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Building a Training Partnership for Social and Emotional Learning Actualization in Preservice Teacher Education

Fri, April 28, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Fourth Floor, Texas Ballroom Salon E

Abstract

Objectives or Purpose
This paper highlights a pilot study of “Actualizing SEL in Practice,” which trains pre-service student teachers to actualize a social and emotional learning (SEL) program in their practicum.  Despite increasing interest in pre-service SEL training, limited literature exists (Markowitz 2014; Schonert-Reichl, et al., 2016). Wellesley’s education department and Open Circle (OC), the nationally recognized SEL training program, at Wellesley Center for Women (WCW), partnered to initiate this training.  This paper outlines initial findings around developing and implementing trainings and practice. Important lessons may be drawn from this project as many pre-service programs integrate SEL into coursework and competencies.

Perspective(s), Theoretical Framework
SEL is increasingly recognized as vital in K-12 schooling and teacher education (Durlak, et al. 2011; Jones, Bouffard, & Weissbourd 2013). Programs across the country are attempting to include SEL in teacher training, with some using consultants, and others adding SEL to existing methods courses (Schonert-Reichl & Zakrzewski 2014). 

This training was initiated with the knowledge that teacher beliefs, attitudes and skills for SEL are critical (Lendrum & Humphrey, 2015) and that structure, timing, and support throughout implementation impact motivation and commitment (Durlak & DuPre, 2008).  
Open Circle at Wellesley Centers for Women is a SEL program for K-5 designed to meet two goals: (a) develop children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, relationships and problem solving; and (b) help schools build safe, caring, and engaged communities. 
The training program: Multiple in-person, interactive, and experiential training sessions were provided to pre-service teachers across one semester. Between training sessions, individual video coaching was provided, supplemented by weekly group reflections.

Methods, techniques, or modes of inquiry
A WCW lead investigator and two assistants conducted this qualitative study. OC faculty trained eight pre-service teachers over five months as data was collected. The Wellesley College IRB approved this study.

Data sources, evidence, objects, or materials
Data was collected from students (i.e. focus group and training evaluations) and program trainers (i.e., journal reflections). Evaluations and journals were summarized. A thematic analysis was used to systematically explore shared meanings and experiences within focus group responses (Braun & Clarke, 2006).


Results and/or substantiated conclusions or warrants for argument/point of view
Focus group: Themes identified strengths and weaknesses: 1) Pedagogical SEL skills gained through training 2) Importance of combining academic learning with practice 3) Adjusting training for pre-service teachers, and 4) Benefits for job applications.
Teacher evaluations: Analysis showed positive responses to trainings. Identified as high value were lessons, support for facilitation and development of students’ problem-solving processes, and adoption of non-judgmental responses.
Trainer reflections: Notes indicated a need to supplement scaffolding as teachers adopt a reflective stance, and further integrate supervising practitioners. Finally, greater bridging of program content with training is needed.

 Scientific or scholarly significance of the study or work
This paper usefully uncovers the complex resources and processes involved in transforming a pre-service teacher education program to include necessary SEL training. It suggests important lessons for others engaged in designing trainings and insights into the concrete actualization of SEL pedagogy and learning.

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