Date of Award

5-6-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Monte Tidwell, Ph. D.

Second Advisor

George Bieger, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Anne Creany, Ph. D.

Abstract

In this day of high stakes testing we are at even greater risk of overlooking students’ social-emotional well being in search of higher test scores. The goal of social-emotional learning is to strengthen a person’s ability to understand, manage, and express the social and emotional aspects of life in ways that enable the successful accomplishment of life tasks, such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and development (Kress, Norris, Schoenholz, Elias, & Seigle, 2004). Children preoccupied with interpersonal conflict, unable to make the friends they want, or consumed with other emotional tensions not only engage in maladaptive behaviors but also are less able to focus on the academic demands of the classroom (Elias, 1997). Social-emotional learning must be embedded in the academic curriculum. The participants in this study attended the same, small elementary school in south central Pennsylvania and included students from third, fourth and fifth grade. The analysis of data section included identifying evidence from each of twelve social emotional expected learning behaviors. The principal investigator believes the study came full circle as a result of identifying participants, examining answers from student surveys, reviewing notes from grade level focus group discussions, comparing data from individual parent and teacher questionnaires, examining evidence of demonstrated social skills learned in day to day interactions as recorded based on observations, and in the end, analyzing the evidence of each of the expected learning behaviors. The latter focused on the subquestion; is there enough evidence to suggest that social skills education is effective? The participating subjects were articulate in expressing the strategies that do and do not work within their social group. They expressed and demonstrated a security within their learning environment and an understanding of individual differences and the need for acceptance of all peers. Their teachers modeled a deep understanding and respect for all feelings and dealt with concerns and frustrations as they came up. As a result, the data indicate that students who have been engaged in an established social-emotional program do exhibit behaviors that are a result of that program.

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