Social-emotional learning (SEL) is how students develop the skills to manage their emotions, make decisions, set goals, and properly interact with peers and adults. Social-emotional development in youth translates to higher academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems.
Evidence-based social-emotional learning includes several components: a safe, caring and well-structured school environment, instruction in social-emotional skills, and opportunities for practice and reinforcement of social-emotional skills (CASEL, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2011). Our Social-Emotional Learning Team works with trainers from CASEL to develop a comprehensive SEL plan for our schools that include these three components:
- Expanded Menta Method: Staff members use our Expanded Menta Method framework to ensure an optimal learning environment for all students, one that is consistently safe, engaging, responsive to the varying needs of students, well-structured, instructional, and positive in focus. An optimal learning environment effectively prevents the occurrence of many problem behaviors and provides a foundation for the development of social-emotional competencies in students.
- SEL Instruction: SEL instruction focuses on the social-emotional competencies identified by CASEL and incorporated in the Illinois State Learning Standards. Clinical and teaching staff members draw from a number of science-based curricula and resources to plan instruction that targets the social-emotional skills critical to college, career, and citizenship readiness as well as academic success on our campus, in district schools, and in postsecondary settings. In addition, clinical staff members collaborate with teachers to integrate instruction in social-emotional skills throughout the day. Our system of positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) further supports social-emotional instruction by teaching and reinforcing the skills needed to meet school-wide behavioral expectations.
- Opportunities for Practice and Reinforcement: Through our multi-level point system and PBIS, students are given immediate and frequent feedback to reinforce their utilization of social-emotional skills. In addition, learning delivery methods that support student engagement with the curriculum and with each other provide multiple opportunities to learn and practice new skills.
Behavior Supports and Interventions
We use a three-tiered approach to organize our system of positive behavior supports and interventions.
Tier 1 interventions and supports are the universal components of our behavior system. All students will have access to these strategies, interventions, and services and many students will require no further support or intervention in order to make adequate progress at school. The purpose of Tier 1 strategies and supports is prevention, through teaching, encouraging, shaping, and positively reinforcing appropriate behaviors and social-emotional skills.
- Expanded Menta Method: Staff members utilize our Expanded Menta Method framework to ensure an optimal learning environment for all students, one that is consistently safe, engaging, responsive to the varying needs of students, well-structured, instructional, and positive in focus.
- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS): Positive behavioral expectations are clearly identified, posted in all classrooms, and explicitly taught to students. Teachers and clinicians work together to teach students the skills necessary to meet these expectations, utilizing various social-emotional learning activities and strategies. Student efforts to display expected behaviors are supported and reinforced in a variety of ways, ranging from praise and public postings of successes and improvements to tangible incentives and rewards. Our Illinois schools are affiliated with the Illinois State PBIS Network.
- Point System: Staff members utilize a multi-level point system to provide immediate feedback to students regarding their behavior. Each of the levels in the system reflects a different stage in the process of learning skills and preparing for college, career, and citizenship as well as reintegration.
Tier 2 strategies and interventions are designed to support the additional needs of some of our students, those who are not able to progress without more intensive intervention. At this level, students may be provided with small group interventions targeting particular skill areas (e.g., problem-solving, conflict resolution, social skills, anger management). Some students may require short-term behavioral interventions targeting particular problem behaviors. Other students may benefit from frequent daily check-ins from an adult mentor.
Tier 3 provides very individualized and intensive services to those few students who require this level of intervention. For these students, function-based behavior interventions are developed by a multi-disciplinary action team. This team bases their intervention on a functional behavior assessment that identifies the variables that are maintaining the student’s problem behavior(s). Interventions generally include strategies to modify instruction or the learning environment, teach the student more positive alternative behaviors, and provide reinforcement to the student for exhibiting positive behavior. Data are collected to enable the team to closely monitor the student’s progress in response to the interventions.