Social-Emotional Learning Championing Freedom, Education and Development : A Vehicle for At-risk Students to Succeed
Sheard, Mary Kathryn
This paper examines the potential of a social-emotional learning (SEL) programme, Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS)in Northern Ireland (NI), to prepare at-risk students to succeed in education and later life. At-risk students are defined as students living in communities traditionally divided and fractured by social, religious, cultural intolerance, and sectarianism. The risk is not developing the social-emotional competencies necessary for good emotional health and positive relationships that are often necessary for personal and academic achievement. Themes of freedom, education and development are explored in reference to findings from a matched randomised control evaluation of PATHS implemented in six primary schools in Northern Ireland between 2008 and 2011. Results of data obtained through individual student assessments of social-emotional skills and findings from interviews with school principals, teachers and students are reported, and the potential of SEL as a vehicle for at-risk students to succeed are discussed. Findings from the evaluation clearly demonstrate how SEL provides a potential vehicle for breaking down the constraints and barriers to personal development and success for at-risk students. Recommendations are made for the further development and implementation of SEL programmes in Europe to advance the opportunities for at-risk students in divided communities to succeed.
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