behavior · children · education · mental health

Reading, Writing, Empathy: The Rise of ‘Social Emotional Learning’ | GOOD

Creative Curriculum: CDCs provide tools to con...
Learning how to empathize improves the entire learning process. Image by familymwr via Flickr

How does empathy and social learning improve the learning experience at schools? A lot, apparently! And some research is finding that actively teaching empathy and social understanding can be taught in a public school setting, with great benefits for the entire learning process:

At a time of contentious debate over how to reform schools to make teachers more effective and students more successful, “social emotional learning” may be a key part of the solution. An outgrowth of the emotional intelligence framework, popularized by Daniel Goleman, SEL teaches children how to identify and manage emotions and interactions. One of the central considerations of an evolved EQ—as proponents call an “emotional quotient”—is promoting empathy, a critical and often neglected quality in our increasingly interconnected, multicultural world.

Brackett quickly learned that developing empathy in kids requires working on their teachers first. Ten years ago, he and his colleagues introduced a curriculum about emotions in schools, asking teachers to implement it in their own classrooms. When he observed the lessons, he was struck by the discomfort many of the instructors showed in talking about emotion. “There was one teacher who took the list of feelings we had provided and crossed out all of what she perceived of as ‘negative’ emotions before asking the students to identify what they were feeling,” Brackett says. “We realized that if the teachers didn’t get it, the kids never would.”

So in 2005, Brackett and his team at the Health, Emotion, and Behavior Lab at Yale developed a training program—now called RULER—that instructs teachers in the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for emotional health, then helps them shift the focus to children. The program focuses on five key skills: recognizing emotions in oneself and others, understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, labeling the full range of emotions, expressing emotions appropriately in different contexts, and regulating emotions effectively to foster relationships and achieve goals. Classrooms adopt “emotional literacy charters”—agreements that the whole community agrees to concerning interpersonal interactions—and kids use “mood meters” to identify the nature and intensity of their feelings and “blueprints” to chart out past experiences they might learn from.

Read more at Reading, Writing, Empathy: The Rise of ‘Social Emotional Learning’ at GOOD Magazine.

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