Linking Social-Emotional Learning Competencies With Fitness Data, Physical Education Teacher Uses Assessment Program To Improve Students’ Overall Academic Performance
Bolstered by new software that simplifies data collection, a South Dakota teacher implemented a strategy to assess and improve her students’ Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) skills through her physical education program.
Cheryl Miller, a Personal Health and Wellness teacher, spearheaded an effort to add new heart rate monitors and assessment software to the Mitchell Middle School (Mitchell, SD) curriculum last year, but she wanted to do more than simply collect and analyze heart rate data as she’d done in the past. Miller spent part of last summer developing tools to help define the relationship between her students’ social and emotional development and their classroom performance.
“It’s interesting that if I pull up a student’s social and emotional report and I see a student who is struggling in that area, 9 times out of 10, they are struggling academically in my classroom,” she said. “It’s very easy to see the connection between the two.”
As SHAPE America adopted new standards of physical literacy, Miller focuses on the newly rewritten Standard 4, which speaks specifically to a student’s ability to manage their behavior.
As posted on the SHAPE America website, “the physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.”
For Miller, the new standard read very much like a set of skills and standards she’d become more and more familiar with over the last few years through the Collaboration for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
“Their standards, the five social and emotional competencies they identify, basically make up our Standard 4,” Miller said.
CASEL wants students to learn to excel in the following skills:
- Social awareness,
- Relationship skills, and
- Responsible decision-making
The teachers want students to excel as well. Miller sees SEL skills as key indicators toward educational success, so she created a platform to track social and emotional behaviors during her health and PE classes and to help students make key corrections as needed.
“When there is a student struggling, we schedule a time to meet with the student and discuss what the issues are and what they can do to improve and if/how can we help,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t even realize that their success is being impeded until they see it in black and white.”
Social-Emotional Learning Measured Using PE Assessment Software Program
In studying the assessment software – IHT’s Assessment Measures – that MMS purchased along with the IHT Zone wrist heart rate monitors last summer, Miller learned how to create an assessment that would enable her to note student performance on a class-by-class basis, store that data and then produce regular reports that allow her to gauge the impact of SEL habits on her students’ overall performance. Regardless of what other measure she’s assessing, she assesses SEL habits in every class session.
“We can have a real discussion about what’s happening with that student when it comes to those five competencies,” Miller said.
Miller’s SEL rubric includes two key elements: the ability to rate students on a 10-point scale (10 if they don’t display behavioral issues, fewer if they do) and a field in which she inputs the behavior that doesn’t meet the nationally-recognized standards.
“We’re doing a Red Cross CPR unit and I had to make a notation in there that one had a very difficult time staying awake during instruction and failed to complete a task because he wasn’t paying any attention,” she said of a recent class.
Miller doesn’t use the data to grade her students, though the system would allow that. She chooses instead to focus on the data and use it to teach students what they need to change about their behaviors. When necessary, she can enlist help from the student’s parent.
“It’s very nice to be able, with the click of a mouse, to pull up the report and give the parent a true picture of what’s going on in class,” Miller said. “We can detail what the behavior has been. Another thing this helps with is parent engagement. Now, I often get emails from the parents in the next few days [of a meeting] making sure things have gotten better.”
Connecting SEL to Whole Child Health & Wellness
As she concludes her first year of capturing SEL data in addition to fitness data, Miller strives to show students how all of those elements remain linked. She knows about the growing volume of research linking improved physical fitness to improved academic performance. She believes a student’s ability to demonstrate what CASEL and SHAPE highlight as key behaviors is just as essential.
“I know the relationship is there,” she said. “You can look at a student’s progress in classes and if he’s struggling, you can look at his SEL information and see he’s struggling with all of those skills as well. I also want to pull the heart rate data. I want to correlate SEL to as many things as I can.”
Part of her challenge is for students – and parents – to see that there is more to succeeding in physical education than simply being a good athlete or meeting a workout goal.
“So many times, we have parents who think everything is okay [in PE] if their child is athletically talented. They forget there are things like social connections to it, the self-awareness, good sportsmanship, decision-making,” Miller said. “That’s all part of it too.”
With a year’s worth of data collected and stored in her IHT Spirit System database, Miller will spend her summer finalizing a plan to use that data to help students develop better social skills during the school day. She hopes to create a middle or high-school level program that can mirror her district’s elementary program that provides classes to help students learn to cope with anger issues or relationship-building.
“I am hoping that we can create some kind of connection with counselors or an intervention,” she said. “If we can start catching them at a younger age, we can make a big difference before they graduate.”
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