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Using social emotional learning to help children/youth recover from crisis, and to convince families that school is a safe place

Wed, March 28, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 2nd Floor, Don Diego 1 Section C

Proposal

This presentation explores the importance of integrating social emotional learning (SEL), psychosocial support, and wraparound services into education models delivered in conflict-affected settings, as well as the challenges in measuring impact. It will discuss the Nigeria Education Crisis Response’s approach to SEL and the progress made in measuring social and emotional skills.

When children and youth are exposed to prolonged stress, such as in conflict-affected settings like Northeast Nigeria, their brain development can be affected, causing a “toxic stress” response which impacts their well-being and ability to learn. Providing children and youth with a safe and predictive learning environment and supportive adult relationships can help them develop in a healthy manner. The IRC’s Healing Classrooms approach has been developed through the organization’s work in conflict-affected countries over the past 27 years and provides children with a safe and predictive environment. Research conducted on the use of Healing Classrooms in the DRC showed the need for a more direct approach to social and emotional skill development. Building upon these findings, the Education Crisis Response project developed explicit SEL teaching and learning materials, paired with safe spaces and supportive relationships, aiming to help learners develop social awareness, impulse control, and responsible decision-making skills. These SEL skills can increase their resiliency to recover and rebuild from the potentially traumatic events they have experienced.

Over the life of the project, more than 2,000 community-based learning facilitators and over 10,000 formal school teachers were trained to teach SEL, both as a stand-alone topic and strategies for infusing it into reading and math lessons. They were also trained to identify children in need of secondary services and how to make referrals to wraparound services when appropriate. Based on yearly assessments and a tracer study conducted at the end of the project, positive results for learners include improvements in scores on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and academic performance and comparatively greater social and emotional skills when mainstreamed into formal schools. Additionally, the project increased community support for its child-friendly non-formal education model. Finally, this presentation will touch upon the challenges with measuring SEL and presents findings from a recent analysis of alternative, more responsive SEL measurement tools.

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