While many educators and policymakers are eyeing technology and revised standards to improve student performance in subjects like math, reading and science, psychologist and author Daniel Goleman has a different remedy: Blend in lessons in social and emotional learning that can help students better understand themselves, their peers and the larger systems around them.
Goleman’s new book, “The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education,” written with MIT senior lecturer Peter Senge, describes how such pedagogical techniques can improve both social skills and academic performance.
Goleman recently spoke with U.S. News about what social and emotional learning might look like in the classroom and how parents can play a crucial role.
What do you mean by social and emotional learning?
Social and emotional learning adds to the standard academic curriculum lessons for children in self-awareness, managing emotions, empathy, tuning into other people and social skills. The SEL movement is actually pretty strong now. It’s in many different schools.
What happens when this is lacking in classrooms?
If students don’t have this, what they’re missing are lessons in how to manage themselves over the course of their lives. They’re missing lessons in how to get along with other people in marriage, as a parent, at work. And they’re missing lessons in how to think about the big problems that are only going to become greater over their lifetimes – things like the environmental crisis, which is actually a byproduct of technological and manufacturing systems.
If these changes were made, what impact would it have on graduates?
There’s a huge meta-analysis that was done that involved more than 270,000 students – half had had the program and half hadn’t. Students in schools where they had the program had fewer incidents of antisocial behavior like bullying, violence in school and dropping out. And their academic achievement scores went up. [SEL is] helping children deal with the things that upset them. These are the melodramas that grip their minds and keep them distracted. I think the reason for the bump in academic achievement is that kids can pay more attention; their emotions are under better control.