Home > Uncategorized > Another Potential Positive By-Product of the Pandemic: An Appreciation for Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Another Potential Positive By-Product of the Pandemic: An Appreciation for Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

February 11, 2021

Economic Policy Institute staffers Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss posted an article on how the pandemic has increased the public’s awareness of and importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). In the article they describe “the good, the bad, and the ugly” as a framework to explain how the pandemic brought this to the forefront.

The data they presented on the BAD was stunning:

Leaving aside the irreparable personal losses many have suffered with more than 400,000 dead, reports also document spikes in child poverty, hunger, homelessness, and associated mental health problems and trauma. Just two examples follow. There were almost 14 million children living in a household characterized by child food insecurity during the week of June 19–23, 2020(This is over twice as many as during peak of the Great Recession in 2008 and 5.6 times as many as in all of 2018). Since the pandemic began in March, mental health-related emergency room visits have soared (health professionals document a 24% increase among elementary school-aged children, and a 31% rise among those between middle and high schoolers, compared with the same period last year).

Ms. Garcia and Weiss state the obvious to readers of this blog: our safety nets are not nearly equipped to handle this kind of overload! The UGLY element is that it took a devastating pandemic to bring to light what researchers have known for decades: “…social and emotional learning is integral to effective traditional academic learning”:

However, SEL, or intentional instruction to nurture these skills, has been substantially underappreciated in policy, due in part to overemphasis on the cognitive aspects and lack of understanding that the range of skills students acquire throughout their school years develop in tandem. This long-term failure to properly advance the development of the whole child also undermines the development of a healthy society and of our social capital.

And the GOOD news?

The good in all of this is that finally placing SEL prominently in our upcoming education policy agenda, and or making whole-child education the norm, will significantly boost our recovery from the pandemic and help rebuild a better education system. A comprehensive approach to SEL reflects our acknowledgment of the full range of skills that matter, the natural variation among children with respect to different traits, and the multiple factors that help nurture them (both in and out of school).And this focus on SEL offers us a lever to lift children up: some of these traits have likely improved during the pandemic, while others have deteriorated—so noting both of these realities will boost the efforts of educators working to help students make up for lost ground…

As we continue to weather the pandemic and prepare for its aftermath, we have the opportunity of making whole-child education the norm as standards, instruction, assessments, and wraparound supports are structured, which will finally mean that SEL is front and central in our education policy agenda going forward.

I hope that the “GOOD” news the authors foresee is accurate… but unless those of us who value education as more than preparing for tests lift our voices in the near future we may see the same schooling paradigm continue indefinitely into the future.

%d bloggers like this: