Editorial

It is a great pleasure to introduce you all the first issue of the Newsletter for the european project European Assessment Protocol for Children’s SEL Skills (EAP_SEL). This project was born not only from the will of the different Institutions, but also from the will of those people who shared a common interest in the research, and thus decided to join forces and compentences to realize a project with an international appeal, hoping that it will contribute in producing substantial outcomes in the field of educational reasearch.

The European Assessment Protocol for Children’s SEL Skills (EAP_SEL) project is included in the European Funding Programme in the Field of Education and Learning, known as Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 (LLP), a lifelong learning program that allows people to pursue learning opportunities of European dimensions, at every stage of their lives.

The sectorial subroutine, Comenius Multilateral Project (CMP), of which the EAP_SEL project is part, is defined by its concern with the educational community and sets out to develop knowledge and understanding,  between students and teachers, of cultural, values and lingual differences, with the aim of helping young people gain those “cross” key competencies that are also essential to their personal development, their future employment and active citizenship.

The project is coordinated from Italy, by the University of Perugia, Department of Human Sciences and Education and envisages the contribution of a partnership composed of  different countries:

  • Croazia: University of Zagreb, Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences.
  • Slovenia: University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education
  • Sweden: Örebro University, Department of Health Sciences and Medicine
  • Switzerland: University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, Department of Education and Learning
  • Italy: University of Udine, Department of Human Sciences.

The keystone of the project is made up of the introduction, in the curricular teaching programmes, of the Social Emotional Learning  (SEL), as it is internationally known,  and the creation of a protocol that will evaluate the emotional and social maturity of the children in primary school.

Thanks to the collaboration of 36 other partners from all over Europe, the project aims to induce an actual changing in the daily practice of teaching – learning.

What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

by Annalisa Morganti

Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Purposes and objectives

Research shows that social and emotional skills can be taught and hold a key place in improving learning in children at school, preventing the appearing of potentially problematic behaviour. By acknowledging its importance, not just for the students but for teachers as well, the research aims to develop skills of cognitive, emotional and social nature that would allow identifying, expressing and managing emotions, developing assertive and pro-social skills, taking responsible decisions and establishing positive interpersonal relationships.

The main purpose of this project is the creation of a standardized evaluation tool that will be able to offer precise evaluation guide-lines for SEL skills in children, and will guarantee the high quality of SEL  intervention on an European dimension.

Amongst the various objectives of the project, it stands out the one who aims to improve, promote, value, and spread an innovative European dimension of teacher training in the field of Social Emotional Learning, and to create an integrated approach to the teaching – learning practices, in order to support the “cross” key competencies with the goal of reinforcing social cohesion, active citizenship, intercultural dialogue, gender equality and personal fulfilment.

The most innovative elements of EAP – SEL Project are to propose a European model of social – emotional education and the establishment of a European Committee that will periodically supervise the state of the art of SEL in Europe, fostering its diffusion and exchanges.

 

Activities

Involved in the EAP–SEL project are students and teachers from elementary schools of the 5 participating Countries: Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia and Sweden. In every Country will be selected 10 first year classes at primary school (school year 2013/2014) to start the intervention of social emotional learning (experimental classes) and 10 first year classes where no intervention will be carried out (control classes). The classes will be selected on the basis of specific criteria, with the involvement of a total of 1.000 student of elementary school all over the European area.

Teacher assessment and direct children assessment will be collected relatively to SEL competencies and behavioural outcomes; these assessments will help evaluating the effectiveness of the experimental intervention carried out in class.

The experimental activities will last 24 months and will take children and teachers through first to second class of elementary school, with continuous solutions.

Expectations 

  • To develop and validate a European Assessment Protocol to measure the children’s social and emotional maturity referred SEL core skills;
  • To create an integrated approach to teaching and learning in order to support “transversal key competences”
  • To create and implement strategies to support the development of a new generation of SEL European network of research and practices and monitoring the SEL state of the art in Europe, thanks to the SEL European Board.
  • To enable teachers to achieve social and -emotional competences, so that they are able to effectively teach and develop a positive classroom ambient where learning and socialisation can take place.

Currently, there are no Universities in the world that train teachers about how to develop  and master their social and emotional competencies.

We think that those who have such a strategic task like educating the new generation, at a European level, should not lack in “Emotional Intelligence”, as Donald Goleman said.

With this very first issue we introduce a tool that supports and amplifies the diffusion of the activities and outcomes of this project, giving a fundamental contribution in bringing innovation and quality in the educational field, particularly for those who represent hope and are the main resource for changing and improving our society in a total sense: children.

Work in progress

by Alessia Signorelli

Communication, both internal and towards those stakeholders such as institutions, committed individuals, and so on, is one of the fundamental parts of a project.

There are many reasons why a project must be disseminated, and these do not come down to simply “reporting” on the activities; disseminating a project is about creating involvement, starting a chain reaction beginning with the description of the project, its  aims and objectives, that will inspire those who come in contact with it, and thus lay the foundations for improvement.

Communicating is not just giving informations, it means making a change, or, as it is called in the European guidelines for project financing, an “impact”, which must be measured both from a qualitative and quantitative standpoint, because, always referring to the European guidelines for project financing, if a product is not adequately communicated, publicized and disseminated, this is non-existent.

A project like EAP_SEL (European Assessment Protocol for Children’s SEL Skills), which is focused on socio-emotional learning, on devising a special tool that will make possible assessing the socio-emotional maturity of children in primary schools and implementing educational works that would promote the development of these skills, sees in a dissemination that is widespread and detailed a fortunate conduit to make an impact that would be concrete and innovating at the same time. The project EAP_SEL was born from the will to give answers to the new challenges teachers of primary schools must face but, at the same time, it wants as well to give answers to children’s needs - children that we define “digital natives”, born in a time when communication and technology seem to be at their zenith, but who show, suprisingly, difficulties when it comes to relating to others, if compared to children their ages from past generations.

What EAP_SEL’s project wants, for what its impact is concerned, is to go beyond, is to “climb over the school’s walls and reach out in the streets”. This is why the need for an extensive communication, for the foundation of an extended network and for a fruitful exchange of views between practitioners, academics, the different stakeholders and those just simply interested in it, it is really heart-felt.

A project, to be perceived as “existent”, must be accessible not just to the experts and professionals, but also to those who show, for many different reasons, an interest in the addressed subject and want to deepen their knowledge of it.

Communicating a project using not only the “classic methods” such as conferences, meetings, newsletter, scientific papers, etc, but also through a user friendly website and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, means not only following the European guidelines, but making as well an effort to reach a wider audience and thus enhancing the chances for improvement, further research and opportunity.

It is obviously vital to define the different kinds of recipients and the most correct approach, so the interaction will be the most fruitful for all the subject involved.

After defining its aims and laying the foundations for a collaboration between the partner based on mutual respect, exchange of expertise and know how, and working closely together, the EAP_SEL project sets itself towards a communication that will have a permanent impact, that will arouse curiosity toward socio-emotional learning and its importance as a key instrument inside and outside schools.

We are living in a society where there is a strong feeling of disgregation, and it is vital to give children their future back.

The future for the youngest, in a world where a competitiveness often devoid of any ethics seems to become the most used “evaluation tool” for human beings, is built not only by learning technical skills, but also by being given the faculty of acting by using in a conscious manner their emotions and their inner potential. As David Goleman wrote in his best seller Emotional Intelligence (1994), emotions can be “educated”, thus claiming the etymlogical meaning of the word “education” (from Latin “educere” =  to bring out). Education is the key to changing, and in this case it means bringing intelligence in the domain, regarded as uncontrollable and unrestrained, of the emotions.