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Though a number of states have adopted guidelines for the implementation of social-emotional learning (SEL) in school districts, SEL is either sidelined or not addressed at all hrough dvocacy efforts. l tend to beteaching and learning IInin the vast majority of residing teacher preparation programs (Schonert-Reichl et al., 2016; Bridgeland, Bruce & Hariharan, 2013; Cohen, 2006). This paper examines the current scope of this adaptive challenge in 2016 and explores emerging efforts to operationalize SEL in pre-service teacher preparation, through ongoing advocacy efforts as well as federal and state level policy initiatives.
Perspective or theoretical framework
A growing body of research indicates that to optimize students’ success in school and in life, and for teachers to thrive in their profession, the social-emotional dimensions of learning and teaching must be explicitly integrated into educational systems. Critical to this endeavor is the need to explicitly cultivate pre-service candidates’ SEL knowledge, skills, and dispositions, throughout teacher preparation program experiences—to help candidates develop emotional resilience and the skills needed to effectively foster social-emotional and cognitive learning within relationally attuned, moral, and prosocial classroom environments—to benefit students from a wide range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Operationalizing the integration of SEL in teacher preparation hinges on systemic, coordinated efforts. As Weissberg et al. (2015) assert, “federal and state policies and supports play critical roles in fostering evidence-based district, school, and classroom SEL programs” (p. 10). In keeping with this assertion, our research is guided by the question of whether/how “federal and state policies and supports [might also] play critical roles” in operationalizing SEL in teacher preparation.
Methods and Data Sources
This paper presents findings a) from survey/analysis of recent and pending federal and state level policy initiatives to explicitly prioritize social-emotional learning in teacher education (SEL-TEd) in the U.S. and b) from a survey/ analysis of professional teaching standards across all fifty states. We examine the extent to which the terms “emotion,” “social-emotional learning,” “cultural competence,” and “culturally responsive teaching” are included, and how included terms are contextualized and framed. Highlighted is a case study of SEL-TEd advocacy in Massachusetts. Included are findings from a survey (administered by the MA Consortium for SEL-TEd) of teacher educators across the state; this survey explores respondents’ perceptions of and perspectives on the role of emotion, SEL, and culturally responsive teaching in pre-service education, and as well as the extent to which they report that SEL is incorporated in their work with pre-service teachers.
Consequences: Findings and Implications
Attention to emotions, social-emotional learning, and culturally responsive teaching continues to be minimal and piecemeal in the vast majority of teacher preparation programs. To operationalize culturally responsive social-emotional learning in pre-service teacher education, a bottom-up—top-down coordinated approach is necessary. Too often ignored is research that demonstrates why and how SEL is inextricably linked to cognitive learning, well-being, and the development of crucial life skills. Many teacher educators and policy makers still need to be convinced of the vital importance of culturally responsive social-emotional learning.