DEVELOPING SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SKILLS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD INSTRUCTION
Purpose: The purpose of this Delphi study was to explore social and emotional learning in early childhood instruction with an emphasis on identifying the methods expert early childhood teachers use to support and promote the development of empathy and emotion regulation, to have the teachers rate the impact of these methods, and to identify the specific activities used to implement the six most highly rated methods.
Methodology: This study utilized the Delphi method which is an iterative process used to collect and distill the judgments of experts using a series of questionnaires interspersed with feedback. Fourteen participants recommended strategies to support and promote the development of empathy and emotion regulation in preschool classrooms. This data provided the content for the second survey where participants rated the effectiveness of 10 strategies on a 5-point Likert scale. Once the top six strategies were identified, participants recommended methods to implement these six methods in the classroom.
Findings: This study identified the following instructional strategies as effective to support and promote the development of empathy and emotion regulation in preschool classrooms: building positive relationships with students, modeling, role play, providing a quiet area, identify and label feelings, and group time. The study also provides recommendations to implement these strategies.
Conclusions: The findings of this study lead to three major conclusions. First, teachers need access to personal development tools where they can develop their own empathy and emotion regulation skills. Next, teachers need to understand the students’ family dynamics and build relationships with parents to ensure these social and emotional learning tools are being reinforced at home. Lastly, school districts need to adopt specified curriculum aimed at teaching social and emotional learning skills.
Recommendations: It would be wise for school districts to develop and implement a specific curriculum program that is implemented in all classrooms. This would ensure that every child is receiving the same level of training at each grade level. There is a need for additional research supporting the positive benefits of social emotional learning training across multiple contexts and ages, particularly in preschoolers.
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