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Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:

What does it mean to “attend” school under a stay-at-home order? As a parent, for me, it has come to mean that I must sign my students in every morning in response to an attendance email from their schools. In addition, my students must submit certain assignments by the end of the day.

But if we think of attendance not only as physical presence but also as engaged learning, then it becomes harder to assess. To attend school now in an engaged, motivated way does rest more heavily than ever on the student—and the student’s social-emotional learning skills.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) programming in schools has been proven to improve social, learning, and mindset skills in students (Durlak, et al. 2011)—but can SEL programming help students academically while they are learning from home and support their intrinsic motivation? We believe so. SEL has two broad goals:

  • SEL improves students’ skills in areas of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship management, and responsible decision-making (Elias, et al. 2008).
  • SEL fosters the ongoing development of those skills through the creation and maintenance of a safe, caring learning environment in the classroom and school.

It’s clear that these two goals are valuable on their own; students with these skills and environments are more successful in many ways. Importantly, though, development of these social-emotional skills can also create more engaged learners. The University of Chicago Consortium for School Research hypothesized that certain SEL factors efficiently contribute to key academic behaviors: attendance in class, doing homework, organizing materials, participating and studying for class, and other engagement in instructional activities (Farrington, et al. 2012). Students with stronger SEL skills, thus, are more likely to be “attending” school in an engaged manner while learning from home.

We’ll be focused on sharing SEL engagement strategies with parents and educators this week.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

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