Good teaching transforms the future

Lauren Williams's picture
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In the rapidly changing world of the 21st Century, children need highly effective teachers to help them master both academics and social-emotional skills in a meaningful, integrated way. Only with such teachers will children be ready to meet the new century’s unprecedented economic, political, social, and technological challenges. According to “The Responsive Classroom Approach: Good Teaching Changes the Future, a white paper recently released by Northeast Foundation for Children, Responsive Classroom provides the specific skills teachers need to do this kind of first-rate teaching. The approach gives teachers concrete, practical strategies they can use from their first day of teaching and hone throughout their careers. Those strategies, the white paper asserts, ensure high-quality academic and social-emotional learning no matter the classroom or community, curriculum or standards.

“There is a national sense of urgency to ensure that all children excel in school, no matter where they live or their family background,” says Lora Hodges, NEFC’s executive director. “What’s it going to take for children to reach that excellence? It’s going to take world-class academic teaching combined with world-class social-emotional teaching—A+SEL. Teachers have to build students’ academic muscle and their grit, resilience, and courageous spirits for the extraordinary times ahead. That’s the powerful combination that Responsive Classroom delivers.”

Hodges’ perspective is echoed in a new national survey conducted by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), which found that U.S. educators believe teaching social and emotional learning leads to positive outcomes for children. As cited in CASEL’s report on the survey, more than75% of preschool through grade twelve teachers believe that more focus on social and emotional learning would be of “major benefit” by positively impacting academic success, school attendance and graduation, workforce readiness, college preparation, and life success.

CASEL, in its survey report and its 2013 Guide to Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs, cites the effectiveness of the Responsive Classroom® approach in successfully integrating academics with SEL. Since 1981, 120,000 teachers have been trained in the approach, learning concrete, practical strategies that increase their competence in three crucial and interrelated domains: engaging academics, effective management, and positive community.

“Teachers come into the profession because they feel a moral charge. They want to be good teachers. They want to guide and shape children to become ethical, smart, contributing members of society,” says Hodges. “In this 21st Century, that means they need to create classrooms in which children are actively engaged in their learning, participating in lively dialogues, and developing higher-order thinking.” By focusing on the three domains of engaging academics, effective management, and positive community, Hodges notes, the Responsive Classroom approach gives teachers the skills to do that kind of 21st century teaching. “It allows teachers to see the promise of a bright future realized in every student.”

Research supports the efficacy of the Responsive Classroom approach.  A recent major study and earlier studies associate teachers’ use of the practices with students’ higher math and reading achievement and better social skills—results that held across social-economic groups.

As knowledge of the importance of SEL plus academics continues to spread to more and more educators, Hodges says Northeast Foundation for Children will continue supporting teachers as they work to grow their classroom effectiveness. “If we want every child, every day, to learn the skills necessary to face the challenges of the 21st century, then let’s focus on the most important ingredient – good teaching. That’s what the Responsive Classroom is about.”

About Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc.

Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc., a not-for-profit educational organization, is the developer of Responsive Classroom, a research- and evidence-based approach to elementary education that leads to greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement, and improved school climate. Responsive Classroom practices help educators become more effective in three interrelated domains: engaging academics, positive community, and effective management. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has recognized the Responsive Classroom approach as one of a select group of "well-designed, evidence-based social and emotional learning programs with potential for broad dissemination to schools across the United States."