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Helen Grace King

Empathy Curriculum at Future School of Fort Smith

My name is Helen Grace. I am a graduate student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. As part of my capstone, I have partnered with a brand new high school, Future School of Fort Smith to assist in curriculum development.

The mission of Future School of Fort Smith is to embolden students to identify their interests and innate talents, cultivate relevant skills, and connect to authentic learning; graduating with three years of real-world work, volunteer and collegiate experience. Among this real-world education, the Future School will support social and emotional development through Empathy Curriculum.

Below is a brief introduction and overview of where I am currently in my project. As my project continues, I question many turns. Am I on the right path? Am I digging deep enough into SEL and the resources available? Why can’t I find strong resources that answer the question how instead of provide a small overview/description? Will the teachers even pay attention to my final deliverable? Do I have buy in? Should I focus more on processes for buy-in in from teachers? Should my final deliverable be curriculum, a toolkit, a workshop, or something I have yet to think of?!?

Rationale: In today’s globalized world of complex environmental, political, technological and socioeconomic challenges, the skills for the 21st century require a new type of education, one that demands social and emotional development of each youth. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions (“CASEL Guide”, n.d.). According to the Collaborative for the Advancement of Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) the five competencies for social and emotional intelligence include

  •  Self-Awareness
  •  Self-Management
  • Social Awareness and Empathy
  •  Relationship Skills
  •  Responsible Decision-Making


Embedded in these competencies are Social-Emotional Learning Skills deemed “empathy skills.” These skills are important for success in the 21st century (Pellegriono & Hilton, 2012), including recognizing own and other’s emotions, setting goals and managing strategies, active listening, perspective-taking, appreciating diversity, cooperation, self-evaluation, effective communication, self-reflection and self-evaluation and so much more (CASEL, 2003; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Elias, 2006; Kress & Elias, 2006; Zins, Payton, Weisberg, & O’Brien, 2007). The current and emerging workforce calls for students that communicate effectively, work well in teams, solve 21st century problems, persist in the face of challenges, monitor and direct their own learning, and ultimately are individuals that are more empathetic to their employees and global citizens (Jerald, 2009).

The unique programming of Future School of Fort Smith will provide the necessary foundation to infuse social and emotional learning via empathy curriculum into lesson plans. Because the education is Project-Based Learning (PBL) and real-world internships, the empathy curriculum will incorporate skills needed for real-world experience and provide the opportunity for students to practice skills that will carry on beyond the classroom: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. As students choose and personalize their curricula, teachers of Future School will guide their learning experience of empathy and empathy practice.

Objective: To strengthen social and emotional competencies of students of Future School through in-class activities, small projects, and one semester-long project in order for students to grow in self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

Benchmarks:

1) Teachers will create a safe and welcoming space to facilitate a dynamic and interactive class. Teachers will implement four elements into their teaching strategies,

  • ·         Sequenced—connected and coordinated activities to foster skills development
  • ·         Active—active forms of learning to help students master new skills;
  • ·         Focused—containing a component that emphasizes developing personal and social skills;
  • ·         Explicit—targeting specific social and emotional skills (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger, 2010, 2011).


Teachers will be equipped with tools and resources to aid in creating a learning environment and culture that facilitates empathetic behavior for students to model. Prior to the school year, teachers will be oriented on SEL via the SEL Guide (“Guidelines on Implementing Social and Emotional Learning Curricula,” n.d.). In addition, Teachers will be provided with resources from the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders’ 10 Practices to Promote Student’s Social-Emotional Competencies,

  • Student-Centered Discipline
  • Teacher Language
  • Responsibility and Choice
  •  Warmth and Support Cooperative learning
  • Classroom Discussions 
  • Self-Reflection and Assessment
  • Balanced Instruction
  • Academic Press and Expectations
  • Competence Building-Modeling, Practicing, Feedback, Coaching (Yoder, 2014).


2) Students will discuss the meaning of empathy and other competencies of SEL.
  • Students and teacher will engage in dialogue of what empathy, self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making means to them personally. Students will then create collective meanings. 
  • Students will discuss why empathy is important for the 21st Century. 
  •  Students will brainstorm the skills and practices that build empathy, along with the obstacles to empathy.

3) Students will collectively vision to create road map for class. 
  • · Students will brainstorm goals for their class based on empathy definition and the skills and practices that build empathy.
  • · Students will personalize their learning course with their project-based work/internship.


4) Students will practice empathy skills

·         In-class Activities

o   Teachers will use videos, readings, and student-centered exercises to guide students to recognize, discuss and practice: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

·         Semester-long Project: Connect SEL to PBL of Future School

o   Students will integrate competencies of SEL during personalized semester project. Students will design, implement, and evaluate their PBL through a Final Reflection.

o   Students will practice self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making during their real-world educational experience.

o   Students will create a portfolio of their finished semester long project. Each student’s work will be displayed as a final exhibition. The students will present their work and discuss how empathy curriculum played a role and the lessons they learned throughout.


5) Students will reflect on their experience.

  •   Students will reflect on their experience of readings, in-class activities, and the semester long projects in a journal while integrating principles of empathy and real-world experience. Students will discuss how empathy skills played a role in their PBL.
  • Students will be asked to reflect on their most significant change during the semester influenced by class exploration.

                                  

Assessments: Students will be assessed not by tests but by displays of learning that track growth and progress. Assessment will include self- and peer-. Students will present an exhibition each year and discuss their learning growth with staff, parents, peers, and mentor. Assessments will be used to collect continuous feedback on instructional program, overall experience of students, and effectiveness of curriculum in order to strengthen the curriculum and provide feedback for students.


Assessment will be based on 2 methods:

1) Performance-Based Assessment

  • Performance standards will be provided by the teacher and co-created in the classroom based on goals and priorities developed in the beginning of the semester.
  • Students will demonstrate understanding and skills they have learned during several phases of the semester: in-class activities, the semester-long project and reflection. Students will be assessed on their display of each of the competencies of social and emotional learning and their ability to integrate, synthesize and creatively apply content knowledge in novel situations.

o   In-Class Activities

§  Each month, students will write a 1000-1250 word essay, synthesizing key learnings about empathy from readings, class discussions, activities and actions. Each reflection paper will include a 120-second power presentation component. All power presentation will be peer-assessed in order to emphasize peer-to-peer learning as well as self-assessed in order to strengthen self-awareness, self-management and responsible decision making.

§  Teacher will use performance standards co-created with class to assess how students are applying learning competencies principles.

o   Year-Long Project

§  Students will create and present the collection of work that he/she has selected, researched, organized and reflected upon.

§  Students will evaluate their own work and progress from the semester based on class goals.

§  Teacher will use performance standards co-created with class to assess how students are applying learning competencies principles.

o   Reflection Journal

§  Students will reflect on their experience of in-class activities and real world application throughout the semester.

§  Students will evaluate their own work and progress from the semester based on class goals.

§  Teacher will use performance standards co-created with class to assess how students are applying learning competencies principles.

o   Most Significant Change

§  Students will reflect on their “Most Significant Change” at the end of semester in any form they choose, whether it is written, art, video, etc during their final exhibition.

§  Students will evaluate their own work and progress from the semester based on class goals.

§  Teacher will use performance standards co-created with class to assess how students are applying learning competencies principles.


2) Focus Groups
  •  A Future School faculty member will host focus groups of 5-7 students at the beginning of the semester and the end to assess growth of empathy understanding and skills throughout the semester. The data will be used to assess student progress and direct student learning for future empathy courses.



References

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2003). Safe and sound: An educational leader’s guide to evidence-based SEL programs. Chicago: Author.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2013). 2013 CASEL guide: Effective social and emotional learning programs. Chicago: Author. Retrieved from http://www.casel.org/guide/

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, 405–432.

Elias, M. J. (2006). The connection between academic and social-emotional learning. In M. J.

Elias & H. Arnold (Eds.), The educator’s guide to emotional intelligence and academic achievement (pp. 4–14). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Jerald, 2009. Defining a 21st century education. The Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.cfsd16.org/public/_century/pdf/Defininga21stCenturyEducation_Jerald_20

.pdf

Kress, J. S., & Elias, M. J. (2006). School-based social and emotional learning programs. In K. A. Renninger & I. E. Sigel (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (6th ed., pp. 592–618). New York: Wiley.

Pellegrino, J. W., & Hilton, M. L. (2012). Education for life and work: Developing transferable knowledge and skills in the 21st century. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

Yoder, N. (2014). “Teaching the Whole Child: Instructional Practices that Support Social Emotional Learning in Three Teacher Evaluation Frameworks. Retrieved from http://www.gtlcenter.org/sites/default/files/TeachingtheWholeChild.pdf

Zins, J. E., Payton, J. W., Weissberg, R. P., & O’Brien, M. U. (2007). Social and emotional learning for successful school performance. In J. E. Zins, J. W. Payton, R. P. Weissberg, M. U. O’Brien, G. Matthews, M. Zeidner, & R. D. Roberts (Eds.), The science of emotional intelligence: Knowns and unknowns (pp. 376–395). New York: Oxford University Press.

 

 

 

 

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