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The Benefits of Integrating Social Emotional Learning in Tutoring High School Students

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sapneil Parikh

Writing Research Associate: Giovanna Gari, David Chavez, Alexandra Suco

One of the benefits of being a tutor is the ability to create and maintain close relationships with your students. Tutoring allows education to go beyond the classroom and be specialized to students’ interests. As times are changing and classes continue to be online, finding ways to enhance students’ learning and outcomes becomes a more thoughtful task for some. Incorporating social emotional learning (SEL) may be the solution to assisting your students. SEL is focused on teaching students self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making (Dymnicki et al., 2013).

Working SEL outcomes into your curriculum has shown improvements in student performance on a school level that could translate well on an individual level. For example, a study conducted by Kuo, Casillas, and Allen (2019) revealed that student achievement, as measured on the ACT Explore and ACT, is moderated by SEL factors including motivation, social engagement, and self-regulation. Specifically, for students with higher prior achievement, motivation and social engagement predicted later academic achievement (Kuo, Casillas, and Allen, 2019). As this study suggests, these SEL factors positively predict student achievement. However, students do not always have these skills on their own nor are they taught the skills in school. Research conducted by the Aspen Institute National Youth Commission found that surveyed high school students and recent alum view their high schools as still needing significant improvement on social emotional learning in order to get the most out of their education (CASEL, 2018). With the current shift to online learning, the areas in which schools are lacking could be growing. This gap creates a space for tutors to assist their students and help them make the gains that they feel their school is not allowing them to reach.

Implementation of SEL by high school counselors was shown to decrease internalizing symptoms, such as being lonely or withdrawing from others, in high school students after engagement in an SEL program (Caldarella et al., 2019). However, in a post-course interview, many students made comments that they felt the program required more depth in order to engage them or that the examples used were not relevant to them. As tutors, we have the opportunity to make any SEL lessons geared towards our students and allow them to engage with the material fully. This will engage their SEL skills, which will lead to them building motivation and other factors that could allow them to achieve higher educational outcomes. This is especially important now with online learning as many students are adjusting to only seeing friends and teachers virtually and not being able to engage in interactions that could serve to teach these lessons.

The three most important steps for implementing SEL into your practice are integration, evaluation, and feedback. Integration would involve finding ways to include it in your lessons, such as using examples in your lessons that relate to SEL competencies or creating opportunities for students to engage their own SEL skills. This could include using math and science problems based in real-world issues and readings that require analyzing relationships between characters, or giving the students the opportunity to demonstrate responsible decision making by having them assist with determining the kind of homework they get. Evaluation would mean having a clear measure of successful mastery of the SEL skills. While this may be more subjective, it should be aligned to some degree with student achievement in other areas. Finally, feedback involves granting students the space to comment on what works for them and what doesn’t. Being adaptable in your practice will demonstrate that skill to students and allow them to feel confident in growing their relationship with you as their tutor, as well as making them confident in their own abilities.

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Caldarella, P., Millet, A. J., Heath, M. A., Warren, J. S., & Williams, L. (2019). School Counselors Use of Social Emotional Learning in High School: A Study of the Strong Teens Curriculum. Journal of School Counseling, 17(19).

Collaborative for Academic, S. and E. L. (CASEL), Hart Research Associates, & Civic. (2018). Respected: Perspectives of Youth on High School & Social and Emotional Learning. A Report for CASEL. In Civic. Civic.

Dymnicki, A., Sambolt, M., Kidron, Y., & College & Career Readiness & Success Center at American Institutes for Research. (2013). Improving College and Career Readiness by Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning. In College and Career Readiness and Success Center. College and Career Readiness and Success Center.

Kuo, Y.-L., Casillas, A., Allen, J., & ACT, I. (2019). Examining Moderating Effects of Social Emotional Learning Factors on Achievement Gains. Technical Brief. In ACT, Inc. ACT, Inc.

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