Talking Heads and Hearts: Intellectual and Emotional Education Make a Potent Pairing
Daniel: I've always had this kind of secret talk radio host fantasy, so I'm gonna play that out this afternoon, and we have a great lineup here on Castle Radio this afternoon, really outstanding guests. To my left, immediate left, is Mark Greenberg. Mark is Edna Bennett chair of prevention at Penn State University. He directs Penn State's Prevention Research Center for the promotion of human development. Maurice Elias is a professor of psychology at Rutger's University, the president elect of the Society for Community Research and Action. He's also the senior author promoting social and emotional learning guidelines for educators. Larry Abner, Larry's professor of applied psychology and public policy at New York University. There he serves as board chair of the new Institute for Human Development and Social Change. And finally, we have George Lucas who needs no introduction, because he founded GLEF, which we all worship.
That's your claim to fame.
Daniel: Because it's so effective in getting the message out, so let me take people one by one. And first in the guest chair is Mark Greenberg. So let's just start by seeing where are we starting? What do you think the most important scientific developments in SEL are so far?
Mark: The message this morning is critically important, and that is that social and emotional learning programs in carefully done randomized trials not only affect children's social development and their emotional processing, but they dramatically affect the academic achievement. This effect size of point two eight is as large as almost any effect size. Even reading achievement interventions don't change reading achievement in most cases more than social emotional learning does. And that's because, as Dan said many years ago, it's a master skill. It's a skill that underlies all kinds of achievements in learning. You know that in the nineteen eighties, an experiment was stopped because we found that aspirin, by taking aspirin each day, we reduced our rate of heart disease. The effect size for that is less than point one oh, okay? The effect size of the social emotional learning programs on academic achievement is point two eight. It's almost three times that effect size. So we need to use language, I agree with, language is very important, that we can get a sense of the proportion of this effect. That's an effect that literally can change the lives of millions of American children.
Daniel: When you go to a school and you say, "We've got this program. We want you to start doing it," and teachers are so hard pressed, don't you get a lot of pushback? "We don't have time for this." What's your response to that?
Maurice: I frankly find that this message was not something that people wanted to hear ten years ago, but I think they're ready. I think they're ready, and in New Jersey, of course, we have a way of making sure they're ready. But in New Jersey, the State Department of Education is actually funding an effort that's now in its third year, developing safe and civil schools, which has as its mission to bring social and emotional and character development to all twenty-four hundred New Jersey schools. So the aspiration is there, the support is there, it's possible.
Daniel: Let me ask you this, we've been hearing that it's important to get to schools of education. At the same time, Roger's showing that teachers can do this very well. Do you think that teachers need some extra training before they become teachers, and how seamless is it really, getting a teacher up to speed to teach SEL?
Maurice: There's nothing pedagogically challenging about most of what we ask teachers to do in various SEL curricular programs, nothing beyond what they have to do in most of their other pedagogy. Teachers are not used to their language of emotions, and I think that's the single biggest issues that we have to help them with. They don't know how to talk to children about emotions and they're afraid how to respond when children mention difficult emotions. And I think that's something that should be part of teachers' training, because it's going to be what they're faced with in the classroom.
Daniel: Larry, you're really an expert on education policy and it looks to me like we've got a really good case from a scientific point of view and a practice point of view, of bringing SEL into schools, but it's not that easy, isn't it? There's a little thing called policy, and what do you think it would take to convince key policy decision makers to go for this?
Larry: Well, the first thing I wanna say is, I'm grateful for my-- my brother from New Jersey's comments, and I'd like to see the whole family working. On a much more serious note, policy is a gigantic task. I have the opportunity to talk about policy in front of George Miller and Ed Ziegler and then allude to one or two issues about communications right before George Lucas, so take my comments in their context. One of the things that I think we've heard already from the meeting today, and from Castle's work, is that policy exists at multiple levels. It exists from the building level and community level, through the district and municipality level, to the state level, to the national level and indeed to the international level. So I think explicit policy strategies that recognize all of those levels, trying to create an echo chamber, trying to create things that reinforce instead of detract from each other at these multiple levels is one part. We need top down, bottom up and middle out strategies. And policy equals politics, so Janice Jackson said the big R word hasn't been described and used much in this meeting. The other word is culture wars. We use the umbrella term, social emotional learning. Red America uses the term social and character development, and somehow, solving some of the political issues related to, is this social and character development, and is it religion and morals and values based, or is it social emotional learning, and is it science and rationale based? That has to be solved. George Miller has scars all over his body associated with the challenge of, do you do this as evidence based or as values based?
Daniel: What's your answer, what's the most--?
Larry: Yes, it has to be both. We have to align both, and we've talked a lot about communications. We're going to talk about communications more. Anybody in this room who hasn't looked at the Frameworks Institute's website, www.frameworksinstitute.org, it is about evidence based communications strategies. The words we use, how they call up, in Pedro Noguera's terms, our assumptions about what the causes of the problem are, and how they dispose toward preferred policy solutions. So we have to apply the same rigor to policy development and to message development associated with policies as we apply to our science.
Daniel: You have gotten to actually stake your ground in the education world as a communicator, as finding the way to message the meat, so to speak, you know, what works, what's promising, what's a beautiful vision, and taking it to a public in a way that people resonate with.
George: Our mission really is to help facilitated high technology in the schools, and what that did was take us to a place where, okay, you've got your computers in your schools, now what do you do with them? But that took us into what we call project based learning and collaborative learning, which is basically what this is, and interdisciplinary studies, and a lot of things that don't have anything to do with technology, but the technology allows this to happen, and they're all connected. So we sorta look at a bigger picture in which emotional intelligence is one part of it. But when you start to pull everything all apart, you realize that everything depends on everything else in order to work. A computer allows you to do a project. A project allows you to do it with two or three people at a time. That basically demands emotional intelligence. It's not just for the recess, you know, where you learn who gets to go on the jungle gym first. It's actually, you know, and I hear it from my own kids, you know, they say, "Well, I gotta do this project with so and so. I hate him." And I say, "Well, you know, that's the way the world is. You're gonna have to learn to work with people you hate. That's just the way it works, and it's not gonna go away and you're gonna have to learn how to do it." And to have the teachers as facilitators explain it to the students ahead of time, "This is how you make this work," then their projects not only become the academic project, but it becomes and emotional challenge of, "How do I work with somebody and make this happen?" I like to say, you know, unless you're a college professor or a scientist, you're never gonna get fired for being stupid. You're only gonna get fired for not being able to work with people, and that's usually the way it works in the real world.
Daniel: Actually, I saw a study of CEOs which showed that they got hired for their business expertise and their intelligence, but they got fired for lapses in social and emotional learning.
Daniel: Which brings up the question of, if you were going to try to sell this, to get this message to the business community, what would you emphasize?
George: Well, again, it's the ability to work with other people. Any business, they know this. All businesses know this. They all know that what they want is people who are team builders, who are able to work with other people, who are able to inspire other people, who are able to, without conflict, get other people to do things or change their ways or this sort of thing. And if you can say, "This is going to make that happen" to the business community, I'm sure they would embrace it, because that's their biggest problem.
Daniel: But what would your message to parents be? I mean, don't parents really care if their children are happy and doing well in school? I mean, don't you need to change language--?
George: But that's where some of these statistics, you know, the fact that they do better on tests. I mean, to me, that's the biggest sales point here, is to say, "They will do better on their test scores if they understand emotional intelligence." That would get a parent behind it. If we can bring down the incidence of violence in our school by doing this, and we can save some money by having less police officers on the campus, well, that's a good argument.
Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to Edutopia.org