A new review of
studies from around the world found that students who were taught positive social skills at school reported higher levels of those skills months and even years afterward, compared to their peers who were not taught those skills.
The long-term benefits of social and emotional learning appeared regardless of the students’ economic or racial background or the rural, suburban or city location of the school, according to the meta-analysis published this month in the journal Child Development. Social and emotional learning is an organized approach to teaching students personal skills, including how to identify emotions, empathize with others and resolve conflicts.
Four researchers affiliated with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, a Chicago-based organization that promotes social and emotional learning, analyzed 82 studies that tracked students who had participated in youth development programs that included social and emotional skill-building.
The majority of the follow-up studies looked at student attitudes, feelings and behaviors. But eight of the studies tracked academic results for a period that averaged 3.75 years. Participants in social and emotional learning activities performed about 13 percent higher in grades and test scores than their peers, the study found.
Was the increase in test scores caused by social and emotional learning interventions? “You really can’t say that for sure,” said study co-author Joseph Durlak, a senior research scientist at the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning and an emeritus professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago. It’s an area for further study, he said.