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MATH EDUCATORS REMINDED OF ABCs

Posted By Amanda Leaman, Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, July 30, 2014



CSEE’s most recent publication, Breaking into the Heart of Character, made the point that educators—in all fields—increasingly see the importance and power of fostering autonomy, connectedness, and competence in students. Here’s one more example.

The September issue of Educational Leadership focused on resilience, including an article for math teachers. After touching on the subject in the article, Stanford School of Education professor Lisa Medoff, addressed autonomy, belongingness, and competence specifically in a subsequent blog post for ASCD, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:

“By two weeks into the quarter,” she says, “my college students can anticipate when I’m about to recite one of my mantras about adolescents. They chant phrases along with me like... 'Don’t forget your ABCs!'” Yes, the ABCs: autonomy, belonging, and competence.

Autonomy: as simple as giving students choices (and listening to their voices). Without choice, whatever natural motivation students had for the subject is further undermined. The more choice we can reasonably offer, the more autonomy is fostered.

Belonging: it's is all about relations. True relatedness is not just getting along at school, it’s the sense that “People here care about me. People here support me.” Kids are more willing to grapple with difficult concepts for teachers if they think teachers care about them. Kids can concentrate better in classrooms where they feel like they “belong” to the group.

Competence: this is the sense that “I can learn, I have the ability to meet the challenges ahead of me.”

Medoff tells her blog post readers, “It’s very important that math teachers keep these three needs in mind.” But she speaks to all teachers:

“It’s incredibly important that educators incorporate adolescents’ needs for autonomy, belonging, and competence (the aforementioned ABCs) into many aspects of school, from classroom structure to curriculum and assignments.”

Why would Medoff say “It’s incredibly important”? It’s because these are not just good ideas, they are basic human needs. The ABCs affect motivation to learn, motivation to get along with others, motivation to perform to one’s best in virtually all areas. They are “incredibly important” and they are incredibly easy to incorporate into any class, in any subject, at any level. Teaching without attention to the ABCs is like driving with the brakes on.

See Medoff’s blogpost.

See the Educational Leadership article: “Getting Beyond ‘I Hate Math!’”


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MEDOFF'S ABCs?

Four decades of research with kids ages 20 months through college all point to several beneficial effects when educators (and parents) work to foster autonomy, belonging, and competence:

  • greater psychological health
  • better coping with disappointments
  • better understanding of academic concepts
  • better academic performance
  • more enjoyment of courses
  • better attitudes toward school
  • better ability to regulate behaviors
  • more creativity
  • more altruistic behavior

That’s a lot to gain, especially when there is no cost other than a different kind of teacher attention.

See more about fostering the ABCs in CSEE’s Breaking Into the Heart of Character.

Tags:  [Grade: Lower]  [Grade: Middle]  [Grade: Upper]  [Subject: Moral Development & Character Education]  [Type: Article]  [User Group: Parents]  [User Group: Teachers]  autonomy  belonging  competence 

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EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES

Posted By Amanda Leaman, Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The New York Times Magazine’s recent article, “Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?” by Jennifer Kahn (September 15, 2013) may have misled some readers about social-emotional learning. We’d like to clarify.

A casual reading would too easily suggest that despite occasional successes, the field of social-emotional learning in itself is such a “mess” that it is unreliable. The reality is that there are specific practices, backed by years of data, that do lead to the results schools want and need.

The flaws in Kahn’s article are primarily two. The first is of minor importance, but it adds to the confusion. It concerns her use of terms. “Emotional intelligence,” is the title, but barely used in the text, where it is replaced by emotional awareness, emotional literacy, or social-emotional learning (S.E.L.) - somewhat as if, in the intellectual realm, the ideas of perception, the ability to read, and intelligence were synonyms for IQ. The answer to Kahn’s question, “Can emotional intelligence be taught?” is No, just as is the answer to the question “Can IQ be taught?” She leads us away from the point, however. IQs are raised when young people have good schooling. A number of its components are learned at school. Similarly, schools can, and many programs and practices do, lead to children improving their social and emotional skills.

Leaving Kahn’s other less precise and clumsier terms aside, we will stick with the term social-emotional learning or its acronym, S.E.L., because it is here that we see more precise practices and outcomes.

The major flaw, though, is that Kahn appears to misunderstand what S.E.L. entails as a whole. Social and emotional skills are not a monolithic entity. Thus, statements like “So far, few studies have been done on which skills are actually acquired through S.E.L...” don’t really work. The statement is like saying "few studies have been done to determine which skills are acquired through math." Schools don’t really teach either “math” or “social and emotional skills”; rather, they teach certain sets of skills: second-grade math, first year algebra, or AP calculus. The math skills taught depend on the age of the student and the area of math in question (algebra, geometry, arithmetic, statistics). Similarly, schools don't teach either emotional intelligence or S.E.L. They can and should, however, teach many of those social and emotional skills that kids need to live and work together, especially in a school environment. Knowing the list of “which skills are actually acquired through S.E.L.” is thus not the point. What is important is knowing which skills students will need in order to meet the challenges of life. Many of these skills are very well defined (see S.E.L., below).

The “mess” in the field Kahn suggested, in this case via a quote from consultant psychologist David Caruso (“It’s a big messy field, with lots of promises but very little data. Right now I think people are just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks”) is far from accurate. There are indeed “store-bought” programs that have shown effectiveness in transmitting social and or emotional skills, see What Works in Character Education. More importantly, classroom practices exist that foster the development of social and emotional skills, and three of the most essential of which can be found in CSEE’s publication, Breaking into the Heart of Character (2013). What's messy is when schools try to engage in S.E.L. without applying appropriate practices, utilizing a proven program, or even simply assessing the individual needs of their school. It’s not the field itself that is messy, but rather those standing in the field that don’t have knowledge of the tools.

For specifics of social-emotional learning’s skill areas, see S.E.L., below. For more about classroom practices that make S.E.L. more effective, see CSEE’s Breaking into the Heart of Character (2013).

Social-Emotional Learning

The people at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (casel.org) have probably done the best work looking at specific social and emotional skills. CASEL has identified five key areas seen as essential for young people:

Self-awareness: the ability to recognize one’s emotions and thoughts, and how they influence behavior.

Self-management: the ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively, depending on the situation. Self-management includes competencies like controlling impulses, motivating oneself, setting goals, and working to achieve them.

Social awareness: this area includes competency in taking another person’s perspective, in empathizing with others, and in knowing which behaviors are appropriate in certain situations, among many others.

Relationship skills: these include the ability to form and to maintain social relationships. Thus, it includes a subset of skills like communicating clearly, listening actively, resisting peer pressure, and effective conflict resolution.

Responsible decision-making: the ability to consider things like safety standards and social norms in making appropriate choices, and to consider the consequences of various actions on the well-being of both oneself and the wider group.

See more at www.casel.org.

Tags:  [Grade: Lower]  [Grade: Middle]  [Grade: Upper]  [Subject: Moral Development & Character Education]  [Type: Article]  [User Group: Administration]  [User Group: Parents]  [User Group: Teachers]  emotional intelligence  Social-Emotional Learning 

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