In this issue: Social emotional learning can lead to better academic performance; schools have an important role to play in helping students develop a sense of purpose; Character Lab is researching and measuring character strengths.
According to a recent meta-analysis of over 200 rigorous studies, Social Emotional Learning programs have a positive impact on student performance and behaviour.
The researchers also state that more work is needed to better understand Social Emotional Learning. Future research should explore the long-term impacts of this approach, better assessments to measure student progress, and identify the types of students that benefit most from Social Emotional Learning.
According to research from the Stanford Center on Adolescence, only about 20% of high school students report a strong sense of purpose: “The majority are either adrift, frenetic with work but purposeless, or full of big dreams but lacking a deliberate plan.”
This article offers several practical steps for schools and educators to assist students in developing a strong sense of purpose.
Should school start later for adolescents? Longer exposure to sunlight before starting school each day has been shown to impact academic performance, including math and reading scores. This is attributed to increased alertness brought about by longer cumulative exposure to sunlight: “Most of the boost in adolescent test performance that we observe when students have more daylight in the morning is due … to the amount of daylight before school experienced across the school year.”
Parental involvement during high school years is critical. Adolescents benefit academically, behaviourally, and emotionally when their parents stay connected to their education.
These practical and research-based recommendations are designed to help guide parents in their efforts to connect education to future success, gradually build their children’s independence, and provide structure.
Using portable headsets, researchers studied adolescent brain activity during an entire semester of biology classes at a New York high school. They have found that when the students’ brain waves were in sync, they were more engaged with the class.
In addition, “… student pairs who reported feeling closer to one another also tended to experience more brain synchronicity during class—but only when they had spent time face-to-face just before the class began.” This type of research could help better understand environments that enhance brain functions.
Character strengths are increasingly viewed as crucial to academic achievement and well-being. Character Lab is a US-based nonprofit organization founded in 2013 by Angela Duckworth (well-known for her work on grit) and two of her colleagues. The organization is built on the belief that, in order to thrive, young people require interpersonal, intrapersonal, and intellectual character strengths.
Character Lab co-designs and implements relevant school-based research, translates research insights into educational tools and approaches, and creates new measures of character strengths. One of these measures, the Character Growth Card, helps to “capture different perspectives of a student’s character strengths” and is designed to be “a conversation starter and can be used at different milestones throughout the school year.”
This Edutopia article offers a good introduction to culturally-responsive pedagogy and explores using hip-hop to create meaningful connections with students. It defines hip-hop pedagogy as a “way of authentically and practically incorporating the creative elements of hip-hop into teaching, and inviting students to have a connection with the content while meeting them on their cultural turf by teaching to, and through, their realities and experiences.” What results is a curriculum that reflects the culture and realities of young people and contributes to stronger engagement and better performance.
Youth Development Today is a monthly newsletter focused on youth well-being and student success. Each issue features 5 to 10 current resources on youth development, and offers a healthy mix of academic research, practice-based insights, and grey literature.