Parents and educators have been asking us about how social emotional learning in the classroom can impact students’ ability to learn and navigate interpersonal relationships, emotions, and adversity.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools are shifting their focus from test scores and homework to their students’ social and emotional needs. Educators can incorporate social emotional learning (SEL) into the classroom in many ways, from checking in on kids daily to giving them opportunities to self-reflect on their work. One great way to bring social emotional learning to your classroom is by using modern technology like virtual reality (VR).
In this article, we’ll discuss how introducing social emotional learning into your classroom can benefit students and address the questions:
- What is social emotional learning?
- Why is social emotional learning so important?
- How can educators implement social emotional learning in the classroom?
We’ll also touch on how we created Kai XR to help teach social emotional learning skills in the classroom. Read on to learn about current social emotional learning research, tips and tricks for your class, and Kai XR’s commitment to social emotional learning.
What is Social Emotional Learning?
Social emotional learning is a pedagogical methodology and a group of skills and mindsets that allows students to understand their emotions better by identifying how they feel, why they’re feeling that way, and how they can manage it. Social emotional learning can help students build close and strong relationships, participate in open communication, create healthy boundaries, and demonstrate empathy.
Social emotional learning is also referred to as:
- Non-cognitive skills
- Soft skills
- Character development
- Executive functioning
- Social emotional academic development (SEAD)
Rather than focusing on hard skills like presentation skills, computer skills, or analytical skills, social emotional learning focuses on these core competencies:
- Stress management
- Responsible decision-making
- Relationship skills
It encourages kids to focus on social interactions and self-reflection in addition to their cognitive skills like reading or solving a math problem. These skills will help them navigate college, careers, and life, helping them build sustainable and meaningful relationships later on.
Social emotional learning also helps students understand one another. By learning about someone else’s point of view, children develop skills in empathy and compassion. This is seen in students who frequently use VR in the classroom like Kai XR’s virtual field trips.
VR lets kids become immersed in various environments across the globe, creating groundbreaking and memorable learning opportunities for students.
Take our Kai XR virtual field trip “Helping Wildlife” for example. A student on this field trip gets to look at different types of wildlife and learn methods to help sick or injured animals. They may also learn tips to help save the environment and the homes of these animals. This student may walk away from this experience feeling inspired to make changes in their life to save wildlife habitats.
Without strong social emotional skills, this student may struggle to communicate their inspiration with teachers, friends, or family members. That’s why educators can step in and ask questions meant to build social emotional learning skills. Thoughtful discussion can transform the “Helping Wildlife” field trip into a chance for students to learn social emotional skills such as self-reflection and communication.
Virtual learning opportunities are much more meaningful when students can use their social emotional skills to explore them.
Why is Social Emotional Learning so Important?
Social emotional learning can make an impact on individual kids and on society as a whole.
As individuals, kids will learn better social and emotional skills when forming relationships with peers, parents, and teachers. This will help them develop critical thinking skills, empathy, resilience, and more positive skills. Students involved in social emotional learning also learn not to give up easily and that perseverance in the face of adversity can be rewarding and life-changing.
Students that are regularly involved in social emotional learning are better equipped to become adults who take actionable steps to combat racial injustice, gender inequality, and other systemic issues. SEL prepares students to stand up for their beliefs and become unafraid to face hard situations.
Impact of Social Emotional Learning on Kids
Another way students are benefited by social emotional learning is through the opportunity to develop a healthy sense of self. SEL helps students see themselves in relation to others in a healthy and clear way. This can also help them validate their feelings and emotions when talking to both friends and trusted adults.
VR can help students develop this sense of self. By using VR, students can immerse themselves in the cities and cultures of people from across the globe. Seeing the differences between themselves and those they interact with helps students relate to others in more meaningful ways. It also helps them see their own uniqueness and appreciate the experiences and traits they have that make them different from others.
Social emotional learning also promotes social awareness and relationship skills. Children who struggle with relationships and social skills are shown to have higher rates of loneliness and depression, which can then lead to higher rates of stress. In more extreme cases, lack of socialization can even physically impact the structure of the brain.
By using social emotional learning, students learn how to socialize with one another and learn skills to build those relationships early on. They also have more awareness of how to behave in socially acceptable ways compared to students from schools that don’t offer social emotional learning.
Impact of Social Emotional Learning in Society
When used regularly, social emotional learning helps break barriers.
Students that can observe the beautiful differences in those around them and are curious to discover more grow into adults that will do the same
Creating positive, lasting lessons impacts a child’s development in a big way. Kai XR is committed to giving students these experiences by providing greater access to life-changing educational opportunities. With our technology, students are able to practice using their social emotional skills while exploring the world around them.
An example of this can be seen in our virtual field trip “The Great Barrier Reef.” This 360° virtual field trip introduces students to the Great Barrier Reef and allows them to explore this colorful underwater ecosystem. After letting students explore this fascinating world on their own, educators can encourage students to reflect on their observations by asking:
- What do you see in the Great Barrier Reef?
- How did you feel when you explored the Great Barrier Reef?
- Can you share with a partner something you found interesting about the Great Barrier Reef?
- What types of things might hurt the Great Barrier Reef?
- What actions can we take to protect ecosystems we care about?
Educators can then steer the conversation towards conservation methods in the ocean. Students become empowered to find solutions to the issue of pollution in the world and think about how they can help create a cleaner future.
Other virtual field trips provided by Kai XR, such as “Chernobyl,” let students listen to others’ points of view after difficult experiences. By listening to a survivor of Chernobyl, students are encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of those who went through this catastrophic event. Students may also think and communicate with each other to come up with ways to prevent future nuclear disasters.
To learn more about these opportunities and find great virtual field trips, be sure to explore the Kai XR website to see how kids can sharpen their social emotional skills with our cutting-edge 360° technology.
5 Ways Social Emotional Learning Benefits Students
Social emotional learning can have a major impact on your classroom. By implementing social emotional learning regularly, you can see at least 5 major changes to your students and class as a whole:
- Strengthening social skills
- Sharpening critical thinking
- Self-regulating emotions
- Increasing resilience to social pressures
- Improving self esteem
Below, we’ll cover the benefits of social emotional learning in-depth and share some easy ways to incorporate social emotional learning into your classroom!
Strengthening Social Skills
Social emotional learning significantly contributes to the development of a child’s social skills. Social skills include:
- Conversation skills
- Empathy for others
- Understanding body language
Both verbal and nonverbal social cues are essential for children to be able to communicate properly as they grow. Social emotional learning helps students master these social cues early on so they become more socially-adept adults later in life.
The positive effects of early development of social skills are long-term. A national study done in 2015 revealed that children with improved social skills were more likely to develop into adults who were educated, regularly employed, and had fewer reports of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. In contrast, kids with poor socialization had much higher rates of developing depression, anxiety, and loneliness, and even higher rates of illness compared to well-socialized kids.
Social skills help kids form positive relationships throughout childhood and adulthood. Social emotional learning helps kids:
- Practice engaging in open communication
- Learn and respect boundaries
- Develop healthy conflict resolution strategies
Without these skills, kids struggle to navigate forming and maintaining relationships with peers or superiors throughout their development.
Sharpening Critical Thinking
Kids that regularly engage with social emotional learning develop stronger critical thinking skills. A study from the Child Development journal says that students who took part in a social emotional learning program improved by 11 percentile points in academic achievement compared to students who did not participate in the SEL program. This study also reported that 27% of students demonstrated significant academic improvements and 24% developed improved social behaviors after SEL lessons. Students who participated in social emotional learning programs also had rates of lower stress.
Using VR and the metaverse as a social emotional learning tool can directly impact students’ critical thinking. The metaverse is a network of extended reality experiences that blur the lines between the physical and digital. This network connects virtual worlds together and provides opportunities for kids to engage in critical thinking.
The metaverse exposes students to real-life problems to help them understand the world around them. By problem solving, students sharpen critical thinking skills such as:
- Finding simple and logical solutions
- Using the process of elimination
- Identifying alternative solutions as needed
To improve access to these opportunities, we created digital learning experiences with educators and students, designed for young learners. Our VR virtual field trip “The Curse of Palm Oil” is a great example.
On this field trip, students learn about big real-world problems like deforestation and rural community destruction. After the experience, educators can encourage students to reflect on how they feel about these problems. The educator can then teach students how to brainstorm solutions to the problem of deforestation. Educators can guide students as they identify what they believe is the best solution using the process of elimination.
By using VR and the metaverse as a social emotional learning tool, educators can help their students sharpen critical thinking skills while also providing a space for them to reflect on their feelings.
How kids learn to react to their feelings is a big part of their development. Social emotional learning is shown to improve mood and emotional regulation in students. When kids are able to self-reflect, they are able to understand their own feelings and emotions better, which can change their behavior.
This helps them not only in their peer relationships but also in their academic performance. Students that can self-reflect on their work are shown to be more disciplined and motivated in their work, which can change their perspective of school entirely.
According to a study done at Stanford University, kids between ages 7 through 10 had improved abilities to calculate math formulas, recall past information, and problem solve when they had a positive attitude. Plus, by regulating their emotions in a healthy manner, kids learn to navigate conflict and disagreements in a healthy way.
Increasing Resilience to Social Pressures
Students that are more aware of themselves personally and socially are less likely to succumb to social pressures. Research says that students who regularly engage with social emotional learning have increased resilience in the face of adversity, leading to improvements in behavior and decreased peer problems. Students that are resilient are less likely to be pressured by a peer into activities they don’t want to engage in.
Social emotional learning also discourages students from attempting to pressure a peer in the first place. By becoming more aware of others’ points of view and the consequences of their own actions, kids are less likely to pressure others into activities they don’t want to be involved with.
Kids in social emotional learning programs are also less likely to participate in unwanted behaviors themselves. Research across 213 social emotional learning studies revealed that 24% of students that participated in an SEL program had improved social behaviors and decreased stress by the end of the year.
Social emotional learning helps shift kids’ points of view to understanding that their actions affect those around them, which greatly decreases their motivation to engage in negative behaviors.
Students who engage regularly in social emotional learning have been shown to develop a healthier self-esteem. Social emotional learning provides educators with the opportunity to directly teach students about different cultures, religions, and backgrounds across the globe. Using social emotional learning to emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion can help kids feel more welcome in a classroom environment. When students are able to share their personal experiences with one another, they learn just how different the world around them can be and develop self-esteem.
Students with greater self-esteem also develop greater confidence, which increases willingness to try new things and resilience to persevere after failure.
How Can Educators Implement Social Emotional Learning?
Educators can implement social emotional learning regularly in the classroom by doing the following:
- Checking in daily with students
- Making mental (and physical) notes about concerns
- Reaching out to school and home supports
- Telling students you care
- Using more social emotional learning resources in the classroom
A child that failed his test this morning may have failed because of a stressful experience at home rather than lack of study. By checking in daily with students, you can keep tabs on how they are doing and show them you’re there to support them both academically and emotionally.
Finally, you can implement social emotional learning in your classroom by regularly incorporating social emotional learning resources in class.
At Kai XR, we’ve developed virtual field trips that take students anywhere from outer space to under the sea. Students who would normally not have the opportunity to travel abroad and explore the world become capable of exploring it right in their classroom. A student who explores the Nile River in VR is later able to reflect on how they felt while being immersed in that environment. They can also learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings meaningfully by discussing findings with peers and teachers.
Virtual reality is the future of education and it can help teachers show real-world examples in just a few clicks. Our 360° AR, VR, and XR technologies were designed by educators, for kids. By empowering students to explore the world around them in the safety of their programs and schools, students can learn about the social needs and concerns of people who are different from them. This then helps them grow into adults who strive to create a more inclusive world.
Take one of our virtual field trips “Rescuing Rhinos” as an example. In this virtual field trip, students get to use VR to meet a baby rhino named Matimba, who was orphaned at only 2 weeks old in South Africa. Students learn that Matimba’s mother was killed by poachers, just like many other rhinos. Students can then consider some of the following questions either individually or in a group discussion:
- How does it make you feel to hear Matimba’s story?
- Why do you think poachers kill rhinos?
- How can we help save the rhinos from poachers?
Questions like these directly correlate with social emotional learning curricula as students are able to self-reflect on their feelings and thoughts. They prompt students to make predictions about the future based on current events and problem solve to see if the situation can be improved. Not only do students get to learn content, but they also get to use important social emotional learning skills like:
- Emotional regulation
- Critical thinking
How Kai XR Can Support Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom
- Empower students and help them reflect on their own abilities
- Expose students to global issues and expand their point of view
- Allow students to explore the world and build critical thinking skills along the way
When students are able to reflect on their actions, they become more aware of their own capabilities. By using Kai XR virtual field trips, students can interact with the world around them from the safety of their own classroom.
To learn more about how Kai XR can help you integrate more social emotional learning strategies in your classroom, check out more Virtual Reality for Teaching tips on our website.
VR and SEL: A Match Made in Heaven
Social emotional learning is an essential part of the future of education. At Kai XR, our core principles are diversity, accessibility, and safety. We believe that social emotional learning is a key part of these principles and that SEL and VR are closely intertwined. Exposing kids to important historical lessons and the different perspectives of others through virtual reality helps widen their worldview. This wider worldview can then lead the next generation to a more inclusive, diverse future that focuses on breaking barriers and increasing access to opportunities for all.
Remember: by incorporating social emotional learning into your classroom, you can help your students:
- Strengthen social skills
- Sharpen critical thinking
- Self-regulate emotions
- Increase resilience to social pressures
- Improve self-esteem
Kai XR would love to be a part of your students’ personal growth. If you’re ready to get started using more social emotional learning tools in your classroom, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 510-993-0993 for more information.