Mapping SEL in BC School Districts I chose to focus my practicum in EPSE 561H:Promoting SEL in Schools and Communities on enhancing my understanding on the factors that support as well as impede fuller integration of a Social-Emotional Learning framework within school districts across British Columbia. In order to carry out this mapping project, I chose to collect information through an active interview of superintendents across four key districts in British Columbia, as well as two members appointed to the Ministry of Education and one SEL-specific school staff. I transcribed these phone interviews then analyzed them in order to identify key themes around factors that contribute to successful SEL framework integration in school districts.
Background Planning The first step in designing my practicum was to reflect on my current interests as they related to SEL. As a recent transplant to Canada, I realized I wanted to learn as much information as I could on how Social Emotional Learning is defined, disseminated, manifested in BC schools, and experienced by BC students. Because I had a growing curiosity around the role school leadership plays in creating robust, culturally cutting-edge, and truly student-focused policies, I decided to conduct interviews with district superintendents and other leaders within the BCs scope of education. Through consulting with Dr. Schonert-Reichl, I was able to identify and reach out to key school leaders and critical levers of change. The final list of people to interview consisted of superintendents Mike Hooker of Revelstoke; Kevin Kaardal of Burnaby; Mike McKay of Surrey, and Steven Cardwell of Vancouver. In addition, I was able to speak with Rod Allen, the Ministry of Educations Superintendent of Learning; Maureen Dockendorf, BCs first Superintendent of Reading, and Suzanne Vardy, Burnaby schools Coordinator of Student Safety and Child Abuse Prevention. I felt greatly enthusiastic toward learning more about the evolution of BCs Learning Framework, and saw the range of roles and district sizes as an asset. Goals of Mapping Project The main goal of my mapping project was to shed light on factors that promote SEL integration, and bring awareness to the areas that superintendents cite as challenges or obstacles to SEL integration. Additional goals of the mapping project include working to:
Identify gaps in SEL programs at school and reasons why Identify policies (school and/or province level) affecting SEL implementation Identify target groups that can benefit from increased understanding of SEL Streamline efforts and promote collaboration
Resources from CASEL In the early phase of my background planning, I met with Dr. Schonert-Reichl to increase my understanding of Theories of Change and Systemic Support for SEL It was important that I both familiarize myself with the current BC educational curriculum as well as the pillars of Social Emotional Learning and key concepts in theories of educational change. My curiosity was piqued by the working paper from CASEL and the American Institutes for Research entitled Systemic Support for SEL in School Districts (http://static.squarespace.com/static/). The process of working towards systemic support for SEL in school districts is, at its core, a
collaborative one as there are several SEL players and stakeholders. A new concept that I encountered from the working paper was to see the institution of schools as map in which to frame the larger landscape of education. There are microsystems (the family, the classroom) and macrosystems (ideologies that govern society) sharing information with each other; there are pathways connecting mesosystems and exosystems (interactions between systems and institutional context in which they are embedded, respectively). In short, members of a community are always linked together and influencing each other. Active Interviewing Interviewing for research purposes is something I had not formally experience prior to this practicum. I knew a large part of the outcome of the project was dependent on what kind of questions I would asks, as well as my overall understanding of the dynamics of communication within an interview. I started by first asking myself how is an interview different from a conversation or dialogue? According to the Center for Survey Research out of UMASS Boston, while conducting standardized survey interviews [one] must make sure that all respondents are asked appropriate questions in a properly sequenced, neutral, non-directive way (http://cdn.umb.edu/images/Conversation_--_Administering_1.pdf). Clearly, there is more structure and standardization of interview questions compared to an informal conversation. In familiarizing myself with qualitative research methods and interview theory, I came across the term active interviewing (Holstein & Gubrium, 1997). According to Holstein & Gubrium, Interviews are traditionally analysed as more or less accurate descriptions of experience, as reports or representations (literally re-presentations) of reality. Analysis entails systematically coding, grouping or summarizing the descriptions, and providing a coherent organizing framework that encapsulates and explains aspects of the social world that respondents portray" (Holstein & Gubrium, 1997). Now it was time to craft my questions. I again thought about the purpose of my mapping project and based on that created six questions:
How did you first become involved in your profession as it relates to Social Emotional Learning?
How has your district established an SEL implementation plan? What have been the major factors that have facilitated or made SEL program
implementation in your district successful? Are there any barriers or obstacles to SEL implementation in your district? What is your SEL vision for your district? Who else do you know in the district or community that is working on SEL integration?
Contacting Education Leaders and Superintendents After creating my question, it was then time to reach out to my list of SEL change-agents and school leaders. I sent out emails introducing myself, my affiliation to UBC, the purpose of my project, and a request for a brief 10-15 minute phone interview. It goes without saying that all respondents were remarkably willing to participate in an interview due to the longstanding rapport each person maintained with UBC and Dr. Shonert-Reichl. I was able to correspond with each interviewee directly or through an assistant in order to schedule interviews. All seven phone interviews were conducted over the course of two weeks. I took notes during each interview, and afterwards transcribed the notes to the best of my ability.
Analyzing Themes in Qualitative Data According to Ryan and Bernands article Data Management and Analysis Methods (2000) analyzing themes in qualitative data may consist of looking for repetitionor recurring regularities from a respondent. It is not surprising that the more the same concept occurs in a text, the more likely it is a theme (Ryan & Bernard, 2000). Using this premise, I analyzed each interview, pulling out key repeating concepts for each of the five relevant questions. I also found it useful to look for linguistic connectors such as words like because, since, and as a result which can indicate causal relations and point to key themes (2000). The takeaway items to emerge are as follows: Factors Facilitating Fuller Integration of a District-Wide SEL Implementation Plan
Create an SEL-focused school culture and climate by embedding Social Emotional Learning in every schools Code of Ethics Each school has a unifying Code of Ethics that is co-constructed by students and staff. Making sure each school across the district has a current, robust, SEL appropriate Code of Ethics that is also visible (i.e. highly publicized and broadcast through many outlets in the school) is integral to fuller integration of SEL. Review and renew the Code of Ethics each year to further extended SEL goals.
Integrate SEL standards with all other subject areas. View the notion of competency not at as something that causes anxiety but as a way to account for the every SEL practices and behaviors.
Ensure SEL programming reaches junior and high school students. Having measurement tools like MDI facilitates developmentally appropriate SEL programming, and addresses older childrens SEL needs.
Promote inter-school networking especially for teachers and school community and
establish a plan for communicating about SEL. The importance of a network of SEL experts and advocates cannot be stressed enough. A space where teachers can check-in with each other and with other SEL-minded leaders is invaluable.
Distribute budget and create staffing to support SEL Districts can increase SEL
programming capacity if there are adequate resources in trained, SEL-specific staff. Furthermore it is important to provide regular professional development opportunities to increase teacher knowledge around SEL
Obstacles to Fuller Integration of District Wide SEL
Language around Social Emotional Learning can differ Avoiding the Program of the Month trap Looking at teachers own SEL competencies; Promoting Self-care for teachers
Working with new Canadians to ensure that SEL reaches English as a Second
Language (ESL) students The Next-Level of SEL in School Districts
Social Emotional Learning in every classroom More high school engagement Research and Development around an EDI/MDI for adolescents More sharing of data across schools and districts; more collaborative inquiry Continue to roll-out Social Emotional Learning and Self-Regulation framework in a
sustainable way Continued research on Social Emotional Learning and partnerships with UBC
Reflection This project has increased my understanding of the qualitative interview process, and has directly improved my understanding of the role collaboration, research, communication, and education leadership play in school systems and change in education. In short I have learned that culture shapes education policies, and the field of Social Emotional Learning has been at the center of a cultural shift of values, and in how we view the role of education in particular. Interviewing a diverse range of school leadersall who are fully committed to teaching and embodying SELunderscored the transcendent appeal for Social Emotional Learning. By extension, it is this SEL approach to teaching that dismantles, as the Ministry of Educations Superintendent of Learning Rod Allen puts it, the factory model approach to education. Furthermore, this practicum course increased my knowledge of what constitutes quality Social Emotional Learning programming and combined--or in a way complimentedthat information with increased knowledge around systemic, school district processes. Recommendations Based on my inquiry into SEL integration across school districts, my recommendation for further systemic support for SEL includes sustained strategic collaboration amongst educators, administrators, researchers as well as government (province-level, or in the US, state level) decision-makers. To this end, I would recommended the need for explicit policies requiring schools to address all students Social and Emotional needs in a developmentally appropriate way. It is interesting to consider how to do this in a way that is safe, ethical, and empirically-sound. Perhaps it is a conversation those invested in the Early Development Instrument and Middle Years Development Instrument can consider; now that we know what our students need in terms of SEL, how can we organize and sustain a plan to meet those ne
Holstein, J.A., & Gubrium, J.B (1997). The Active Interview. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ryan, G. W., & Bernard, H. R. (2000). Data management and analysis methods. In N. K. Denzin
& Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. http://static.squarespace.com/static/513f79f9e4b05ce7b70e9673/t/52aa8d55e4b0e46ab623a595/1386909013728/cdifactsheet-20131212.pdf http://cdn.umb.edu/images/Conversation_--_Administering_1.pdf