Amid the high-stakes effort to prepare high school students for college and workforce success, social and emotional learning (SEL) skills—like managing emotions, setting goals, and maintaining positive relationships—usually take a back seat.
That doesn’t have to be the case, says Robert Balfanz, Johns Hopkins research professor and director of the Everyone Graduates Center. “Advances in learning science tell us that to maximize student learning, we need to recognize that the learning process is driven by an integration of academic, social, and emotional skills.”
Backed by a five-year, $5.8 million federal EIR grant, Balfanz and his team are refining and expanding an innovative curriculum to give eighth graders the critical SEL skills they need to navigate the transition to high schools and better self-direct their success in the critical ninth grade year and beyond.
The project will transform an existing, multiyear middle-grades advisory curriculum into a high-impact, quarter-long eighth-grade course: “Skills for Secondary School Success.” It will then validate the course’s impact on eighth-grade SEL skills and academic outcomes through a 1,000-student study in 10 high-needs schools.
Partnering with the nonprofits Talent Development Secondary and SRI International, the team, will also work to develop cost-effective professional-development delivery modes, with the goal of producing a scalable intervention to be used in schools nationwide.