I recently had the opportunity to speak about social and emotional learning at Pearson’s 2016 Conference on Teaching. The conference focused on individualized learning, and there were outstanding presentations from fellow SEL advocate and 2012 Utah Teacher of the Year Leigh VandenAkker, President and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the CEO for the Center for Teaching Quality, and a number of additional well-spoken leaders in education. John Hattie, author of Visible Learning, gave the introductory remarks via video.


My talk reviewed research findings in relational and performance character studies, then shifted to share my experiences as an SEL practitioner. In additional to describing our approach to direct social and emotional instruction at Open World Learning Community, I described classroom practices that promote social and emotional skills.  Here’s a quick summary of techniques teachers can use to facilitate social and emotional learning alongside content learning:

  • Explicit instruction. When teachers are clear in communicating precisely what students must do to succeed in their classes, they illuminate the hidden curriculum and provide opportunities for students to practice perseverance.
  • Classroom climate. When teachers use inclusive language and act with warmth and support towards students, they build relational trust. Guided cooperative learning exercises help develop positive peer relationships among students. Student-centered approaches to resolving conflict and managing discipline issues help students own classroom culture.
  • Meaningful discourse. Structured classroom discussions around rich and relevant topics scaffold perspective-taking and relational skills.
  • Passion projects. Giving students responsibility and the power of choice creates individualized learning pathways that maximize student interest.
  • Growth mindset grading. Providing individualized feedback for revision and improvement supports students in rising to meet academic press. When teachers grade according to mastery — and provide the coaching students need to achieve mastery — they set the stage for incredible growth in performance character.
Presenting at Pearson’s 2016 Conference on Teaching

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