Research from UT Austin finds that school social and emotional learning (SEL) programs must go beyond improving individual students’ skills to create a respectful climate and allow teens more autonomy in decision making.
In an analysis published in Future of Children, UT Austin psychology assistant professor David Yeager identified and evaluated three types of SEL programs: the skills model, focused on changes made to the individual; the climate model, geared toward improving the emotional environment; and the mindsets model, which addresses the interplay between environments and the beliefs that develop and shape behavior over time.
“Effective programs are not based on the skills model,” says Yeager. “Instead, they find ways to motivate young people in terms of the values that matter most to them and find ways to make environments more respectful.”
Yeager found that skill-based SEL programs taught in elementary classrooms cannot be simply “revamped” for teen audiences; rather, approaches that tap into teens’ values and influence the overall climate are most effective.
Students and teachers at Webb Middle School practice mindfulness techniques as part of the school’s SEL program. Photo courtesy of AISD.