How Do You Factor Social-Emotional Wellbeing Into Your Personalized...

Opinion | Personalized Learning

How Do You Factor Social-Emotional Wellbeing Into Your Personalized Learning Plans?

By Sam Peterson     Sep 17, 2018

How Do You Factor Social-Emotional Wellbeing Into Your Personalized Learning Plans?

As we’ve already mentioned, personalized learning should not and cannot be purely centered on technology. At Fusion 2018, we want to bridge the gap between theory and practice. This means not simply examining technology’s role in education, but exploring what learning sciences, community development and social-emotional research can teach us about the holistic picture of personalized learning.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a particularly challenging aspect of any educational plan, as it deals with the kind of character traits that are most difficult to monitor and measure in students—social awareness, self-efficacy, stress management, decision making, interpersonal behavior, and relationship building. It is for this very reason that SEL hasn’t traditionally played a prominent role in curriculum design. And its near-absence in the school models of yesterday underscores its importance in the effective implementation of personalized learning plans in tomorrow’s schools.

Of course, it’s one thing to recognize the value and necessity of SEL, and another thing entirely to integrate these non-academic skills seamlessly into the curriculum, rather than treat them as a standalone consideration. Over the past year, we’ve collected dozens of stories from educators and school leaders around the country working to implement personalized learning that truly emphasizes social-emotional wellbeing. So, how are school and district leaders in this brave new world building SEL into their plans?

Changing the learning environment and the behavioral climate:

Rethinking curriculum often involves redesigning the actual space where learning takes place. In their efforts to best serve students who’ve experienced trauma in their early years, some schools are literally knocking down walls. But as Jon Hanover, founder and executive director of Roots Elementary School, discovered, the physical learning environment is only one small part of the equation. In an effort “to provide every learner with the right content, at the right time, in the right way—regardless of grade level or arbitrary assignment to a classroom,” Hanover explains, “we knew we needed an innovative approach to both academic instruction and social emotional development if we were to truly break the cycle of poverty and expand opportunity for all of our children.”

Changes to the physical space must also bring about a shift in the overall school climate if school leaders hope to cultivate positive relationships centered on student wellbeing. The Innovation Design and Entrepreneurship Academy (IDEA) serves 39 different Dallas neighborhoods, which implies a wide range of social-emotional experiences across its student body. With a focus on restorative practices in regard to discipline, the school works “to prevent wrongdoing from occurring, primarily by building positive relationships between actors in a space.” The personalized academic and classroom management practices involved in this approach are no small feat, especially for teachers coming from traditional backgrounds, but in order to really know their students and determine which approaches will work best for each, this staff is committed to the hard work set out for them.

When social-emotional learning really hits home:

Engaging a student population that faces economic struggles, cultural and linguistic barriers, community violence, natural disasters, or any other kind of trauma-inducing experience puts social-emotional well-being front and center in the learning process. Building community to overcome hardship is a key factor in nurturing emotional health. Whether confronting lack of internet access at home, working to identify and support students without a stable home situation, helping refugee and immigrant students find success in an adopted homeland or rallying hometown support in the aftermath of a disaster, educators around the country are finding ways to channel misfortune into new opportunities to personalize their students’ learning experiences in a meaningful, productive and emotionally healthy way.

How are you factoring social-emotional wellbeing into the personalized learning plan for your school or district?

Meeting the needs of the whole learner requires a close examination of the full spectrum of human emotion and a balanced curriculum that effectively integrates both academic and non-academic skills. At Fusion 2018, we’ll be examining personalized learning with a particular focus on social-emotional research. Join us at the EdSurge Fusion conference, October 2-4, 2018, to hear from an all-star cast of education thought leaders and engage directly in a series of spotlight talks, workshops, and collaborative lunches aimed at improving the social-emotional wellbeing of the whole learner.

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