Student voice is a key component in the effective implementation of social emotional learning (SEL) and fostering equitable learning environments. Promoting student voice in the classroom is more than a token consultation with learners. It’s the meaningful integration of student opinions and beliefs in all aspects of school life. This includes instruction, classroom practices, and curriculum development. Educators and teachers need to remember that students are stakeholders in their own learning and must be active partners in long-term planning.
In this blog—part five in our series on SEL—we’re going to talk about how student voice can be integrated in a variety of SEL practices.
What Is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) In Schools?
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a behavioral framework that can be used to help children cultivate interpersonal skills and manage their own emotions. It includes five competencies that are distinct from, but also integral to, academic learning—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Check out the first blog in our series to read more about each of these.
What Is SEL in Education?
Educators can integrate SEL with intention through both direct instruction and teachable moments throughout the day. Classroom culture should also provide students with opportunities to develop, practice, and reflect on their social and emotional competencies. This can be done by:
- Co-creating success ideas: Work with students to identify critical components of success for activities and assignments by, for example, collaboratively creating rubrics for assignments. This helps students be involved in the process of their own learning.
- Involving students in teaching about SEL: Create opportunities for students to be involved in student-led discussions, peer co-teaching sessions, and activities.
- Encouraging students to be agents in their learning: Push students to set goals, evaluate their own progress, and work towards improvement.
Implementing social and emotional learning effectively requires a planned and strategic approach. SEL needs to be incorporated within current class curriculum by:
- Integrating SEL into everyday instruction: Make social and emotional skill development a deliberate part of the classroom. Regular check-ins with teachers, for example, allow students to practice self-awareness and recognize how their thoughts and feelings influence behavior. Teaching SEL alongside core content not only deepens learning but also helps students develop non-academic skills needed to succeed.
- Adopting a variety of assessments: Provide students with evaluations that include both teacher and student voice. Assessments as learning, such as peer evaluations and formative assignments, actively involve students in monitoring their improvement. Assessments for learning consists of teachers using information about student progress to inform teaching.
- Fostering student agency: Allow students to have an active role in their education by providing them with opportunities to make decisions about the path, place, and pace of learning. For example, students can choose how they will learn based on the materials provided in class such as. This means selecting a medium that works best for them such as text, video, or audio.
Creating a classroom culture where students are seen, known, and valued helps develop the core social and emotional competencies. Teachers must use student voice as an information source in their planning to inform changes and learning practices.
The Glossary of Education Reform outlines different types of student voice and feedback:
- Informal and formal student feedback: Educators can encourage students to share their ideas and opinions through informal paths such as “open-door” policies, student surveys, and community forums. Educators can then choose how, where, and when to incorporate the feedback they’ve gathered. Student voice can also be leveraged from formal sources including school councils, committees, and governments.
- Instructional and evaluative student feedback: Students can share which instructional methods or resources in the classroom can best help them succeed to help create personalized learning and equity in the classroom. Student voice can be considered in the assessment of school staff. This can be done by asking students to fill out surveys about their teachers near the end of the year.
- Cultural student feedback: Educators can also consider students’ experiences when they’re determining what material they want to use in class. For example, there may be racial or cultural perspectives students want to see in lessons and textbooks.
Class and school culture need to focus on genuinely integrating student voices, not just collecting them. This helps show students that their feedback can play a key role in shaping instruction.
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