Emotional and social learning skills at a very young age are said to be crucial in the success of a child in school, but some researchers are trying to discover what kinds of intervention really boost these skills.
Sure, practicing target skills daily, incorporating direct instruction, and engaging childhood education teachers in training as well as the parents in all these efforts are indeed rudiments to a successful child in the near future.
But according to a new Oregon State University paper, these are still not enough.
“We know these skills are essential for children but there is still a lot we don’t know to engage them,” paper’s author Megan McClelland said in a statement. “The results to date have been mixed.”
McClelland, a Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences in OSU’s College of Public health and Human Sciences, added: “We don’t know yet what the key ingredients are here but we do have enough evidence to know we need to keep doing this work.”
The paper was published in a special edition of the Future of Children, a journal focused on emotional and social learning.
Much of what is written there looks at the significance of self-regulation skills where children are observed in how they follow directions and respond through times of difficulty.
McClelland provided games of interventions for children that signal how a child observes and seeks direction in whatever kind of situation.
McClelland and her team reviewed the science and theory behind these interventions and, while many studies have proven to show the correlation between children and external factors, there is still much more to be researched and to be discovered – including why there are some children who benefit more than others and also the cost effectiveness of the programs.
The paper also shows the direction between a short-term effect and a long-term effect for children.
“I look at the long term: Did the child compete college? Were they able to stay out of the criminal justice system?” said McClelland, who is also a nationally recognized child development expert. “Those are some of the most important indicators of the social emotional learning.”
The paper also found out that children who benefit more from these interventions are those that belonged to the low-income families, while the results are mixed for the others and yet show positive effects.
McClelland discovered that the most significant interventions are those that are fun for kids, low-cost, easily implemented and can be adopted into the classroom setting, in math and literacy particularly.
“The bottom line here is that there is a lot of subtlety to the findings of this work so far,” McClelland said. “Fortunately we do have some ideas what’s working and we have some ideas where to go to next in the field.”