In a recent study, researchers found students who were involved in social and emotional learning (SEL) programs improved their grades and scored higher on standardized tests by 11 percentile points in comparison to students who were not involved in SEL programs. The difference is the equivalent of a student moving from the middle of the class to the top 40 percent of the class, which is a leap many education reformers would be satisfied to see spread throughout the school system. Students who do not possess social and emotional skills create a less effective learning environment by being disruptive, anxious, and uncooperative, causing teachers to lose as much as 30 percent of their time that should be dedicated to teaching instead of trying to keep students on task.
Students who were involved in a SEL program also improved in nonacademic areas, including:
- Greater social skills
- Less emotional stress and better attitudes
- Fewer conduct problems such as bullying and suspensions
- More-frequent positive behaviors.
Researchers also found the implementation of these soft skills helped them advance academically by teaching them:
- Self-awareness and management skills,
- how to get along with others,
- and decision making skills.
The study also had some unexpected results as well. Contrary to their expectations and prior research, one study found that in-class, teacher led programs were significantly more effective in teaching students soft skills than multi-faceted programs that took place school-wide and required parent involvement. This study found simple teacher led programs are more successful because school-wide programs have much more components and are therefore harder to follow.
In a fifth graders district-wide in Colorado Springs using our books, SUCCESS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL and PEOPLE SMARTS for teenagers, principals not only had lower referrals to their offices, better attendance and more class participation, for four years running they’ve also had spikes in their state test scores—something they didn’t anticipate. When students can harness their minds, focus their attention, understand how to manage their own personal distractions they actually have more time to focus on learning. Imagine that!