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Social-Emotional Learning Benefits Youth

Teaching and learning represent one of the most important dimensions of school climate. School leaders and teachers should strive to clearly define the sets of norms, goals, and values that shape the learning and teaching environment. Research supports the notion that a positive school climate promotes students’ abilities to learn. A positive school climate promotes cooperative learning, group cohesion, respect, and mutual trust. These particular aspects have been shown to directly improve the learning environment (Finnan, Schnepel, & Anderson, 2003; Ghaith, 2003; Kerr, Ireland, Lopes, Craig, & Cleaver, 2004).

The specific nature and goals of K–12 instruction impact academic achievement in a variety of ways. Educators like parents are always teaching social, emotional, civic, and ethical as well as intellectual lessons, intentionally or not (Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2012). Research shows that evidence-based character education programs lead to higher achievement scores for elementary school students (Benninga, Berkowitz, Kuehn, & Smith, 2003). Also, evidence-based sociomoral emotional learning programs have resulted in impressive gains in test scores and in increasing the academic emphasis of elementary and middle school students (Battistich, Schaps, & Wilson, 2004; Bradshaw, Koth, Thornton, & Leaf, 2009; Elias & Haynes, 2008).

A large-scale analysis of positive youth development, social-emotional learning (SEL), and character education studies revealed that evidence-based SEL programs had many significant positive effects, including improving students’ achievement test scores by 11 to 17 percentile points (Payton et al., 2008). Evidence also comes from another large-scale analysis conducted on 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. This study suggested that socio-emotional learning participants, compared to the control groups, demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance as reflected by an 11 percentile point gain in achievement (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). (Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A review of the school climate research. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 357–385).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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