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Quality assessment and targeted intervention boost social emotional learning

Improve students’ behavior and academic performance by focusing on the development of critical soft skills
Terry Schmitz,  Founder,  The Conover Company
Terry Schmitz, Founder, The Conover Company

Social emotional learning helps students learn the coping skills critical for dealing with themselves, other people and their schoolwork. While SEL has become more mainstream over the past few years, you have been researching it since the mid-1970s. What piqued your early interest?
In those years, we did a lot of work with at-risk populations. Because of that work, it just made sense as something very important to pay attention to when I first heard about it. At that time, the sole focus in schools was on academics. Then a popular psychologist, Daniel Goleman, wrote a book on how social emotional learning was going to grow in relevance, and how one handles oneself and others is a much more accurate predictor of future success than academic grades.

What are the different SEL needs that elementary, middle and high school students have?
In elementary school, students are developing their intra- and interpersonal awareness, which is the foundation for SEL. Once those skills are developed, then you can begin working with students on critical skills like empathy, stress management, physical wellness and self-control. Middle school students should begin to work on their self-management, particularly time management and motivation. Students at this age need to learn how to commit and to work toward a goal. Leadership is the primary skill high school students need to develop. They need to learn decision-making, how to be a positive influence on others and to develop relationship skills.

What are some of the hallmarks of a successful SEL program?
Most SEL programs today rely on surveying students. But surveys are self-reflective, so they tend not to be accurate. If you ask students if they have issues with time management, they might say no, even if they do. But quality SEL assessments, as offered in The Conover Company’s SEL system, actually identify how students handle different situations. So instead of asking students how they think they are, it focuses on how students really act or feel in a specific situation. The results of these assessments trigger specific intervention and post-assessment to document skill acquisition. The Conover Company’s products are backed by 35 years of experience, over 9 million administrations and hundreds of research reports.

What are the greatest benefits to investing in students’ SEL needs?
Students will see gains in their academic performance when they learn how to manage their time and set goals. Studies show that students who have a good handle on their SEL skills are less likely to drop out of school. And, most importantly, research shows that success is one-third hard skills, such as technical and academic knowledge, and two-thirds soft skills—the ability to handle oneself and others. SEL must be prioritized at the K12 level in order for students to reduce suspensions and improve academic performance and graduation rates.

This piece was produced by DA for The Conover Company. For more information, visit www.conovercompany.com/DA