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Integrating SEL, Equity and Trauma Work for Multiplied Success

socialemotional177These days it’s hard to miss the compelling evidence that shows social emotional learning (SEL) improves learning and life skills. Educators are also becoming increasingly aware that high numbers of students face trauma that impedes their learning and that understanding and addressing it are critical. They’re also learning that racial inequities hamper the success of certain groups of students, and acknowledging and ameliorating them is necessary if all children are to thrive.

There is great overlap across these three areas: SEL, trauma-informed work and equity. A student of color who cumulatively experiences racist taunts, reduced expectations and micro-aggressions, for instance, is challenged socially and emotionally, experiencing trauma and suffering inequity – all at once.

Below is the latest research that shows your school can’t ignore these three areas of student support, why they should be integrated, and resources to achieve it.

Last year, the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social Emotional and Academic Development’s Council of Distinguished Scientists—leading researchers across character education, emotional intelligence, health and mental health promotion, neuroscience, SEL and mindsets—released a consensus statement to solidify research findings across their disciplines.

There is growing awareness of the seminal ACEs study, which showed that the more adverse childhood experiences or trauma children experience – including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; family and community violence; and the cumulative impact of poverty, racism, and oppression – the more they’re at risk for negative life outcomes. In the US, two-thirds of children have experienced at least one potentially traumatic event by age 16. When research emerged showing that traumatic stress “hijacks the brain”, making it incapable of learning, trauma became an education problem. Yet, by making educators aware of students’ trauma and giving them tools and strategies to address it, these barriers to learning can be reduced or removed.

Students of color face increased adversity both outside and inside of school. Outside, they’re more likely than white students to suffer socially and financially. Inside, they’re often the subject of low expectations, micro-aggressions and bias.

Schools provide a unique opportunity to build kids’ social emotional assets, address their trauma, and move towards educational equity. Many are focused on doing so, but too often they make these interrelated domains of support separate.

“A trauma-informed, SEL, cultural awareness model of supports allows (educators) to create a safe environment to address trauma and SEL skill build, while also tapping into the strengths and opportunities of students’ culture. In this way, prevention assets don’t just build on each other, they multiply,” says Dr. Gregory Leskin, Ph.D, Director at UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

American Institute of Research’s David Osher and Juliette Berg, Harvard’s Todd Rose, and Turnaround’s Pam Cantor and Lily Steyer corroborated this in a series of research papers that synthesized knowledge from multiple scientific domains regarding how humans develop and learn. They concluded that relational, environmental, instructional and curricular factors – factors that include SEL skill building, addressing trauma and building cultural competence – must be integrated to produce effective learning.

There are also unintended negative consequences of failing to integrate these domains. These include an exclusive focus on the deficits or trauma of students of color, failing to leverage their strengths and resilience.

Aspen SEAD’s recently released “Pursuing Social Emotional Development Through an Equity Lens: A Call to Action” and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s June report, “Applying an Equity Lens to Social, Emotional, and Academic Development” both offer broad strategies for integration. These include addressing the root causes or trauma underlying SEL skill deficits, such as a lack of impulse control; and ensuring that supports specifically focus on injustice and related trauma.

Excerpted from “Integrating SEL, Equity and Trauma Work for Multiplied Success” in EdSurge.  Read the full article.

Source: EdSurge | Integrating SEL Equity and Trauma Work for Multiplied Success, https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-07-02-integrating-sel-equity-and-trauma-work-for-multiplied-success | © EdSurge, Inc. 2018

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