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A new report from the United Kingdom explores the research and debate among educators, parents and academics about teaching social and emotional intelligence in schools.

Zoe Dunn undertook a research trip to schools across USA, UK and Sweden to see how schools in each country taught students social and emotional intelligence. She explored what tools and techniques are used and how the approach to teaching social and emotional learning (SEL) differed between countries? Schools visited were in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Alaska and Stockholm.

Dr Dunn was led to explore what is best practice in these schools and to consider what is valuable in education following her experiences as a head teacher at a free school in London. “Children, for various reasons, including different familial structures, multiple cultural influences, and socio-economic factors, are arriving at school with far more complex and wide ranging social and emotional needs than ever before. Teachers are responding to these needs in order to help pupils attain academically and to become successful members of society. Education has therefore become more holistic from necessity,” Dunn reported.

Questions asked included what role does moral education play and how is the focus different in each country?  The value of skills-based versus knowledge based curriculum is considered and the role of the schools in teaching moral education is discussed, especially in relation to the media stereotyping of young people following events such as the UK riots.

Dunn concludes “when SEL is valued and respected, given the appropriate time, resources and leadership, it can have a huge impact when embedded into a school community.”

Dunn’s research was driven by a recognition that: “Emotions are at the epicentre of all we do either from an egotistical or philanthropic standpoint. They ‘facilitate or impede children’s academic engagement, work ethic, commitment, and ultimate school success.’ At the heart of a child’s life is emotion; through relationships with others (families, peers, teachers) and in the context of how they fit into the world around them. It is therefore important that schools and families address emotional processes and how these affect children’s learning.”

Zoe Dunn is the head of Rimon Jewish Free Primary School in London. Dr Dunn’s full report Investigating Happiness Lessons: The Impact of Social and Emotional Learning in American and Swedish Schools can be downloaded from the WCMT website.

What can Sweden and America teach us about social and emotional learning? – Guardian, 30 July 2013

Published on August 5th, 2013 by Michelle Meares in Learning Choices