Sometimes there is a disconnect between decision makers and the teachers and support staff who will be implementing a new program. If your staff doesn’t understand social and emotional learning (SEL) or its proven benefits, they may view it as yet another item on their very full plates. As you build out your SEL program, be sure to communicate with your staff and help them see the benefits of SEL. Here are five tips that will increase teacher buy-in and get them excited about implementation.
Validate Your Reasoning for Prioritizing SEL
There are many reasons you made the decision to create an SEL program within your school or district. Share these reasons with your educators so they understand why you are making SEL a priority. Engaging staff in the decision process will go a long way to building staff enthusiasm.
Host a professional development session to “make the case” for how SEL can make teachers’ jobs easier. Bring in industry leaders and research experts to speak about the power of SEL. To make the session even more compelling, consider inviting at-risk students who have benefited from SEL programming to share how SEL changed their lives. This session will show teachers firsthand how SEL can improve instruction, increase student achievement, and make real differences in the lives of their students. Your staff will come away from the training motivated and excited to get started
Provide Support Throughout Implementation
Programs can increase buy-in throughout implementation by forming effective support networks. Consider training an “SEL expert” in each school or program. These experts can support other educators by instructing teachers on best practices for implementing SEL curriculum, monitoring the program’s progress, and helping track student gains.
Additionally, the SEL expert or another designated staff member can provide support through coaching and mentoring. Have the coach observe an SEL lesson from each of your teachers. In this instance, it is important to ensure that teachers understand that the coach is simply there to help improve their instruction and will not be reporting back to school or program leadership. The coach should follow up with each teacher after the lesson to discuss how the lesson went and offer guidance for improvement. This is an excellent way to help build teachers’ confidence by emphasizing their strengths. It also provides a non-threatening framework for delivering constructive and meaningful feedback without the anxiety of a performance review.
Foster Regular Communication
Consider creating an online forum where staff can post things such as SEL tips and tricks, notes about their implementation, and SEL research articles. This forum will give your teachers a platform for sharing their experiences and will help create a supportive SEL community within your school/district or program.
Ask for Feedback
At the end of the year, encourage teachers to share their wins and any challenges they faced during implementation. Talk through ways to improve the SEL program and how they resolved any issues that came up. Asking for teachers’ feedback will help staff feel like their voice matters, and they will be more engaged in making improvements for next year.
Use SEL Data
From beginning to end, SEL data can support your program and staff by providing a clear roadmap for instruction and intervention. Part of the power of social and emotional data is that it provides insight into why a student is struggling. By collecting data on students’ social and emotional needs, educators get a clear picture of where each student is excelling and identify where they need additional instruction. This data can guide both classroom and small-group instruction and can also be used to create targeted interventions tailored to each student, In addition, it can support individualized education programs (IEPs).
When selecting an SEL assessment, be sure to look for one that is research-based, is aligned to your SEL goals, and is easy to administer. Consider the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA), – an award-winning assessment that meets these criteria. The DESSA is embraced by teachers because it is easy to use, and the robust reporting makes their jobs easier by providing the specific data they need to improve instruction and student achievement. This tool is flexible and can be used as a formative measure, to monitor SEL progress throughout the year, and to determine growth after an intervention.
Gaining teacher buy-in is essential for the success of any initiative in your school/district or program. When teachers understand the importance of SEL and how it can make their jobs easier, they are more likely to implement with fidelity. Engage teachers in the process and be sure to support their needs along the way. Together, you can create an effective SEL program that will improve student achievement. Learn more about how Aperture can help.