Classroom Design with SEL in Mind
- September 21, 2020
- Anthony Bowie
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a critical skill set that all K-12 students should learn and master. SEL competencies include self-awareness, self-management, decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills and give students the ability to manage emotions, set and achieve goals, create positive relationships, and more. These skills help students build healthy habits and behaviors and become well-rounded students outside of just their academic abilities.
When designing a classroom to support SEL curriculum and skills, it’s important to consider the main aspects of SEL: community-building, student-centered discipline, and decision-making. The right classroom design elements support SEL competencies and allow students to build their social and emotional skills while they accomplish academic goals.
Two of the five SEL competencies––social awareness and relationship skills––are focused on community building and interacting with others in a healthy and productive way. In order to support these skills in your classroom, you can create collaborative spaces where students can work alongside one another or work together to complete assignments and reach academic goals.
Mobile desks that can be combined into collaborative spaces are great for flexible learning that allows for individual work time and collaborative learning. You can also implement collaborative desks or tables into your classroom to allow students more space to work with their peers.
Decision-making is an important aspect of SEL and can easily be supported with the right learning spaces and classroom design elements. One of the best places for exercising students’ decision-making skills is in a makerspace, where they can explore topics by making a series of decisions about how they want to learn. Makerspaces also allow students to be creative and learn tactile skills in the classroom.
While a makerspace is a more specialized learning space, another way you can support SEL in the classroom is with learning stations, where students are seated together throughout the day. These stations enable students to work independently while still bouncing ideas off of one another, asking questions, and collaborating on ideas.
Self-awareness and self-management are crucial to students’ social-emotional learning, giving them the foundational skills to master other SEL competencies. These skills are crucial to developing students’ 21st-century skills that they will bring to college and their future careers. In the classroom, one of the best ways to help students practice these personal skills is through functional learning spaces for individual and self-led learning.
Of course, students learn individually for much of the day already, but self-led learning is a different skill entirely, giving students the responsibility of time management, decision-making, and self-discipline. Creating quiet, distraction-free spaces or practical work areas for personal device usage can give students the confidence to take charge with their own assignments.