Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action

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Mar 10, 2019
by Dominic Regester and Lucy Browett
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Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action

Participants to convene at Schloss Leopoldskron to examine insights and new frontiers around Social and Emotional Learning Picture by Ben White on Unsplash

Social and emotional skills are basic human capabilities that allow individuals to manage their emotions, work with others, and achieve goals. They are crucial for the well-being and success of every child, and for the future of our societies and economies.

As societal and technological change accelerates, Social and Emotional learning (SEL) is becoming more and more important as a reform topic in global education. It offers a vision and pathway for teaching all young people the skills they will need to thrive in this century and help their societies rise to the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the last three years, Salzburg Global Seminar has therefore developed and refined a supply and demand hypothesis around SEL, building an expanding coalition of partners and co-hosting regional workshops on comparative practice around the world.

On the demand side, we see an exceptional window of opportunity to embed SEL in education systems around the world because of the range of different voices that consider SEL the best answer to the kind of changes they want to see in education.

These stakeholders have different priorities: the skills and competencies required to equip the workforce of tomorrow; the innovation capacity that societies will need to meet the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals; urgent improvements in the health and well-being of young people; more effective education interventions in crisis and conflict contexts or new thinking about academic attainment, personal resilience, and dynamic communities. Their arguments are becoming more widely accepted by policy makers and people of influence around the world, in part because the demand side voices span the whole political spectrum.

On the supply side, however, significant and widespread barriers have hindered the implementation of SEL reform. These fall into three broad categories: i) teacher preparation; ii) curriculum design and the recognition of extracurricular learning opportunities; iii) measurement and assessment. These are valid concerns but recent years have seen major research, policy and practice innovations around SEL which point to promising ways forward.

Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action will take place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, from March 10 to 15, in partnership with ETS, Microsoft, the Qatar Foundation International and USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Network.

The five-day program will aim to build on the conversations that have taken place at previous Salzburg Global programs relating to SEL, such as the December 2018 program Social and Emotional Learning - A Global Synthesis and the regional program Mainstreaming Innovations in Social and Emotional Learning in MENAT which took place in Jordan in 2018.

This program is part of Salzburg Global’s long-running multi-year series Education for Tomorrow’s World, which aims to bring together global change-makers to discuss issues and challenges at the forefront in education, exploring how policies and practices can best be applied to a variety of education systems.

Around 50 participants will come together to tackle core topics in the development of SEL curricula, training and assessment. They include representatives of Ministries of Education, experts in education in crisis and conflict contexts and researchers, academics and practitioners.

Over the course of the program, participants will address issues such as the contribution SEL programs can make to wider issues of social justice, the relationship between SEL and ideas of identity and belonging, the role of SEL in education in crisis and conflict contexts and the increasing importance of social and emotional skills in our digital world.

The program will build on insight and recommendations from previous programs to advance solutions to the key challenges that can restrict the implementation of SEL programs in education systems and institutional practice around the world. Ideas, arguments and new approaches will be developed.

Participants will engage with panel discussions, working groups and a film screening to share insights and experiences, learn from each other and to find common strategies for implementing SEL in their respective countries and contexts.

During and after the program, participants and staff will co-create strategic products to sustain the SEL conversation. These will be Twitter debates, podcasts, webinars and an impact report summarizing the program and the changes it has helped to initiate.