Classrooms & Social-Emotional Learning: The Connection

The interior of a bright, empty classroom, showing the back to school concept
Classrooms & Social-Emotional Learning: The Connection

After months of lockdown, isolation and three pandemic waves, the educational sector has embraced one mantra: Learning can and will occur anywhere. The entire world is focussing on helping students gain comprehensive learning despite these incredibly tough times.

We re-think and redesign new learning environments to help them learn socially, academically, emotionally, and physically. However, the latest focus is on “Social-Emotional Learning or SEL. It is a learning process that people develop healthy identities through the application of knowledge and skills. In the process, they also learn to show empathy, establish healthy relationships and make effective decisions.

What’s the big deal with SEL? Why is it a priority? Experts give these reasons:

  • Social-emotional skills and knowledge are necessary to fully achieve academic goals.
  • There is no optimal learning environment for SEL development for students in physical classrooms.
  • As students slowly return to physical classes, they will require more support to learn social-emotional knowledge and skills.

Of late, educators feel that school furniture and classroom layout play an intrinsic role in students’ social-emotional development. They strongly recommend integrating SEL into the classrooms’ physical design.

Why Is SEL Important In A Classroom Atmosphere?

SEL really is the foundation for everything else that educators do in the classroom. Educators note that not much can be accomplished if school children have unfulfilled social and emotional needs. Students who are not socio-emotionally strong will have difficulty making academic achievements.

Children are handling hybrid learning environments and they really need to feel protected, comfortable and supported. They also require their “safe spaces” where they can take a break, rejuvenate, and recharge themselves.

The Covid-19 situation has also made children anxious as school functioning is dictated by the pandemic waves. Right now, children need an ideal classroom environment that will teach them ways to deal with anxiety. Here are some examples of emotional outlets to help them stay focused in class:

  • Yoga and meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Fidget toys
  • Opportunities to write or talk about their feelings

Some students have returned to a physical classroom, but others still prefer remote and hybrid learning environments. Whatever the mode of learning, teachers need to support students to:

  • Think about the results of their actions
  • Respond effectively when their actions have unintended consequences
  • Gain new experiences by fuelling their curiosity
  • Make bold fact-based decisions

That said, it is also important to remember that there is no tailored approach to social-emotional learning. SEL is not one-size-fits-all because it is different for each student and teacher. Hence, if schools are serious about imparting SEL in the classrooms, they must provide the right resources and sensory tools for all students.

What works for one student may not work for another. That’s okay because the point is to make these social-emotional tools available for everyone. They must be inclusive, useful, and welcoming.

One classic example has flexible, modular classroom furniture that can be rearranged. Desks and chairs should be easy to lift and move so that teachers (or students themselves) can arrange them to suit their learning styles. Classroom furniture should allow various options like individual learning, group study, group discussions, etc.

Classroom Design Flexibility & How It Promotes SEL

Classroom design flexibility is a must for the current learning environment. Such an environment allows students to choose where and how they want to learn and better understand their individual needs. Traditional classrooms do little to encourage “student belonging”. Besides, the pandemic has caused a significant loss of social interaction between students as they flit between virtual and physical classes.

As schools think about redesigning classroom spaces, they must consider how it will impact the students’ cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. It is crucial that schools create an environment that fosters inclusion, collaboration, and risk-free learning.

The elements of SEL-oriented classrooms should include:

  • Ample space for children to sit, stand, and move around
  • Space to work alone, in pairs, or small groups
  • Relaxing spaces with soft-seating couches, Ottomans, and benches
  • Configurable student desks to promote team learning
  • Cafe-type tables to promote a relaxed feeling

Such an environment will help students reduce their stress and anxiety. It will make them feel more at home and encourage them to express their ideas. In a nutshell, the more students feel they are a part of the classroom, the more positive outcomes one can expect.

Besides, a SEL classroom should offer what technology can’t. We live in an era where children as young as four years know how to use the internet to get what they want- whether information or pizza!

SEL classrooms help students refine their decision-making, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills. Students need this kind of environment to grow in a world where their digital and offline lives blend. Apart from their academic skills, they rely heavily on their social-emotional skills to succeed. They will also need these skills to establish supportive relationships for their future.

An SEL classroom is what every child needs right now because it is the environment that makes students feel welcome and gears them to learn.

Utilize Inspace Furniture To Promote SEL In Classrooms

Incorporating Social-Emotional Learning in your classroom may require a bit of expert advice. Do approach our team at Inspace School Furniture, TamilNadu, to create a successful student-centred classroom environment. We have all the furniture and the ideas you need to set up a conducive learning environment for your students. Get in touch with us today!

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