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The development of teachers’ social emotional competences

Teachers’ social-emotional competences play a significant role in promoting social and emotional learning in the classroom. Liubertiene, Kupriuniene, and Kunickiene (2015) conducted a pilot project research, “Dramblys,” which developed teachers’ social emotional competences in ten Lithuanian schools using the Limbic Performance System (LPS) program workshops as an intervention and the Limbic Performance Indicator (LPI) measurement (Niele, Spencer-Arnell, & Wilson, 2011). LPI is a self-reported, 85-item questionnaire, measuring 17 indicators of five core SEL competency groups based on the Goleman model: Self-awareness, Self-management, Relationship skills, Responsible decision-making, and Social-awareness.

The pre-pilot project testing showed that teachers generally had low selfesteem, insufficient stress and conflict management skills, poor work/life balance and poor communication skills. The psychological well-being of adults (parents and teachers) directly influences the well-being of children. Teachers’ limitations in emotional literacy will likely limit their capacity to develop emotional intelligence in students.

The participants of the pilot project numbered 247 teachers from ten different schools in seven Lithuanian municipalities (kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, and gymnasiums). The participants were teachers, teacher’s assistants, headmasters, deputies, and secretaries. Ninety percent of participants were women between the ages of 35 and 55.

The intervention program was implemented by the Lithuanian Association of Social and Emotional Learning in conjunction with the Pedagogical- Psychological Center for Lithuanian schools. The program was based on the methodologies of UK psychologists Stephan Neale and Tim Sparrow and used the SEAL (Social Emotional Aspects of Learning) program as its basis. The SEAL program has received national recognition (Hallam, 2009) in the UK and focuses on the exploration of factors that determine human behavior: basic emotional needs, personal values, self-esteem, respect for the other person, as well as the emotional recognition of self and others, (i.e., empathy).

The program was accredited by the Ministry of Education of Lithuania and implemented at schools within a half-year period. Constant communication and consultation with the school management was maintained, the current SEL needs of the schools were examined, and the education plan was prepared. Before the first meeting, all school staff members filled in the personal social emotional skills questionnaire, which consisted of 85 questions about self. For the lecturers of the program there was an issue around the establishment of trust in relationships with the teachers. A challenge was to convince the teachers that this training is not intended to evaluate anyone (especially considering the fact that they were required to complete questionnaires) and was only aimed at strengthening them as teachers and as individuals. Distrust and fear were noted as prevailing feelings in today’s pedagogical community in Lithuania.

Four modules were introduced at pilot schools. The first two were dedicated to self-exploration, the third was about the emotionally intelligent school environment, and the fourth was on the competences that applied to children. Positive changes in teachers’ attitudes, values, knowledge, and skills after the LPS development course were noted. The results showed that 247 teachers in the intervention group had increased their core social emotional competences significantly (p<0.001, pp2 = 0.219), while among the 196 teachers in the control group no significant changes were found.

After developing personal social emotional competences, it was noted that teachers reported a higher level of self-worth and emotional awareness, showed more empathy and support to their students and colleagues, were better able to handle stress and conflict situations, and more successfully motivated their students by creating more positive and open classroom climates. An extension of this research is being conducted (Liubertiene, in progress) on how the development of teachers’ social emotional competences relates to children’s emotional well-being in the classroom.

Since the introduction of the initial study, other prevention programs were implemented. It was noticed that teachers had a more open and positive attitude toward subsequent preventive programs for children (“Zipio ir Obuolio draugai,” “Antras Zingsnis,” “Olweus” program, Lions Quest programs etc.) that were introduced at schools after the staff had undergone the initial SEL training. This general observation by teachers suggests that their acceptance of SEL and their motivation to develop children’s social emotional skills had changed. In addition, observations indicated that teachers were more sensitive to instances of bullying among children. Teachers started to pay attention to, be concerned with, and did not ignore such situations. The initial indications of these efforts to systematically develop SEL are promising.

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