted in developing the whole learner can help lift up some of these variables. School systems designed to respond to challenges and obstacles students face outside of school are ones where connection and empathy naturally live, where resources dedicated to basic needs support the ability to help lessen the stress on students. Meeting these needs can increase attendance and put students in a position where SEL practices can improve relationships and drive engagement.

Panorama Education found: "Highly engaged students are 57 percent less likely to be chronically absent in school than students who report low engagement.” 

How can your school or district increase engagement, self-management, and self-efficacy? Check out the following resources below.

How Chronic Absenteeism Affects Student Achievement

11 Quick Tips to Address Chronic Absence

Behavior + SEL

When students grow their SEL skills, many educators see improved classroom behavior. Researchers at Panorama Education wanted to dive deeper and figure out what specific SEL topics educators can focus on to help promote positive behavior in their classrooms. Panorama Education identified that student behavior is most correlated with self-management, social awareness, and teacher-student relationships.

To promote positive behavior in the classroom, here are a few resources for you to implement and consider:

5 Strategies to Help Boost Your Students’ Self-Esteem and Confidence in the Classroom

Executive Function: What Is It, Why Does It Matter, and How Can You Support Building This Skill?

Cool to Be Kind: Teaching Kindness in the Classroom by Celebrating the Small Things

Coursework + SEL

Students with high SEL skills tend to perform well when it comes to their coursework and studies. A 2017 meta-analysis found that students participating in SEL programs performed 13 percentile points higher than their non-SEL peers when it comes to academics. Schools that focus on integrating SEL can create environments where students can feel connected, and connection natters when it comes to learning.

A recent publication by the Search Institute reported that “middle school students who reported high levels of developmental relationships with teachers [important adult connections] were eight times more likely to stick with challenging tasks, enjoy working hard, and know it is OK to make mistakes when learning when compared to students with low levels of student-teacher relationships.” They were also more likely to have higher grade point averages (GPAs).

 SEL is essential when it comes the key student outcomes of attendance and learning. When looking at the correlation between coursework and SEL, Panorama Education studied academic performance as indicated by student GPA. Panorama’s research shows that student GPA is most correlated with self-management, self-efficacy, and engagement.

We have complied a few resources to help you increase your students’ self-management, self-efficacy, and engagement.

10 Classroom and School Tips to Improve Test Scores

How to Help Your Students Find and Maintain Enthusiasm All Year Long

How Teachers Can Help Students Cope with Test Anxiety

By examining the most current research on the connection between SEL and student success, educators can make informed decisions to best support all of their students.

Interested in more SEL-related ideas to build stronger connections with students? Check out this blog post, Help All Students Be Seen: Five Tips for Stronger Connections

This blog was originally published in January 2019 by Brita Hammer and has been updated.

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Jen Perry

Jen Perry currently serves as the Director, Whole Learning and SEL at Edmentum. Jen joined Edmentum as the Learning Designer for Social-Emotional Learning after 30+ years of work with youth in educational and community settings. As a teacher, administrator, and trainer, her passion has been to help educators develop an understanding of the importance of social and emotional learning and build trauma-informed responses and systems. This work has included supporting youth, administrators, and schools in understanding behavior and implementing transformational change through strength-based approaches.