European Assessment protocol for Children's SEL Skills

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A. Signorelli [June 1, 2014]

Number 2 - The SEL Experience: the Italian Schools

With the EAP_SEL project, social emotional learning enters for the first time Italian primary schools, more precisely 10 classes selected in the province of Terni, that will implement the PATHS® program for two school years.

Thanks to the EAP_SEL project, 10 first year classes of primary school in the province of Terni opened their doors to social emotional learning, experiencing  it for the first time and implementing the PATHS®  [Providing  Alternative Thinking Strategies] program. The aim is twofolded: on one hand, to introduce social emotional learning in the school curriculum, on the other to improve, thanks to the acquisition of these competences, school inclusion for all children.

Experimentation will last for two school years, until the end of year 2 of primary school.

After a first intensive teacher training held in October 2013 and administered by the Swiss partner (Lorenza Kyburz e Aline Pellandini from SUPSI, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland), the school selected as experimental began to walk together with Twiggle, the little turtle, and the other activities in  PATHS ®program along the road of the knowledge, managing and “narration” of emotion, to find them in themselves and in the other so different (and yet so similar) from us and with these being able to establish good relationships and take responsible decisions.

Surely, this journey is long and scattered with obstacles, but the enthusiastic adhesion shown by the teachers involved has already given good results, perceived during the monitoring visits from the University of Perugia research team involved in the EAP_SEL project.

The teachers involved, true progatonists together with their pupils of the EAP_SEL project, have often stated that, even though they had to face some initial difficulties (mainly being able to match social emotional learning and curriculum requirements), they have found the activities of the program to be very stimulating and useful from the start, so much that alredy a few months from the starting of experimentation, they highlighted positive changes – especially in those classes where there are difficult situations in terms of social relations and conflict management.

The social emotional learning experience, in Italian classes, is showing to be a successful one that started very creative and unexpected teaching – learning mechanisms that, in turn,  saw a high involvement and motivation of whole classes; children themselves showed great enthusiasm, especially toward the story of Twiggle – seen as a fun “mean” to gradually express, recognize and manage  their emotions, especially the most unpleasant ones.

Together with Twiggle – that also won teachers, who stated that they found Twiggle extremely useful and very adaptable and transversal for what concerns teaching as well – the pupils in the experimental classes have shown to like very much the “Pupil of the day” and the giving and receiving compliments; for what concerns the latter, teachers, during the monitoring visits, told the research team of Perugia that they noticed an improvement in the “quality” of compliments exchanged between pupils; from more “superficial” compliments focused on appearance (you have nice shoes, you are very pretty, your backpack is very nice), children began to give each other more “insightful” compliments (you are a very good friend, you are very kind, you are very good in consoling others).

Also for what concerns inclusion – special focus of the Italian research team – teachers noticed an improvement in the relationships between pupils and in the behaviour that became more inclusive and welcoming.
The same pupils, during the monitoring visits, showed a higher awareness and often demonstrated responsible and inclusive attitudes towards their peers.

At the end of this first year of experimentation then, trends are looking already positive for what concerns the aim of the research and for what concerns also the involvement of teachers and pupils; this establishes very good bases for the next, and last, year of experimentation that will surely bring further, interesting outcomes.

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