Improve the social, emotional and academic growth of students

In these challenging times, closing learning gaps and helping students catch up are priorities for educators working to accelerate learning. But where does student well-being fit into all of this? There are good reasons to focus more on assessing and addressing students’ emotional well-being. After all, helping students build self-confidence and self-awareness skills can generate positive learning outcomes and benefit them throughout their lives.

The latest accelerated learning document, “Prioritize and support student well-being,draws attention to the importance of wellbeing and highlights the built-in capabilities of the Reflect tool in Microsoft Teams. This tool can help build students’ emotional vocabulary to deepen their empathy, empower teachers to assess their students’ well-being, and provide schools with deeper data to identify and address student needs at scale. .

Before diving into how edtech tools like Reflect can support wellbeing, it’s important to understand the relationship between emotions and learning. In the booklet “The Nature of Learning, Using Research to Inspire Practice”, which is part of a project of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the authors state that one of the seven fundamental principles of learning is that emotions are the guardians of learning1. The reason is that emotion and cognition work together in the brain to guide learning. Positive emotions encourage recall and understanding, and negative emotions can disrupt them. That’s why it’s more important than ever to focus on students’ social and emotional development and well-being.

“If we really want all students to leave school having developed certain academic, social, personal and cultural capacities, we need to think very carefully about whether we as educators are creating the kinds of experiences that we know from research that will help develop these abilities. .”— Dr. Dave Paunesku, Senior Behavioral Researcher at Stanford University

Many factors have contributed to students feeling negative emotions over the past few years, and there is a lot of discussion among educators about how best to support students and create positive learning environments. In Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s annual Educator Confidence Report, 72% of educators said meeting students’ well-being needs was their biggest concern, and 82% said they believed a integrated and comprehensive well-being would have a positive impact on students.2. Additionally, according to a 2021 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, more than 90% of parents support programs that encourage students to learn and practice life skills such as goal setting, problem solving problems and self-confidence.3—all the elements that contribute to positive well-being. Perhaps the most compelling evidence for integrating social-emotional skills and well-being checks into learning environments is that the nonprofit Collaboration for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)—a longtime leader of the social-emotional learning (SEL) movement – reports that students who complete SEL programs earn 11 percentile points in core academic areas4.

These data clearly show that incorporating social-emotional education into the curriculum, while regularly assessing students’ progress and emotional state, has significant benefits for students.

Incorporate wellness checks into daily routines

Many moments in daily life can be transformative for students. This includes times when they have the opportunity to reflect on themselves, develop and demonstrate empathy skills for their peers, and learn to engage meaningfully with the world. Incorporating checks into regular routines can help students recognize and name emotions, become “reflectors” of their own emotional lives, and develop their ability to learn and grow with intention. Regular check-ins can also help teachers assess their classroom’s comfort with the material, to see where students may need more support. And since things can change quickly, it’s a good idea for teachers to use the opportunities that arise throughout the school day to “take the temperature” of their students.

Of course, for these records to be effective and flow naturally into the day, it helps to have a clear and easy way to send and receive communications. Conveniently integrated directly into the learning tools students and teachers already use. It is important that students can see how their responses change over time so that they can monitor their own growth, and that educators can assess where additional support or intervention might be needed to help students grow.

Reflect in Microsoft Teams for Education is integrated directly into the digital learning hub that unites assessments, communication and collaboration. To help students visualize their feelings, there are “feeling monsters” that depict over 50 emotions. Students can use them to understand their emotions and communicate with their teachers. And in addition to helping students name different moods, these visualizations also help start conversations about what causes pleasant and unpleasant feelings, how they affect learning, and how to navigate them.

Individual emotions can be contagious and set the tone in a classroom, which can change as moods change, like an ever-changing “thermostat”. Educators can use Reflect to gain insights that help them steer the tone of their classroom and raise or lower the energy. With regular recordings, teachers can respect and respond to the unique emotional lives of their students. Helping young people better understand their emotional state can lead to increased student leadership skills, student voice, and greater agency.5

Comparison of wellness check-in tools

To assess the usability and effectiveness of Reflect recordings, the authors of “Priorizing and Supporting Student Wellbeing” reviewed the process for educators to create a Reflect recording. The authors also looked at the student response process and that of students or educators to examine responses in Teams. Next, they evaluated equivalent Google Classroom solutions. And since Google doesn’t have a built-in wellness tool similar to Reflect, the authors reviewed the process on two apps: Google Forms and Google Classroom. (Note: Google doesn’t have a comparable tool that provides wellbeing data to teachers or students like Reflect and Insights do.)

The results of the review were clear. They found Microsoft Reflect to be more efficient, easier to use, and a more comprehensive tool for checking student well-being, helping students understand and express their emotions, and providing teachers with clear, actionable analysis of aggregated results. . With integrated apps like Reflect, teachers can better understand the needs of all students, examine data to inform decision-making, and help students improve academic performance.

Want to learn more about how Microsoft 365 Education solutions can help teachers understand student wellbeing? Lily “Prioritize and support student well-beingand be sure to check out the other articles in the series so far:

The next article in the series will highlight read-aloud apps that support literacy, so expect those to come soon!


1 The nature of learning, using research to inspire practice | OECD

2 7th Annual Educator Trust Report | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

3 How to sell SEL | Thomas B. Fordham Institute

4 What does the research say? | CASEL

5 When social-emotional learning is misused | Education week

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