Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Social-Emotional and Character Skills: Keeping it Simple

By Sam Piha and Ruth Obel-Jorgensen

There is a growing body of research that affirms that social-emotional skills and character development increase academic performance and are essential to success in work and career. Expanded learning programs are uniquely positioned to develop these skills. As a result there is a growing dialogue between expanded learning programs and the school day. 

By design, expanded learning programs are uniquely positioned to promote social-emotional and character development of young people. However, if afterschool and summer programs are to provide active and engaged learning opportunities and build skills through sequencing and mastery, they must be very intentional in their work. 
The problem with the acceptance of the importance of these skills is the large number of “lists” and frameworks that describe these skills. This often adds confusion and a sense of overwhelm. 

In California, a collaborative of intermediary organizations (ASAPconnect, California School-Age Consortium, Partnership for Children and Youth, and Temescal Associates/LIAS) came together to develop a simplified framework. With funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, we convened a research advisory group. This group looked at the available literature and contributed to a concept paper to synthesize the research. The result was a concept paper entitled, Student Success Comes Full Circle: Leveraging Expanded Learning Opportunities

The paper identified the foundational social-emotional and character skills that high-quality expanded learning programs should foster. These skills include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, interpersonal skills, self-efficacy and growth mindset. It represents a call to action to school district leaders and expanded learning professionals to forge and strengthen partnerships to build social-emotional and character skills of children and youth. 

As the Common Core standards focus the school day on promoting interpersonal and social skills, now is the time for expanded learning programs to intentionally build these skills and to increase their partnership with the school day. 

For a copy of this framework and concept paper, click here. For more information and resources, visit


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