These days, contemporary educators understand that many factors play a role in a student’s education beyond their ability with a textbook. As growing individuals, students have many different needs, and not all are academic. Educators at all levels are beginning to understand the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL).
SEL is the process of helping students develop social and emotional skills that will serve them in all areas of life, now and in the future. The educational nonprofit — the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) — is one of the leading authorities on the topic. CASEL divides the concept of SEL into five principal parts: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
One of the most effective ways to promote healthy SEL and better classroom habits is by cultivating strong school-family partnerships (SFP). An SFP means actively involving parents or guardians in a student’s educational experience to further enhance their learning and abilities outside of the classroom.
A brief from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) highlights research showing that when parents were more involved in their child’s education, students exhibited higher rates of “attendance, homework completion, and school completion, as well as elevated grades and test scores.” By including parents and guardians as an active part of education, they can better support a students’ needs and promote healthy development outside of the classroom. Research has also shown that better family involvement “helps with children’s cognitive, social, and emotional functioning” and has been “linked to increased self-esteem, improved behavior, and more positive attitudes toward school,” the brief notes.
Forming Strong Relationships for Optimal Learning
A Master of Education in Curriculum and Teaching from Fitchburg State University prepares graduates with the level of proficiency and expertise in educational best practices to create robust partnerships between schools and families and foster vibrant, compelling learning experiences for students.
The underlying principles of SFPs are similar to that of SEL, placing importance on all elements of a student’s educational experience, both academic and otherwise. As the CDE brief puts it, “SEL and SFPs share a common mission: to create an engaging and supportive climate for learning both in school and at home.” By creating environments at school and at home that effectively complement one another, educators and families can offer more comprehensive support for the totality of children’s development.
As the Greater Good in Education program notes, a healthy school-family partnership is crafted around “shared values” and “emphasizes the strengths” of all parties involved. The collaboration should be between equals. Schools should respect and honor the different cultural backgrounds of students and their families and adapt their approach to SFPs accordingly. No two families are the same, so no two SFPs will be the same. As the CDE emphasizes, all successful SFPs “recognize and respect each other’s diverse styles, skills, and strengths.”
Enriching the Environment
When schools and families practice SEL principles within the framework of SFPs, they create a more enriching educational environment. Parents and guardians are more involved in students’ learning, reinforcing and supporting their lessons and development from the classroom. Educators can better connect with students by learning more about their home lives, backgrounds and even perceptions of SEL. This way, teachers can implement strategies that respect and accommodate the individual needs of students and their families.
These SEL and SFP best practices anchor the following courses in Fitchburg State’s online master’s program in curriculum and teaching: Strategies for Creating a Positive Learning Environment; Dynamic Perspectives in Education; Consultation and Collaboration Strategies. Completing these courses positions teachers to make positive contributions to school-family partnerships, ultimately benefiting not only the students but also the entire school district.