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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. 

BASE Curriculum Can Help

The BASE Education curriculum can be used to achieve a deeper understanding of how your students are feeling. BASE’s course structure helps to elevate the student voice by making it easy to collect thoughts and feelings through digital reflective journals. Its real-time reporting features support educators with the knowledge that can help build stronger relationships, including a better understanding of how your students feel and how good their levels of resilience are. Schools are then able to provide valuable interventions that help them inside and outside the classroom. One value of BASE is that it exposes students to essential SEL topics and serves as a platform for building connected relationships. 

Critically education is about relationships. Strong developmental relationships lead to higher GPA and school engagement. Lee Mayer in Make it Stick advocates for us to ‘make time each day to connect with every child. We are all pressed for time, but that connection can make a lifelong impact. Remember their hobbies, activities, and siblings. Ask them about themselves, show genuine interest in them’. If we understand our students’ lens, their mindset, and their way of thinking, we start seeing the whole learner and can help them feel safe, engaged, included, and personalize our instruction much more effectively. 

Connections also help provide a sounding block for negative self-talk. Sir John Jones in the Magic Weaving Business recognizes that ‘each of us has developed our own internal script. We are the sum total of our experience. Our script, or voice in our head, determines how we see ourselves and what we believe about ourselves, and, consequently, how we behave. If the self-talk is negative and the self-image low, then our behavior, our performance will deteriorate’. Educators who connect with students can help identify negative patterns of self-talk, and courses like All or Nothing Thinking in the BASE curriculum can help students build skills around changing their narratives.   

How can we help our learners improve? How can we help them rewrite their scripts? How can we get a better understanding of what is in their hearts and minds? How can we provide them with coping strategies to deal with the struggles they may face or, even better, provide them with these strategies in advance to prevent their struggles? We can do this with an explicit focus on connection and a curriculum that creates a safe and reflective platform for skill-building that helps lead to greater personal and academic success.  

We have proudly partnered with BASE Education to offer an in-depth social-emotional learning curriculum surrounding mental health and wellness principles, that are underpinned by clinical research. BASE Education is officially recognized for being well designed and evidence-based by CASEL, the leading organization behind SEL research. 

At Edmentum, we believe in the promise and potential of supporting and encouraging the whole learner. This powerful tool enables students to regulate their emotions and behaviors, develop relationship skills and social awareness, and practice critical decision-making to plan for their futures. 


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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