Giving Compass' Take:

• The Aspen Institute lays out research that proves the importance of social and emotional learning for academic success and how schools can engage in developing these skills for the benefit of their students. 

• How can philanthropy support further research about the implementation of social and emotional learning? How can philanthropy help schools begin to bring these practices to life? 

• Learn how school districts can adopt social and emotional learning curricula.

Compelling research demonstrates what parents have always known—the success of young people in school and beyond is inextricably linked to healthy social and emotional development. Students who have a sense of belonging and purpose, who can work well with classmates and peers to solve problems, who can plan and set goals, and who can persevere through challenges— in addition to being literate, numerate, and versed in scientific concepts and ideas—are more likely to maximize their opportunities and reach their full potential. Educators, too, understand the benefits of educating the whole child, and have been calling for more support and fewer barriers in making this vision a reality. Similarly, employers recognize that social and emotional development, along with content knowledge, is crucial to preparing the future workforce with the life skills employers increasingly need and value.

Given the substantial amount of time children spend in them, schools are an important and powerful influence, for good or ill, on children’s development in all areas. They are a critical context in which to intentionally and productively cultivate social and emotional development. While many schools and districts are pursuing this work, their success so far has been impeded by education policies—and practices in some schools—that are predicated on a narrow vision of student success. Fortunately, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as growing efforts at the state and local levels to make social and emotional development a priority, are beginning to change the landscape. This convergence of advances in research, support from the education and business communities, and policy momentum creates a rare window of opportunity.

Decades of research in human development, cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, and educational practice and policy, as well as other fields, have illuminated that major domains of human development—social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, academic—are deeply intertwined in the brain and in behavior. All are central to learning. Strengths or weaknesses in one area foster or impede development in others; each carries aspects of the other. For example, social development has critical cognitive elements that govern the processing of information from the social world and drive the attributions that are made. Cognition and emotion work in tandem; a core skill like self-control includes a cognitive inhibition component that is easier or harder to deploy depending on the emotions of the individual and the situation.