Ten SEL Teaching Practices
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Ten SEL Teaching Practices

Ten SEL Teaching Practices

Teaching Practice



Student-Centered Discipline

Student­-centered discipline refers to when teachers use disciplinary strategies that are developmentally appropriate for their students and that motivate students to want to behave in the classroom. Such discipline occurs when students have opportunities to be self­-directive and have some say in what happens in the classroom. Students and teachers should develop shared norms and values in the classroom. This strategy allows students to connect the rules to the overarching vision of how the classroom is run and increases student buy-­in. Similarly, teachers should enact consistent, proactive classroom management strategies that align with consequences.

Teacher Language

Teacher language refers to how the teachers talk to students. Teacher should encourage student effort and work, restating what the student did and what that student needs to do in order to improve. Teacher language should not simply praise (.e.g, “You did a great job!) but should encourage students (e.g., “I see you worked hard on your mathematics paper. When you really think about your work, and when you explain your thinking, you get more correct answers.”) In addition, teacher language should encourage students to monitor and regulate their own behavior, not just tell students how to behave (e.g., “What strategies have we learned when we come across as problem that we are not sure how to do?”).

Responsibility & Choice

Responsibility and choice refer to the degree to which teachers allow students to make responsible decisions about their work in the classroom. The teacher creates a classroom environment where democratic norms are put into place and where students provide meaningful input into the development of the norms and procedures of the classroom as well as the academic content or how the academic content is learned. Teachers give students controlled and meaningful choices. Other ways to get students to feel responsible in the classroom are peer tutoring, cross­-age tutoring, or participating in a service­learning or community service program.

Warmth & Support

Warmth and support refers to the academic and social support that students receive from their teacher and peers. Teachers create classrooms where the students know that teachers care about them. Teachers demonstrate that they care about their students by asking students questions (academic and nonacademic), following up with students when they have a concern, providing anecdotes or stories, and acting in ways in which students know that taking risks and asking questions are safe in the classroom. In addition, teachers need to create structures in the classroom where students feel included and appreciated by peers and teachers (e.g., morning meetings or projects in which students get a chance to share what they learn).

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is a specific instructional task in which teachers have students work together toward a collective goal. Teachers ask students to do more than group work; students are actively working with their peers using content in a meaningful way. To implement cooperative learning effectively, teachers include five basic elements: (1) positive interdependence, (2) individual accountability, (3) promoting one another’s success, (4) applying interpersonal and social skills, and (5) group processing (the group discusses progress toward achieving a goal). When implementing cooperative learning, teachers should have an element that requires collective and individual accountability to ensure that everyone participates in the learning task.

Classroom Discussions

Classroom discussions refer to conversations students and teachers have regarding content. During classroom discussions, teachers ask more open­ended questions and prompt students to elaborate on their own thinking and that of peers. When classroom discussions and done well, students and teachers constantly build on each other’s thoughts, and most of the dialogue is student driven. To promote effective discussions, teachers must develop students’ communication skills. More specifically, teachers ensure that students learn how to extend their own thinking and expand on the thinking of their classmates. Students need to be able to listen attentively and pick out the main ideas of what classmates are saying.

Self-Reflection & Self-Assessment

Self­-reflection and self­-assessment are instructional tasks whereby teachers ask student to think actively about their work. In order for students to self­-reflect on their work, teachers should ask students to assess their own work. Students need to learn how to assess more rigorous work against performance standards that have either been provided by the teacher or co-­created in the classroom. Using the standards, students need to learn how to monitor the progress toward meeting the standards, as well as learn when and how to ask for help to meet that standard.

Balanced Instruction

Balanced instruction refers to teachers using an appropriate balance between active instruction and direct instruction, as well as the appropriate balance between individual and collaborative learning. Through balanced instruction, teachers provide students opportunities to directly learn about the material as well as engage with the material. An example of an active form of instruction is project­-based learning. In project-­based learning, students are actively involved in solving a problem, which could be completed collaboratively or independently. Even during independent projects, students typically have to rely on others to find information. During the project, students typically should plan, monitor, and reflect on their progress toward completion.

Academic Press & Expectations

Academic press refers to a teacher’s implementation of meaningful and challenging work; academic expectations focus on the teacher’s belief that all students can and will succeed. Students should sense that academics are extremely important, that the teacher wants students to succeed, and that they have to exert effort in challenging work in order to succeed. Teachers should ensure that students feel pressure to succeed, as well as feel responsible for accomplishing or failing to accomplish their academic work. In order to be successful with this practice, teachers must know what their students are capable of doing academically and how students will respond emotionally to challenging work.

Competence Building: Modeling, Practicing, Feedback & Coaching

Competence building occurs when teachers help develop social­-emotional competencies systematically through the typical instructional cycle: goals and objectives of the lesson, introduction to new material or modeling, group and individual practice, and conclusion and reflection. Each part of the cycle helps reinforce particular social­-emotional competencies when the teacher integrates them into the lesson. Throughout the lesson, the teacher should model prosocial behaviors to the students, as well as provide feedback to students on how they interact with their peers and learn content. If problems arise between students in guided practice or with content, the teacher guides the students through problem-­solving and conflict resolution strategies.