Quick answer: No. Social emotional learning curriculums are mostly prepared for children. However, adults need them as much as children do!
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which students develop and apply the skills they need to process and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, be empathic towards others, make good decisions, and build and maintain good relationships.
A social emotional learning curriculum is usually developed and offered to children but that doesn’t mean adults can’t learn from these programs, too. In fact, adults would need them just as much as kids would.
Social Emotional Learning Curriculums for Kids and Adults: What’s the Difference?
Although SEL curriculums all aim for the same thing, the way they are taught or presented will depend highly on the students’ needs and capabilities. In this case, a child’s needs and capabilities are different from an adult’s.
Compared to children, most adults are very much experienced in handling or dealing with social situations. Whether these experiences are good or bad would depend on their social and emotional skills.
By adulthood, many people would have learned skills and behaviors that do not necessarily contribute to their SEL growth.
In a social emotional learning curriculum for adults, these behaviors must be corrected – they should be addressed and unlearned. This, of course, will not only take time, but also a lot of effort from both the student and the facilitator.
Children would only require very minimal to no correction at all. This makes it easier for them to learn. So, a curriculum for adults must take this in consideration.
It’s a well-known fact that children learn faster than adults. The fact of the matter is: children are just built to learn. They’re fresh minds – sponges.
Adults, on the other hand, can be expected to be more distracted and to have a more challenging time learning and retaining all that they’ve learned.
A scientific explanation for this would be the development of a person’s prefrontal cortex. Children, with their still-developing prefrontal cortex, are able to think and perceive things more creatively. Adults, with their developed prefrontal cortex, tend to see things as they are – no imagination or creativity required.
When learning a new thing, this can definitely become a blocker for adults. So an SEL curriculum for adults should be focused on repetition and retention to address this blocker and be truly effective.
Children in school don’t really have much to worry about but school. Most adults would have 10,000 other responsibilities to take care of as soon as they step out of their SEL class. Because adults are exposed to more diverse social situations, you can expect that an adult SEL class would contain more advanced lessons.
SEL programs for adults are made to be more impactful so as to make a real difference in an adult’s day-to-day life – teaching them how SEL can have positive effects on their decision making skills, work/professional careers, relationships with others, family life, etc.
Being able to apply SEL in the many different aspects in the life of an adult helps students retain their learnings better.
How Adult SEL Programs Help Develop SEL Programs for Children
Although teaching SEL to children is more preferred than teaching SEL to adults, the latter actually helps in the development of programs to do the former.
Think about it. Who facilitates social emotional learning curriculums for kids? Adults, of course!
So before schools even think about promoting SEL to children, they focus on strengthening adult SEL. Aside from focusing on helping adults develop emotion and stress management skills as well as other social and emotional skills, they also work hard to foster a supportive staff, classroom, and school environment to develop social and emotional competence of the adults facilitating SEL programs for children.
According to CASEL, schools find it easier to teach and even reinforce SEL to children when SEL for adults is also cultivated. The success of the SEL implementation in a school greatly depends on how the staff facilitate the SEL instruction and model their own social and emotional competence.
Adult SEL: Implementing Social Economic Learning Curriculum in School
To properly implement social emotional learning curriculums in school, the participation of a great number of adults would be needed. This doesn’t only involve teachers, too. All adults in the school – from the principal to even the lunchroom and janitorial staff – must participate.
This won’t just be helpful for SEL programs for children, this also promotes and nurtures a work environment for everyone to feel supported and able to build and strengthen their social and emotional skills in a personal and professional setting.
Proper implementation of an SEL program would require the following from every adult in the school:
Each adult in school should be actively learning to build their own capacity for SEL as well as their capacity to support SEL in their co-workers and students.
This would require them to reflect on their personal SEL skills, practice self-care, and create personalized SEL learning plans.
Adults in school are taught to be team players. They are expected to support each other via internal structures like professional learning communities and peer mentoring circles.
These structures allow adults to collaborate – discuss SEL strategies, support and encourage each other’s SEL growth, and integrate SEL into staff meetings.
Setting an Example
Each adult is expected to set an example as the school implements its social emotional learning curriculum. They are to model SEL competencies, showcase SEL mindsets and strategies, and practice their skills throughout the entire school community – this means that they have to be a good role model to their fellow peers, their students, and even their students’ families.
One challenge schools face is the actual implementation of SEL programs for adults. It’s not an easy feat and in some cases, it could take years of consistent training.
The benefits of an adult SEL program far exceed the challenges, though, and it’s something all schools should definitely look into!