Deep Dives

In Support of Students, Start with Adults: Four-Part Webinar Series – Part 1 Recap

March 27, 2023
In Support of Students, Start with Adults: Four-Part Webinar Series – Part 1 Recap

If you are an adult in a young person’s life–whether you’re a family member, educator, coach, or mentor–you have a profound influence on their social, emotional, and academic development.

When adults have meaningful opportunities to practice social and emotional learning (SEL) within systems that support them, we maximize the strengths that every adult in a young person’s life is bringing to the table.

We also improve our own well-being, create positive work environments and relationships, and increase self-efficacy and resilience. 

CASEL’s new four-part webinar series Leaders as Learners: Cultivating Adult SEL will explore research, practices, and policies around this essential topic. On March 15, Part 1 of this series focused on building a shared understanding around adult SEL. 

Watch the recording of the webinar below, or read on for a few key takeaways. 

What is adult SEL?

“When we think about building adult SEL, we’re thinking about building skills and well-being that contribute to thriving communities. So, which adults are we talking about? Where does adult SEL live? We’re not just talking about teachers, we’re not just talking about school staff, but also thinking about family and community members. 

“By broadening the way that we approach adult SEL, we pave the way to more authentic partnerships that maximize the strengths every adult in a young person’s life is bringing to the table in terms of their learning and development.” -Karen VanAusdal, Vice President of Practice, CASEL

What are the three pillars of adult SEL?

1. Learn

“This is about understanding the theory and practice of SEL, and in turn being able to support student SEL. Part of that learning is also self-reflection. It’s creating professional learning or engagements for all adults in a learning ecosystem and building that into the day-to-day of how we interact with one another.” -VanAusdal

2. Connect and collaborate

“This is where we put that learning into practice. It may look like learning communities. It can look like embedding SEL practices into your staff meetings, into community meetings, family connections. … It’s really ensuring that we have that shared language of SEL across all the layers that are supporting our young people.” -VanAusdal

3. Modeling

“Modeling is the type of learning and interaction that’s happening all the time, whether we are being intentional about it or not. We want to ensure as we build that intention that all our interactions are putting these skills into place, and are demonstrating the types of mindsets that we’re talking about. This allows for the learning of both young people and adults.” -VanAusdal

What are some innovative adult SEL practices we’re seeing?

“In British Columbia, they have adopted a focus on adult SEL province-wide. They have free programs for all teachers on their own well-being. They’re also incorporating a program called Compassionate Systems Awareness, where the leaders learn how to create a compassionate system among the adults, and of course the downstream onto the students for that. And a number of schools have a district leader on wellness, on well-being, or the healthy school coordinator, whose job is focused on promoting the well-being of both the students and the educators. And not just the educators, all the adults in the system.” -Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl, NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in Social-Emotional Learning, University of Illinois at Chicago

“There’s a lot of conversation about self-care, and there’s certainly value in self-care, but how do you systematize that? How do you build that into structures so that it’s not putting the onus on an individual, but building a system that is caring for adults? We’ve seen some districts creating circles so that they have the space to practice the circles that we’re doing with students, but also to really connect with one another, to do collaborative problem-solving, to bring their full identities and sense of belonging into these spaces.” -VanAusdal

What does the research say about the connection between adult SEL and student learning?

“There’s research that a colleague and I, Ava Oberly, did where we wanted to look at stress contagion in the classroom. … We looked at fourth to seventh grade classrooms and had teachers complete a measure of their stress and burnout. … We found that teachers who self-reported the highest levels of stress and burnout had students with the highest levels of cortisol, indicative of high stress levels. Then there’s a recent study just hot off the press by a group out of Australia, who found that teachers who had more emotional exhaustion had students with lower academic achievement.

“Now I have to give you some positive. For example, Tish Jennings and colleagues did a study of a program called Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE), which is a mindfulness program for teachers about their own well-being. … They found that the program not only increased teachers’ well-being and a number of related aspects like time urgency, but they found that those classrooms in which teachers had gotten the CARE program for themselves actually changed the classroom context to one that was much more positive and increased academic achievement as well.” -Schonert-Reichl

For more on adult SEL, register for the four-part Leaders as Learners series. Join us on April 12 at 11 a.m. EDT for Part 2: What do we know from research on adult SEL?

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