Integrating social, emotional, and academic development is crucial for schools targeting the success of the whole student, according to the Aspen Institutes National Commission.

In today’s world, a growing number of school systems are shifting focus from teaching ABC’s and 123’s to teaching their students to acquire and effectively apply complex social and emotional processes. These schools help their students to understand their own and others’ emotions, collaborate effectively with peers, feel and show empathy for others, communicate, regulate their behaviors, as well as maintain positive attitudes. These skills, according to the Institute, maximize a students’ potential to learn.

Although school systems are focusing attention on academics, the achievement gaps persists. Students are failing to gain the skills necessary for the demands of higher education and careers.

“We know from human history and the latest learning science that success comes from the combination of academic knowledge and the ability to work with others,” says Walter Isaacson, Aspen Institute President and CEO. “We need public education to reflect this.”

The National Commission, comprised of leaders from multiple sectors, including education, research, business, health, and the military, strive to understand how K-12 education can best support the whole child. Their research reinforces mounting evidence that focusing on social, emotional, and academic development and competencies in schools is equally essential, if not more, in predicting school performance, career success, and overall well-being than traditional teaching approaches.

Similar to the mission of the National Commission, our goal at Reflection Sciences is to close gaps in achievement and promote social, emotional, and academic development by advancing the science and practice of executive function (EF), the neurocognitive skills involved in deliberate, goal-directed control of thought, action, and emotion. These skills provide the foundation for learning and adaptation in classroom settings. So how can best measure and support EF growth? A number of intervention strategies have been shown to improve EF. The key to a successful intervention involves reflection training: allowing the student to pause momentarily and reflect on the questions at hand before responding, practice, and just the right amount of challenge.

EF to Go

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The Commission, with input from teachers, parents, researchers, business leaders, and students in communities across the country, plans to transform and reinvent not only how schools best structure learning, but also how we define success.

The Aspen Institute has created an infographic featuring some important facts and data on what we currently know about social, emotional, and academic development.

Click here to view and download: the Aspen Institute’s Fast Facts