"SEL programs teach children to manage their emotions, care about others, make good decisions and behave ethically and responsibly," Zins explains. "Many programs are prevention-oriented - such as programs to prevent drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco use, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and school violence."
Zins says the book pins down three specific categories where social and emotional learning is tied to school success: School performance, student attitudes and student behavior.
The research found that SEL programs generated:
- Higher achievements test scores and/or grades
Improved math, English and social studies skills
Improved academic performance from elementary to middle school
Better problem solving and planning
The researchers reported that SEL programs built:
- Higher academic motivation and aspiration
More positive attitudes toward school and learning
Stronger connections to the school
An ability to better cope with stress
The book credits SEL programs with:
- Fewer dropouts, suspensions and absences
Fewer incidents of aggression and classroom disruption
More classroom participation and more effort to achieve
A better transition from elementary to middle school - a key time of stress for schoolchildren
"We advocate teaching these skills and competencies starting with preschool," Zins adds. "If it starts at the adolescent level, it may be too late."
The forward of the book is written by psychologist Daniel Goleman, whose New York Times' best-seller, Emotional Intelligence set off an international debate. About the new research collaboration published in Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning: What Does the Research Say? Goleman writes, "The emotional centers of the brain are intricately interwoven with the neocortical areas involved in cognitive learning. When a child trying to learn is caught up in a distressing emotion, the centers for learning are temporarily hampered. The child's attention becomes preoccupied with whatever may be the source of the trouble. Because attention is of itself a limited capacity, the child has that much less ability to hear, to understand, or remember what a teacher or book is saying. In short, there is a direct link between emotions and learning."
The book ($27.95 paperback), released in April, is published by Teachers College Press. Among groups to whom Zins has presented the findings are the U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools National Technical Conference in Washington, D.C.; the Educational Testing Service; U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Human Resources Research Organization in Princeton, N.J.; the National Conference on Conflict Resolution Education in Columbus; and he will be presenting May 18 at the Connecticut Department of Education Safe and Drug Free Schools Conference in Cromwell, Conn.