Are you a K-3 educator? If so, chances are you understand the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills. That’s because in a 2018 survey from McGraw Hill Education, 93% of teachers and 96% of administrators agreed that SEL is as important as academic learning in K-12 classrooms—skills which have only become more important this year as the trauma of COVID-19, the challenges of remote learning, and the rest of 2020 have weighed on students and educators alike.

But when it comes to SEL training programs, we believe there is a lot of room to improve outcomes for students and educators alike. According to Dr. Greg Benner, Helen and Pat O’Sullivan Professor of Education at the University of Alabama, “Educators receive an average of eight hours of training on effective SEL strategies and even less training on how to differentiate to youth with significant behavior concerns. As a result, educators feel unprepared to provide explicit, differentiated SEL instruction, particularly for students with and at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders.”

That’s why Trifoia is teaming up with Dr. Benner and the University of Alabama alongside xSEL Labs, Rush University Medical Center, Oregon Research Institute, and Research Press on a project to help K-3 educators improve student outcomes through SEL instruction. Interested in learning more? Here’s a breakdown of the SELSG+ program, when the project may be coming to your school district, and how you can sign up to learn more.

SELSG+: A Complete Solution for SEL Education

When you talk to Dr. Benner about SELSG+, it’s immediately clear that making SEL instruction work for everyone is one of his chief goals. “Educators need a solution that meets all their students’ needs,” said Benner. “The SELSG+ innovation is a professional learning solution to this problem.”

When it comes to SELSG+, the project seeks to serve the following stakeholders:

  1. All K-3 students, through SEL instruction and materials suitable for every student.
  2. At-risk K-3 students, through assessment, identification, and tiered interventions and training to master SEL skills.
  3. All K-3 educators, through professional development and online study groups to give teachers more confidence and fluency teaching SEL skills to all students.

The last is the key enhancement of SELSG+. “Improving youth SEL outcomes for all students requires educators to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to deliver differentiated SEL instruction,” said Benner. “Our goal is to give elementary educators the ability to improve the social and emotional health of the students they serve, including those who are struggling most.”

The complete SELSG+ program consists of four components:

1. Tier 1 SEL Instruction for All Students in Grades K-3 using the We Have Skills (WHS) curriculum

The SELSG+ project’s Tier 1 SEL curriculum will be an online adaptation of the We Have Skills curriculum from IRIS Educational Media (a subsidiary of Trifoia).

We Have Skills! is an 8-week curriculum designed to teach SEL skills to students in K-3. WHS is identified as one of the Top 25 evidence-based SEL programs by Harvard University’s Ecological Approach to Social Emotional Learning Laboratory.

The WHS curriculum includes eight 30-minute classroom lessons, practice exercises, and take-home materials. The first lesson defines classroom behavioral skills and explains their importance. The remaining lessons teach seven core behavioral skills:

  1. Listen
  2. Ask for help.
  3. Follow directions.
  4. Do the best you can.
  5. Follow the rules.
  6. Work out strong feelings.
  7. Get along.

Classroom instruction includes daily practice through problem-solving discussions, role-plays, and games and review of skills during activities like classroom instruction, independent work, and transitions. Educators provide students with independent activities that reinforce the skills and lessons learned in class, and send home parent materials that support learning goals. 

2. SEL Assessments and Progress Monitoring with SELweb

In order to identify students in need of Tier 2 interventions, the project will utilize SELweb from xSEL Labs, a web-based tool to assess K-6 student social-emotional comprehension.

SELweb is a student friendly, digitally-delivered 25-minute assessment which is designed for students to complete without the assistance of teaching staff. SELweb measures students on four dimensions essential to social-emotional competence:

  1. Social awareness: Understanding of others’ emotions.
  2. Social meaning: Interpreting others’ mental states.
  3. Social reasoning: Reasoning about social problems.
  4. Self-control: Delaying gratification and controlling emotions toward goal attainment.

Students who are struggling with particular skills will be grouped for Tier 2 intervention based upon the results from SELWeb and additional data about individual students from direct observation, skill checklists, and other sources.

3. Tier 2 Instruction for Identified Students with Skillstreaming

Students who require Tier 2 support will be provided targeted instruction using Skillstreaming from Research Press. As a Tier 2 intervention, Skillstreaming is designed to provide targeted support for students for whom Tier 1 supports are insufficient.

Skillstreaming is a widely-used Tier 2 social skills training program that targets:

  1. Classroom survival skills.
  2. Friendship-making skills.
  3. Skills for dealing with feelings.
  4. Skill alternatives to aggression.
  5. Skills for dealing with stress.

Students learn these skills through evidence-based learning processes including modeling, role playing, performance feedback, and generalization.

Skillstreaming is the ideal Tier 2 intervention because it is flexible and is designed to be differentiated and individualized. Only skills (out of 60 available) where students are deficient need be taught, and the speed of progress through the curriculum can be adjusted to meet individual needs. The program has been flexibly adapted for a range of students with and without disabilities, including those who may be at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders.

4. Educator Professional Development with Study Groups and Personalized Coaching with SELSG+

The SELSG+ professional development course is the key enhancement of the SELSG+ project. It will guide educators through twelve modules which will help them learn, reflect, and implement the featured SEL content, conduct assessments, and monitor progress.

The professional learning curriculum is structured to be sequential, active, focused, and explicit, with teachers learning and practicing new skills as they proceed through the modules. They will practice with fellow teachers and work toward mastery prior to implementing the Tier 1 and Tier 2 curriculum with their students.

SELSG+ will provide educators an opportunity to participate in online teacher study groups, which are an evidence-based professional development approach for building teacher capacity to implement and sustain effective classroom practices. Participants collaborate with existing grade-level teams of teachers—or, in smaller schools, multi-grade teams—to discuss the content, practice implementation, review assessment data, group students for Tier 2 intervention, and develop lesson plans.

A majority of schools currently provide grade-level teams with common weekly planning time to participate in professional learning communities, and the collaborative aspect of the study groups will fit seamlessly into this existing framework to provide maximum efficiency and benefit toward both teachers’ professional learning and implementation with students.

SELSG+: Coming Soon

The SELSG+ project team will begin working with select elementary educators in 2021 to design program components, and will expand to school districts in Alabama when the program evaluation begins in 2022. If the results from the evaluation are positive, the SELSG+ program will be made available nationally in 2023. Interested in learning more about the SELSG+ study? Sign up for our newsletter to be kept abreast about the latest in news from Trifoia, including progress for this and other projects.