I recently enjoyed watching this 20-minute video on the neuroscience of SEL. In the video, Dr. Richardson Davidson discusses the plasticity of social and emotional skills. Plasticity (in neuroscience) describes the brain’s ability to adapt and change throughout life. Decades ago, scientists believed that brain cells were uniquely unchanging. Now, we know that how we use our brains continues to shape them, even as we age.
I’m always a bit star-struck about Paul Tough; I met him when he presented at the Minnesota conference in 2013. He’s contributed significant evidence showing how teachers who use social and emotional teaching tools provide opportunities for students to succeed in academics, college, and careers. In Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, there’s a description of a developmental window that opens up for perseverance development in adolescence. Tough’s realization emerged from field studies in schools. It’s the practical revelation that mirror’s Davidson’s clinical discoveries. Together, these ideas demonstrate that SEL competencies, like perseverance, can be learned and taught, not just in early childhood, but in high school and throughout life. People’s levels of stick-to-itiveness aren’t stuck — they can grow and shrink, depending on how people spend their time.
To access more of the growing body of SEL research, check out the research library at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.