To whom it may concern,
I am writing this letter to address my concern with your choice to discount the integrations of the State’s Social Emotional Learning Standards (SEL’s) in school curriculum and overall instruction. As educators, I feel that our foremost goal should be the essential necessities and growth of students as individuals in our school. SEL’s are important to me as educator because my philosophy of teaching is that the school system as a community should provide a safe, explorative, and dynamic setting where students can grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally to become lifelong learners and change agents in their society.
It can be argued that although test scores are important, for student learning to occur the emotional and social needs of a student must be adequately met. There is a wealth of research that shows that there is a relationship between social and emotional learning needs and test scores. This is due to the research that show that the affective and cognitive domain are associated and “inseparable” (Hall, 2011). The affective domain that Hall discusses in her research include the fallowing variables: student’s attitudes, interests or values. Additionally, Popham states, “The reason such affective variables are important to is is those variables typically influence students’ future behavior” (2008). This future behavior can go on to effect the cognitive domain and this may effect overall student learning. In the Article, teaching with the Brain in Mind, it is mentioned that, “Making daily decision based on emotions is not an exception, it is a rule because emotions generate goals and drive their execution in life” (Jensen, 2005). Therefore, realizing a student emotional learning needs is important for a teacher because it will effect their learning in the classroom, which can then effect their scores on standardized test that are given to them.
Furthermore, incorporating SEL standards and affective assessment also improves Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI has 5 domains the include, self-awareness, managing emotions, self-motivation, empathy, and social skills. I feel that all the domains of emotional intelligence are key for learning to happen and can effect student performance overall. Researchers, such as Daniel Goleman, deem that EI is more important than IQ and is the key to success in the 21st century because, “emotional intelligence derives communication between your emotional brain and you rational one.” (Gregory, 2015). This is important because for students who do not excel in the cognitive domain can still be successful in life and still have a chance if they excel in the affective (emotional intelligence) domain.
Moreover, Popham goes on to say, “If we promote positive attitudes towards learning, students will want to pursue leaning in the future” (2008). A part of my philosophy as an educator is to motivate student to intrinsically want to learn and become life long learners and putting importance on students social and emotional needs will help bring this goal into reality. In another research article, it has been stated that, “the social contextual conditions that support one’s feelings of competence, autonomy, relatedness is the basis for one maintaining intrinsic motivation, and having more self determined learning requires a classroom conditions that allow the satisfactions of these three basic needs: the innate need to feel connects, effective, agentic as one is exposed to new ideas.” (Ryan, 2000). If we focus on cognitive assessment, this fosters extrinsic motivation but if we also focus on affective assessments we can foster intrinsic motivation in our students. This intrinsic motivation will help students become self determined to learn, which will effect their scores and progress in our classrooms. Another researcher, states that Ryan’s research is important because it connects to Maslow’s Hierarchy since learning is an act that is complex combinations of emotion and cognition (Tomlinson, 2015). If students have what they need to learn, the will learn. The conditions Ryan discusses in his research can be created in our school environment by incorporating SEL standards in our curriculum.
Now that you have some evidence to support why I think SEL standards should be integrated into our classrooms, I want to show you how it can be implemented by giving you an example activity. One activity that can include SEL is the lesson plan for students creating their own self directed parent teacher conference agenda. Instead of simply having students come to conferences, it would beneficial for them to be part of it by making a portfolio that they can share with their parents during the meeting. I would first have students pick out an assignment they have completed previously to be an artifact in their conference portfolio. Then I would have students complete a conference reflection sheet to be a part of their portfolio. On the reflection sheet the students have to reflect on: some of the big ideas they have leaned, state the artifact they have chosen, state what the artifact shows about them as a student (self-directed learner, collaborative worker, complex thinker, quality produces, or community contributor), why they choose the artifact, reflect on what they need to work on to become a better science student, and at least one goal they have for next semester. I would then have then have students share their conference portfolios with their classmates and discuss with them their reflections with critique. Then the students will present and administer their self directed portfolio to their parents as a part of the conference agenda. The students will be evaluated on their ability to as an individual and as a team to recognize their strength and weaknesses and come up with a plan of action.
I hope this letter has brought some light to the table on why we should use SEL’s and I hope you would reconsider integrating them in school. Overall, I believe that implementation will increate students attitudes and ultimately lead to increase student test scores, and student learning in the long run.
Gregory, G., & Kaufeldt, M. (2015). The motivated brain: Improving student attention, engagement, and perseverance. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD).
Hall, R. (2011). Affective Assessment: The missing Piece of the Educational Reform Puzzle. Delta Kappa Gamma, 77(2), 7-9.
Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: ASCD.
Popham,W.(2008). Classroom assessment: What teachers need to know (5th ed). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25.
Tomlinson, Carol An. (2015) Intersections: Emotional Health and Learning. Alexandria, VA, USA: ASCD.