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The growing importance of Social Emotional Learning and the whole learner

Wellbeing and social-emotional learning (SEL) are critically important, and brain science is elevating our understanding that emotions, attitudes, and motivation are the ‘gate keepers’ of learning. So how do we use this knowledge to change the culture of our schools? This quote from a Franklin Covey Company promotional video, The Hidden Story, has really impacted me.   

‘If you could see into the hearts of others, feel what they feel, understand their struggles, hopes, fears, and joys…how would you treat them? How would your day be different? Just another day?’ 

Please do spend the time reviewing this short 2-minute video. I promise it will be worth it. I am very grateful to Thomas Murray and his brilliant book Personal and Authentic for introducing me to it.  

In the book, Murray states, ‘A child’s story defines the context in which his or her learning occurs’ (p48, Personal and Authentic – Thomas Murray). I wonder what individual student stories are in our schools? Stories can be difficult to see, our students (like the adults in the video) often wear masks that, intentionally or unintentionally, hide their truths from us. We are tasked with listening deeply because our students’ inner voice affects their emotions, attitudes, and behaviors on a daily basis.  

Schools are beginning to recognize the need to address wellness explicitly. Wellbeing and SEL are being prioritized, and many models emphasize their importance but need a curriculum to support them. Two examples are the OECD Learning Compass and the Deep Learning Framework. The OECD suggests that the idea of what it means to be successful in society has changed over the years to surround much more than purely economic and material success. Mental well-being is a widespread, shared goal across much of the world, and the focus on this will only continue to grow as time goes on. We are seeing a shift that is primarily focusing on children’s academic achievement is not enough. In order to help students reach their full potential, we must support them in strengthening their capabilities from a social and emotional standpoint. While SEL alone will not resolve all the current needs within our education system, it will play an integral role in helping prepare children to adapt and grow during these unusual times. 

Paul Montague, our International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager, has worked in the education field for 20 years and has significant teaching and learning, digital curriculum, content, assessment, and social-emotional learning and wellbeing experience. His roles have included: Geography Teacher, School Improvement Manager, Advisor, Project Examiner, Government Advisor, Curriculum Development Manager (Pearson), International Consultant for The Middle East (GL Education), and Digital Curriculum and Learning Manager for Edmentum. In his current role with Edmentum, he partners with and supports schools worldwide as they introduce a range of Edmentum’s flexible digital curriculum and learning solutions. 

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