Newswise — Research Triangle Park, N.C.—If emotional intelligence is a key—and possibly the most important—component to student success, how do we ensure schools foster it?

Recent research shows emotional skills like grit, sense of belonging, and growth mindset positively influence student grades, test scores, and attendance. While we know social and emotional skills are important to education achievements, which skills are most important and how much can teachers influence them? Are education systems and institutions properly equipped to hold teachers accountable for them?

RTI International and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) conducted a systemic review of research in this area and focus groups with three panels of NNSTOY teachers to learn about the reliability of measures of these skills and perceptions of teachers’ capacity to develop them. While educators can contribute to the growth of students’ social and emotional capabilities, they should not be formally assessed on these skills.

“Recent research has found benefits of social and emotional skills,” said Elizabeth Glennie, report author and senior research education analyst at RTI. “However, we need to learn more about the role of educators in building these skills.”

The report looks specifically at educators’ roles in developing student grit, growth mindset, and sense of belonging at school.

Based on research and teacher focus groups, the report found:

  • Educators think it’s important that students have strong social and emotional skills, and they have a role to play in fostering them. 
  • Many factors outside the school’s control influence students’ social and emotional learning, and it is not clear which interventions have the greatest impact on students. Thus, schools and teachers should not be penalized for factors outside their control.
  • Social and emotional learning supports need to be personalized to meet students’ different needs. A formulaic approach may not benefit all students.
  • Teachers reported that many educators do not have support or know how to allocate time to helping students develop these important skills
  • Professional development and resources for social and emotional learning should be available to educators who will be responsible for teaching these skills.

“Data about social emotional learning can help teachers support their students,” Glennie said. “However, such data should used in a way that ensures that schools and teachers get the resources they need to do that.”