"Middle and High School Students Need Social Emotional Learning, Too. Are They Getting It?" by Arianna Prothero
Education Week, October 12, 2021
The Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum of many schools targets elementary school age students, and while some activities in these programs may still engage middle school students, these kinds of lessons don't always feel relevant or engaging to teenagers or older adolescents. Arianna Prothero explores this quandary, while presenting new data from the EdWeek Research Center. At the beginning of the school year, a nationally representative sample of middle and high school students reflected on "whether or not they felt they were being taught important SEL skills and given the support needed to build relationships and understand their identities." The results of the survey were mixed, but a key finding was that teachers tended to have a higher estimation that adults were supporting students in finding their identity than students did, with 40% of teachers completely agreeing that this work was supported, and 23% of students agreeing this was the case. Many students indicated that they needed more guidance in this area, as well as around developing positive relationships, sexual identity, and/or sex education. This work is incredibly significant, as it reminds us that having SEL lessons or adopting a specific approach does not always equal success – to be truly attuned to the needs of our students, we should be regularly receiving their feedback and including their thoughts in the planning process. It is essential that schools thoughtfully consider how to create SEL programs for the developmental age of their students, especially teenagers, who need more guidance in making decisions and growing into their identities.