Anchoring Post-Secondary Readiness in Social-Emotional Learning

Anchoring Post-Secondary Readiness in Social-Emotional Learning

Marina Fradera
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7464-5.ch016
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Intentional social emotional instruction is often absent from most schools in the United States as students grow older. Few state legislatures have policies in place to mandate the integration of social emotional learning (SEL) into classroom instruction after 3rd grade. Rather than being recognized as a key component of all core content learning, SEL is framed as a set of reactionary interventions that address specific adolescent challenges placing youth “at risk.” It is widely understood that social emotional competencies (SECs) grow with and influence emergent literacy among young learners. The same approach is often absent from approaches to literacy instruction for older struggling readers. This chapter underscores the opportunity to frame post-secondary preparation and texts connected to it as opportunities to explicitly teach social emotional competencies (SECs) as a means to plan for the future and heal from the past.
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Children stop learning to read and begin reading to learn in fourth grade. This phrase is often used to summarize the rapid shift in the focus of instruction in most classrooms in the United States that occurs in the middle elementary years. A more accurate framing may be that teachers often cease explicit reading instruction after third grade, with curriculum designed to delve deeper into reading comprehension rather than its mechanics. Children do not stop learning to read, but instruction shifts with the expectation that students “should” know how to read by fourth grade (Goldman et al., 2016; Loveless, 2021). Multiple research studies over decades have shown that strong literacy skills in third grade correlate with on-time graduation rates from 12th grade in the United States (Rumburger & Platsman, 2018; Feister, 2010). State-level standardized testing in the U.S. often begins in third grade for this reason.

This same data has driven the passing of state legislation requiring the use of academic reading interventions in schools, leading to the production of a vast market of research-based reading interventions supporting early elementary reading skills (Auletto & Subleskie, 2018). If a student reaches upper elementary without mastering basic literacy skills, they may be relegated to remediated language arts classes as they struggle to keep pace with peers. This struggle grows greater and more emotionally stressful as students reach middle and high school (Paul & Clark, 2016). For students with diagnosed learning disabilities, this often increases the likelihood of psychological comorbidities, including anxiety and depression (Galuschka & Schulte-Körne, 2016). Direct reading instruction from 4th grade onward is categorized as an “intervention,” a means to get students back on track to grade-level literacy standards and expectations (Scammacca et al., 2016). The end of elementary school, combined with the rapid approach of post-secondary needs, including employment or college, adds the stress of impending academic struggle in a new setting (Anniko et al., 2019; Washington, 2009; Yang & Yan 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Emotional Competencies: Social emotional skills recognized as relevant to life-long success. Outlined by CASEL to include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making. Known to correlate with workplace promotion, successful leadership, and employee retention.

Scaffold: A teaching tool or strategy to adapt or adjust instruction in order to make content more accessible to students. Often make thoughts visible through charts and diagrams, or include procedures to increase student comprehension and engagement.

Adverse Childhood Experiences: A set of experiences prior to the age of 18 which correlate in dosage with negative long-term health outcomes. Includes abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction.

Neurodevelopmental: Incorporates elements of neuro-sequential framework with developmental psychology and brain based learning to engage individuals based on which brain state they occupy. Recognizes that cognitive thought cannot occur until lower brain states are addressed.

21st Century Skills: A set of skills educators and policy makers have identified which are necessary for youth to become successful in the world. Includes workforce relevant social emotional competencies as well as technology and media literacy.

Literacy Intervention: A research proven strategy to support struggling readers to reach grade level proficiency in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, or comprehension. Typically targeting one specific skill at a time.

Neuro-Sequential: A clinical therapeutic framework developed by Dr. Bruce Perry based on the sequence in which different parts of the brain must be engaged to promote healing from traumatic impact.

Trauma: The impact of a psychologically terrifying experience on the brain and nervous system. Impacts sensory processing and behavior. Can impact brain development and transform adaptive safety behaviors into maladaptive behaviors after danger has passed.

Trauma-Informed: Approaches to personal and professional practices that recognize the existence of trauma, aim to avoid re-traumatization, and prevent trauma from occurring.

Brain State: The set of physiological and behavioral activities governed by distinct parts of the human brain. Three commonly identified states include, from the bottom of the brain upward- survival, feeling, and thinking. Cognitive capacity increases as one moves upward in brain states.

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