How are teachers supporting social-emotional needs this year?

Published: April 19th, 2023

Social-emotional learning: A top school priority in need of greater action

For the second year in a row, the majority of educators who contributed their experiences and opinions to the State of Technology in Education report put social-emotional learning (SEL) at the top of the list of school priorities. Social-emotional learning helps students develop a strong foundation for coping with life in and out of the classroom by teaching them self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. With students still recovering from trauma and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the 2022 academic year presented an opportunity for educators to proactively address these student needs. But did teachers make time for SEL and did schools support teachers’ efforts? 

How social-emotional learning makes an impact

Hundreds of studies show the positive impacts from social-emotional learning on student outcomes. In addition to improving attendance, scholastic achievement, and motivation, SEL helps reduce behavior disruptions, delinquencies, and student depression and anxiety. While the 2023 State of Technology in Education report revealed that most schools are implementing some SEL measures, one in 10 teachers said their schools still haven’t implemented any measures to support social-emotional needs of students.  

When it comes to what’s actually happening in classrooms, teachers are less convinced than administrators that students’ social and emotional needs come first. One-quarter of teachers reported that they believe achievement is a higher priority in their schools. The report indicates that students share this feeling, with 82% reporting they feel their teachers care more about the grades they earn.  

How teachers are incorporating SEL into their classes 

The 2022 school year was marked by ubiquitous resource and staffing shortages that added extra challenges on top of the general pressures of teaching. Despite these obstacles, many teachers found ways to incorporate SEL into their classes. One-quarter of teachers who participated in the report said they dedicate time to activities that specifically support students’ social-emotional needs such as mindfulness. In addition to focused activities, more than half of teachers said they continually encourage students to discuss how they feel. Nearly half of teachers incorporated tools to encourage collaboration and connection among students and to nurture community within their classrooms.  

Outside of class, nearly 40% of teachers made themselves available after lesson time to support students. This above-and-beyond commitment to student growth that teachers demonstrated did not go unnoticed. In the report, students overwhelmingly agreed their teachers were concerned about their well-being. Three-quarters of students said they felt their teachers care about them, make them happy, and make them feel confident. Revealing a statistic that all teachers can take pride in, 80% of students even said their teachers made them want to learn.  

Edtech can help keep momentum for SEL 

The 2023 State of Technology in Education report found that education technology is a valuable asset for supporting SEL objectives. Two-thirds of teachers agreed that tech is a good tool for supporting these needs, and 77% said it is good for experiential and immersive learning and student connections. Students agree with their teachers, with more than 90% saying technology helps them connect with their peers.  

Edtech supports thinking outside the box and creatively integrating SEL into regular class time. Teachers can use class polling on their interactive panels to invite conversation among students, which helps build community and teach social-awareness and relationship skills. Using embedded panel apps like the spinner to randomly pair up students on projects also encourages team building and social- and self-awareness. Integrating apps for social-emotional learning helps students practice mindfulness, healthy self-expression, and positive attitudes through gamification. Edtech also makes it easier for teachers to adapt lessons to meet students where they are and support differentiated learning styles.  

Social-emotional learning practices for long-term success 

Though it is heartening to see that many teachers are finding ways to incorporate social-emotional learning into their classrooms, there is a clear need for greater attention to this top priority for schools and educators. By continuing to prioritize SEL, leverage edtech to support these efforts, and collaborate with students to build a stronger sense of community and connection, teachers can help students thrive both in and out of the classroom.  

Download your copy of the 2023 State of Technology in Education report to read insights on what matters most in education right now, including SEL, staffing shortages, the student experience, and the future of education.