Research shows teachers are doing a great job with teaching the curriculum but are we ticking all the boxes when it comes to students’ social and emotional learning journeys?
Kiwi parents are concerned that their children aren’t learning resilience or the ability to cope with stress or negative situations, raising the question of whether children’s social and emotional learning needs are being met.
This was one of the key findings of last year’s ASG Parents Report Card survey. The ASG study – run in collaboration with Monash University – surveyed 800 New Zealand parents on a range of things from financial pressures, to perceptions of the quality of their child’s education, to technology use, to their thoughts on their child’s social and emotional development.
While the survey found that 89 per cent of parents were happy with the quality of teaching, there were clear concerns raised about children’s resilience and coping abilities.
The survey found that more than half of parents (54 per cent) feel that their child is not taught how to manage stress at school very well. Six out of 10 (62 per cent) parents believe that their child is easily upset by negative experiences, while almost one third expressed concerns at their child’s ability to handle personal problems.
ASG chief executive John Velegrinis is an advocate for a holistic approach to schooling, one that looks beyond a child’s academic achievement and encompasses all facets of learning.
“The social and emotional learning journey is arguably just as important, if not more important, than the academic journey. It is about finding the right balance between the two,” he says.
Associate Professor Sivanes Phillipson of Monash University’s Faculty of Education says the survey findings reinforce the need for a holistic education.
“Students need to be able to apply life skills and critical thinking to any setting. They need to constantly ask the question: “Why am I learning…?”
The United States-based Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) suggests there are five core competencies that young people need: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness and relationship skills. These reflect the key competencies outlined in The New Zealand Curriculum, which provides an avenue for building these competencies across a range of learning areas.
However, Velegrinis says teaching is still considerably focused on retention and is hindering agility and the ability to apply learning.
“The current generation of students is forcing a solution to be found. Policymakers typically move very slowly, but they don’t have that luxury when students are demanding a new way of learning.”
Velegrinis believes policymakers also need to take into account the perspectives of parents and whānau.
“Parents are the singularly most important stakeholder in education,” he says. “I liken it to a three-legged stool, the legs being the educators, policymakers and parents – at the moment the stool is wobbly and unbalanced because it is missing that parent leg. We are flummoxed that parents’ voices are currently not heard.”
Phillipson says the survey findings reflect a need for closer links between home and school.
“The survey shows that parents do recognise the value teachers add. But the loop between home and school needs to be closed. Schools should be listening to what parents have to say,” she says.
“What children experience on the homefront might differ vastly from what they experience at school, so the gap needs to be bridged to allow that social and emotional or holistic learning journey to be consistent,” adds Velegrinis.
There are various initiatives and programmes that are aimed at addressing this. The Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) programme is focused on building social and emotional competencies. The Wellbeing@School toolkit, the Mindfulness in Schools initiative and the international You Can Do It programme are also examples of efforts to weave social and emotional learning into students’ learning.
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