ArticlePDF Available

The ASPIRE Principles and Pedagogy for the Implementation of Social and Emotional Learning and the Development of Whole School Well-Being



Implementation is the process by which interventions are put into practice and is critical to outcomes. Issues related to implementation for social and emotional learning (SEL) have largely focused on fidelity to the programme, dosage, clarity of guidance and the characteristics of the facilitator, although attention has also been paid to multi-level factors within an ecological system. The primary emphasis, however, has been on „what‟ should happen, rather than „how‟. Both content and process matter for both access and addressing difference. This paper details the ASPIRE principles and pedagogy for SEL and shows how incorporating these may help address diversity across needs and cultures. ASPIRE is the acronym for Agency, Safety, Positivity, Inclusion, Respect and Equity. These principles apply not only to the classroom but to relational well-being at all levels of the system and as such are aspirational. Many are based in the positive psychology literature, and are applicable to both individualistic and collectivist cultures as the intention is not to impose a set of values and behaviours but to structure activities that enable young people to explore what works for themselves and their communities. They have been put into practice within the Circle Solutions framework for SEL across Australia with both Aboriginal and Anglo communities and further afield in the UK, South-East Asia and Africa.
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp 59 - 71
The ASPIRE Principles and Pedagogy for the Implementation of
Social and Emotional Learning and the Development of Whole School
Sue Roffey
Exeter University, South West England, UK; Western Sydney University, Sydney,
Implementation is the process by which interventions are put into practice and is critical
to outcomes. Issues related to implementation for social and emotional learning (SEL)
have largely focused on fidelity to the programme, dosage, clarity of guidance and the
characteristics of the facilitator, although attention has also been paid to multi-level
factors within an ecological system. The primary emphasis, however, has been on „what‟
should happen, rather than „how‟. Both content and process matter for both access and
addressing difference. This paper details the ASPIRE principles and pedagogy for SEL
and shows how incorporating these may help address diversity across needs and cultures.
ASPIRE is the acronym for Agency, Safety, Positivity, Inclusion, Respect and Equity.
These principles apply not only to the classroom but to relational well-being at all levels
of the system and as such are aspirational. Many are based in the positive psychology
literature, and are applicable to both individualistic and collectivist cultures as the
intention is not to impose a set of values and behaviours but to structure activities that
enable young people to explore what works for themselves and their communities. They
have been put into practice within the Circle Solutions framework for SEL across
Australia with both Aboriginal and Anglo communities and further afield in the UK,
South-East Asia and Africa.
Keywords: ASPIRE, implementation, Circle Solutions, well-being, social and emotional
First submission 18th August 2017; Accepted for publication 28th October 2017
Corresponding author. Email address:
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
With the rise of mental health concerns and dysfunctional relationships in families, workplaces and
communities, social and emotional learning is being adopted in education systems across the world (e.g.,
Littlefield, Cavanagh, Knapp, & O‟Grady, 2017). Sometimes this takes place in sequenced curricular
activities, sometimes, less directly, under the guise of anti-bullying initiatives, relationship and sexuality
education, character education, or violence prevention. Sometimes it is with targeted groups and sometimes a
universal intervention.
Although implementation factors are relevant to the effectiveness of all curriculum subjects they are
even more critical with any intervention/programme that touches on „learning to be‟ and „learning to live
together‟. This paper posits that we need to go beyond content to context and values in action in order to
maximise positive outcomes for all students with diverse needs and from diverse cultures.
Durlak (2015) summarises research on factors affecting implementation in social and emotional
learning and found the following to be of importance:
Fidelity to the programme though some adaptation and flexibility was seen to be important in
order to „fit‟ a particular school context and culture
Dosage how often a programme takes place
Quality of delivery and how well teachers engaged students
School leadership and support
Staff professional development
He then goes on to talk about the process of getting SEL embedded in a school and outlines 14 steps
in a „Quality Implementation Framework‟. Planning prior to commencement of any intervention needs to
include „buy-in‟ from the whole school and a shared vision and expectations. A school‟s amenability to
programme implementation is correlated with best practice (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 2002). The process
begins with „school readiness‟ and ends with critical analysis and reflection on both the programme and its
implementation so that learnings might be applied in the future.
Durlak (2015) also mentions the importance of collaboration between stakeholders, many of whom
may not be used to working together, but does not outline what might be involved. This was found to be a
critical issue in the Aboriginal Girls Circle (AGC) initiative when the support of community elders and the
involvement of Aboriginal Education Officers were critical to effective engagement of the girls (Dobia,
Bodkin-Andrews, Parada, O‟Rourke, Gilbert, & Roffey, 2014). Indigenous priorities and perspectives
however, did not always dovetail with white Anglo expectations, norms and practices.
Cefai and Cavioni (2014) also make explicit strategies for involving all stakeholders in a school and
steps for implementation. They are two of the few commentators who touch on the values and principles that
need to be embedded in any program. They see a caring classroom community as not only an aspirational
outcome of SEL but also one that facilitates effectiveness. If things go well, there should be a positive spiral
over time that contributes to the knowledge and skills of learners and develops a positive emotional climate
for learning.
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
Hamedani and Darling-Hammond (2015) explored the process and impact of SEL in three urban high
schools in the US where students represent a range of socio-economic, racial and ethnic diversity. These
schools aimed to engage and empower student communities in an „expanded vision of social emotional
learning that incorporates a social justice education perspective… integrating students‟ social and emotional
needs with culturally relevant, asset-based, identity-safe, and empowerment-oriented practice‟ (p. 1-2). The
researchers found that students engaged in social and emotional learning in these schools were significantly
more likely to enjoy and engage with school more, be more resilient and have a community focused
orientation. The researchers also commented on the importance of a „whole child‟ approach to education
where the social emotional and academic aspects of education were linked. Social and emotional knowledge
and skills needed to be taught and practiced but also embedded in a congruent school culture that respected
and responded to the diverse experiences and needs of students.
The ASPIRE principles that follow build on the work already done by researchers on this important
aspect of SEL (e.g. Brackett & Pattie, 2016; Cefai & Cavioni, 2014; Durlak, 2015). This overarching
framework applies to the context, pedagogy and facilitation that addresses the „how‟ not just the „what‟ across
both SEL intervention and the ecology of the whole school in which this is embedded. ASPIRE is not a
program, it is a process. It has been developed to address the issues of safety, respect, inclusion and
empowerment that are critical if SEL is to have positive impact on young people from diverse cultures, those
who have diverse needs, and those who are dealing with diverse and challenging issues.
Facilitators choose activities that are pertinent to their own context and needs and many established
programs can be delivered within the ASPIRE pedagogy. The framework has been utilised in schools using
Circle Solutions across Australia and in New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Egypt, the UK, China and
Japan (Growing Great Schools, 2017).
The Aboriginal Girls Circle (Dobia et al., 2014) is an intervention with indigenous high school girls
auspiced by the (Australian) National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. Parental
confidence and connection are both protective factors for children‟s safety and this project was designed to
develop these attributes to promote future child and community well-being. Aboriginal culture does not lend
itself to many of the features that are the norm in Anglo social and emotional learning. Personal information
is only accessed in an indirect way, silence is an acceptable part of communication, avoiding eye-contact is
seen as respectful, joking is integral to communication practices, and non-verbal communication is
commonplace. It is regarded as shameful to be the centre of attention or to put yourself forward or above
your peers. ASPIRE addresses these matters by focusing primarily on shared issues rather than individual
experiences, and promoting collaboration, inclusion and laughter. The mixed method evaluation engaged
around fifty girls, their teachers and members of the Aboriginal community. The aims of confidence and
connection were met for many of the participants although generalisation to the school context was more
problematic (Dobia & Roffey, 2017).
In another project (McCarthy and Roffey, 2013) eighteen undergraduate students were trained in
Circle Solutions and supported implementation of this intervention in eight Greater Western Sydney primary
schools for one school term. The students‟ experiences were recorded and analysed, giving information about
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
factors that made Circles a more or less successful intervention. The main facilitators/barriers were the active
involvement of regular teachers and the way they positioned social/emotional needs and learning.
The ASPIRE Principles and Pedagogy
This section of the paper outlines the principles in detail, giving a rationale for each, based in research
evidence. We also explore how each is translated in both the delivery of SEL and the context that supports
this endeavour. The principles are given here individually, but in practice they are interconnected and inter-
Rationale, theory and evidence. Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(UNCRC) sets out the right of children and young people to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken
into account on any matter that affects them. Agency incorporates one of the determinants of well-being
self-determination. Self-determination theory, initiated by Ryan and Deci (2000), is a theory of motivation
concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways. This
principle refers to the amount of control someone has over actions and decision-making.
The New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People (2007) interviewed 126 children and
young people about what well-being meant for them. Three overarching themes were identified:
Agency: defined as having the power to make your own decisions in everyday life
Security: feeling safe and being safe especially having people who will look out for you.
Without this you cannot engage fully with life
A positive sense of self: you and the people around you see you as a good person.
Those who see themselves as choosing to engage in a task or given some choice in a way a task is
undertaken are more likely to see meaning in what they do. This contrasts with pressure from external non-
negotiable demands and extrinsic rewards. Although teachers need to be in charge of proceedings they do not
control students but empower them to come to their own understandings through a process of
experimentation, reflection and discussion.
Pedagogy. Many subjects in the mainstream curriculum are taught didactically. The teacher is seen to
have a body of knowledge that is presented to students. Learners are often passive recipients of information
with the teacher in control of instruction. This approach is not appropriate for SEL as students need to interact
with the content at both cognitive and emotional levels in order to understand concepts and apply them to
their own lives. The S.A.F.E. model for SEL delivery stands for Sequenced, Active, Focused and Explicit.
(CASEL, 2015) Agency can be equated with „Active‟, as in not a passive recipient. Crepeau and Richards
(2003) found that teachers who enthusiastically engage learners in participatory activities are much more
likely to elicit positive responses. Student-centred pedagogical approaches, such as project-based and inquiry-
based learning, address diversity by incorporating different learning styles. These are more likely to promote
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
interest and motivation, which may in turn promote academic effort, engagement, comprehension, and
retention of the materials learned (Reinders, 2010; Skelton, Seevers, Dormody, & Hodnett, 2012).
Agency is demonstrated in SEL by providing students with activities, some of which are experiential,
that enable them to reflect on issues, discuss these with peers and sometimes take action in the classroom to
put learning into practice. One example of this might be a small group discussing the pros and cons of
different responses to a challenging hypothetical situation. Each small group feeds back the gist of their
discussion to the larger group (usually in a circle) saying which option they considered had the best short-
term and long-term outcomes. Rather than telling young people what to think and do they are given structured
activities that enable them to think and decide for themselves. This is also likely to enhance a sense of
responsibility. The freedom to make sense of their learning in this way enables students from diverse
backgrounds and with a range of needs to engage with constructs in a way that is relevant for them.
In the Aboriginal Girls Circle (AGC) initiative, there was a power-sharing pedagogy where girls were
invited to be co-determiners of the processes and topics covered. They invariably chose projects relevant to
their own culture and communities. The evaluation (Dobia et al., 2013) indicated a growing capacity within
the girls for personal and collective agency, alongside raised confidence and leadership.
Rationale, theory and evidence. Safety in school is physical, emotional and psychological. There is
increasing acknowledgement that students who do not feel safe are less able to access learning, more likely to
have poor attendance and ultimately have poor mental health. To address both overt and covert bullying, the
Australian National Safe Schools Framework (Education Services Australia, 2010) asserts that all Australian
schools should:
Affirm the rights of all members of the school community to feel safe and be safe at school
Acknowledge that being safe and supported at school is essential for student well-being and
effective learning
Accept responsibility for developing and sustaining safe and supportive learning and teaching
communities that also fulfil the school‟s child protection responsibilities
Encourage the active participation of all school community members in developing and
maintaining a safe school community where diversity is valued
Actively support young people to develop understanding and skills to keep themselves and others
Commit to developing a safe school community through a whole-school and evidence-based
An emotionally safe school allows children to make mistakes and take risks in learning without
feeling they may become a failure (Hirsh, 2004). No learner is belittled, punished or humiliated and their
worth is not determined by how they measure up to others. In an emotionally safe classroom, teachers make
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
mistakes. They share these mistakes with children and sometimes elicit the children‟s help in solving their
problem. In 2001, Bluestein asserted that creating an emotionally safe school is a pre-requisite for students to
learn intra and interpersonal competencies.
Pedagogy. The need to ensure that both students and teachers feel safe is critical to effective
pedagogy in SEL. There have been criticisms of the secondary SEAL programme in the UK in that lessons
were potentially unsafe for both teachers and students (Craig, 2007; Ecclestone & Hayes, 2008). There was a
concern that addressing emotional concerns with children would open „Pandora‟s box‟ in ways that may
potentially distress children and leave teachers feeling incompetent and unable to offer a helpful response.
There was also a claim that a focus on emotional well-being in school would risk developing a culture of
„victims‟ and narcissists.
Students do need to be able to discuss and reflect on important issues, but to maximise safety this
needs to stay in the realm of the impersonal, with no expectation of disclosing personal circumstances or
incidents. There are many ways to do this including using stories, video clips, role play and „pair shares‟,
talking with a partner about an issue and seeking commonalities. Even in personal feedback, the use of
„someone‟ rather than „I‟ can provide a safety barrier, e.g., “It would make someone angry if …” Co-
operative learning in most curriculum subjects is more effective that competitive (Johnson, Johnson & Stanne,
2000), but is especially valuable in SEL. Activities that take place in pairs or small groups take the focus off
the individual who nevertheless will be reflecting on how these issues apply to them. Working together also
enables some of the learnt skills to be put into practice.
The right to pass and stay silent is also a safety valve for students. No-one has to say anything unless
they choose to do so. In the AGC this proved to be a critical aspect of the pedagogy as it alleviated the risk of
„shame‟ and enabled the girls to establish a sense of comfort and trust with each other and the facilitator
before choosing to engage verbally. Initial reluctance to speak out applies to other cultures, such as
Singaporean and Chinese.
Rationale, theory and evidence. Positive psychology can be briefly defined as a focus on what is
going well in matters of human development and endeavour. It pursues understanding of what enables people
to flourish rather than how to identify deficit and treat disease (Gable & Haidt, 2005). There is now a vast
literature on the various elements of positive psychology and its application in educational settings (e.g.
Gilman, Scott Huebner, & Furlong, 2009). This includes matters as diverse as resilience, flow, growth mind
set, positive emotions, social capital, strengths-based approaches, and more. Student and school well-being is
beginning to be embedded in various educational jurisdictions, and there is significant interest in what this
means and how it works (House of Commons, 2017). This section addresses just a few of these approaches.
Pedagogy. Activities in SEL are solution rather than problem focused. This means that students are
asked to consider what supports resilience, conflict resolution or confidence. They look to explore what is fair
and what they and others need to thrive or learn. They may look at pictures of faces and with a partner
consider what might have caused them to feel that way and what needs to happen now. Younger children may
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
be introduced to a teddy bear or puppet who is said to be sad or upset, and the children come up with ideas to
help. There are never right or wrong answers, just reflection and discussion. We have found that when young
people consider what matters to them, how they want to be treated and feel, they begin to build solutions
without having been presented directly with problems. When students are working together in a safe activity
they consider broad issues of well-being for themselves and others with a remarkable depth of understanding.
In the AGC girls were given collage materials and in groups of three asked to construct a collage that
represented their ideal community one in which they would like to live and work in the future (see Figure
Figure 1. Collage representing the ideal community of AGC girls
(Image © Emma Marshall
Subsequent activities explored what they might do to help develop this giving the girls agency to
decide, with staff supporting them to take incremental steps towards their goal. One group decided that
diabetes was a major problem in their families and wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of sugar, so
developed a poster showing „The Sugar in your Snacks‟ which was reproduced, laminated and distributed
across the community. Strengths identification is also encouraged in various activities. This concerns both the
strengths that people possess, those they would like to have, those that would be useful in given situations,
and strengths within a family, group or class.
Finally, this aspect of ASPIRE incorporates the promotion of positive emotions. Frederickson (2009)
found that positive emotions promote problem-solving and creative thinking. Feeling valued, thankful and
connected matters, but positive emotions can also be elicited by playfulness. Many activities are presented as
games, none of which are individually competitive (Hromek & Roffey, 2009). Some are deliberately aimed to
engage students in laughing together. This raises oxytocin levels, which helps people feel connected, which in
turn raises resilience. In the AGC evaluation (Dobia et al., 2013) there were many comments on the value of
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
having fun together; “I was surprised how making the workshops fun, the girls were engaged and were then
able to discuss some deep/serious issues” (Adult participant). “You can go to AGC sad and leave it like, really
happy” (Student).
This focus on positivity can be critiqued as having Western overtones but the option of opting out
together with the focus on agency, respect and inclusion ensures that cultural differences in expressing
sadness or negativity are accepted and understanding shared (Koopman-Holm & Tsai, 2014).
Rationale, theory and evidence. A sense of connectedness is now firmly established as a factor in
resilience and well-being (Werner, 2004). Although belonging can be experienced in many domains a major
site is within school. School connectedness is multi-dimensional with no single definition but there is general
agreement that it comprises a sense of feeling cared for, high expectations for learning, and support to achieve
alongside opportunities to participate (McNeely, Nonnemaker & Blum, 2004). Research indicates that a sense
of school connectedness enhances academic performance (Sari, 2012), psychological well-being (Nutbrown
& Clough, 2009) and pro-social behaviour (Blum, 2005). A sense of belonging, however, can be inclusive,
where everyone is welcome and everyone matters, or exclusive, which maintains group cohesion and
superiority by keeping those out who do not meet certain criteria. For the well-being of all students, especially
the most vulnerable, it is critical that schools develop a sense of inclusive belonging (Roffey, 2013). Allen,
Vella-Brodrik and Waters (2017) investigated the relationship between social and emotional competencies
and school belonging. In a meta-analysis of eleven studies they found that social and emotional competencies
had a significant relationship with school belonging. This means not only that social and emotional learning is
critical for school belonging but also that inclusion needs to be part of the implementation process for a
universal SEL intervention. This principle in ASPIRE is particularly pertinent for addressing diversity and
for promoting a sense of shared humanity learning about each other as both unique individuals and what we
have in common.
Pedagogy. Inclusion for SEL means that every participant has an opportunity to be involved in every
activity should they choose to do so. Inclusion is also facilitated by mixing students up for SEL activities so
that everyone works with everyone else either with a partner or in a small group. In a photo-film on Circle
Solutions, one young boy said: “While we are having fun we learn about each other, we play some games and
learn about each other”. Some activities are specifically designed to inhibit pre-judgement of others on the
basis of limited information, to explore the needs of those who might be marginalised and to „walk in their
shoes‟ (Roffey, 2014).
How teachers respond to students who do not conform is also relevant to this principle. We have
increasing numbers of students excluded from school for aberrant behaviours, and it is these students who are
likely to be the most vulnerable and most need to feel they matter. When a student does not conform to the
basic guidelines of respect for others, usually by talking over them, the guidelines or expectations are repeated
to the whole group several times. If this is ineffective he or she is taken aside while others carry out a small
group activity. The pupils are first told that they are wanted as they are part of a class. They are then given the
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
choice to either show respect for others or stay or leave for a while. The door is always left open for them to
return but only on the basis of positive behaviours. In eight Western Sydney schools the student facilitators
found that behaviour was rarely a problem during SEL Circles, even for those who were difficult for their
regular teacher (McCarthy & Roffey, 2013). Improved behaviour, however was not sustainable without the
active and positive participation of their classroom teacher.
Rationale, theory and evidence. In the West, respect is no longer a „given‟ that comes with authority
or seniority. In some contexts, respect means being honoured or esteemed thought worthy by others. This
may depend on what is considered to be valuable by others, such as excelling in a given way. Education has
moved towards a homogeneity of expectations that does not always credit individual differences as valuable,
and may give little room in practice for respecting diversity. The National Framework for Values Education
in Australian Schools outlines nine values for Australian Schooling (DEST, 2005). One of these is „Respect‟,
defined as „treat others with consideration and regard, respect another person‟s point of view‟. Egan (2002)
defines a respectful interaction as one in which one person does not overwhelm the other with their own
agenda and does not rush to judgement. Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider, Sorenson, Yaegar, & Whitney,
2001) is a way of putting respect into practice and is congruent with positive psychology approaches by
building on strengths, focusing on an imagined ideal future, and making meaning within a collaborative
Roffey (2005) explored the perceptions of respect with various stakeholders in the school
environment in three qualitative studies: how it felt to be a recipient of respectful interactions and the
difference this made to expectations of the self and others, motivations, confidence and positive emotionality.
Respect was demonstrated by acknowledgement of presence and of the whole person, seeking and valuing the
positive, acknowledgement of effort, feelings and competencies, and taking account of individual contexts.
Positive communication was a critical factor, especially through active listening and not making judgements.
Feeling safe enough to speak and participate was also mentioned, as was the willingness of others to admit
and apologise when they had misunderstood or made a mistake.
Respect for culture is both subtle and powerful. Indigenous students in Australia are often perceived
as challenging in the school context. This is evidenced by a disproportionate number being excluded from
school. Although an SEL programme may be seen as an answer to this, there is a concern that SEL programs
based on explicit classroom teaching of formal skills that privilege non-Indigenous ways of thinking, feeling
and behaving may reinforce rather than challenge a deficit lens (Hoffman, 2009; Humphrey, 2013).
For working between cultures the flexible and open-ended methodology of ASPIRE enabled the girls
in the AGC to own and lead processes that supported their sense of resilience and connectedness, encouraging
them to take up issues that they found significant (Dobia & Roffey, 2017). Two-way learning sought the
respectful integration of Aboriginal and non-Indigenous knowledge through a commitment to culturally
responsive teaching and effective community partnerships.
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
Pedagogy. Respect in ASPIRE is modelled, experienced, reflected upon and discussed. Students may
be asked to identify with others what is happening when they feel respected and what feelings are associated
with this. They may talk about who they respect and why, being given the option to choose public figures as
well as known individuals. Respect is encapsulated in two guidelines:
1. When you are speaking everyone else will listen, as what you have to say is important this
means you also need to listen to others;
2. There are no „put downs‟ only personal positives.
These guidelines are stated at the beginning of a Circle session and repeated with brevity throughout
as necessary. These guidelines apply to everyone, including the teacher/facilitator who needs to ensure that
everyone has a turn and a voice. Students are given activities that help to develop the skills of positive
communication so that they learn what active listening means and how jumping to conclusions about others
can often be wrong. What has been discovered is that when these guidelines are actively followed the quieter
children begin to find their voice and the more confident and louder pupils are quieter. At the end of one AGC
camp one young woman stated: “I have learnt that to get respect you have to give it.”
Rationale, theory and evidence. McCashen (2005) talks about the essence of the strengths-based
approach as being „power with‟, rather than „power over‟. It is about having a high regard for uniqueness and
diversity and also respect for the commonalities between people. The human need for fairness is hard-wired.
The brain‟s reward centre is activated when fairness and cooperation are experienced (Tabibnia & Leiderman,
2007). Fairness does not however mean rigid sameness it means acknowledgement of different
circumstances and flexibility in response to these.
Pedagogy: This final principle in ASPIRE was originally equality but that can mean valuing
homogeneity rather than diversity. Equity, on the other hand, means ensuring equal access, participation and
opportunity and at times may mean adaptations. These may be necessary for special needs students, those
who are not native speakers and those who struggle with basic expectations. The principle is encapsulated in
ensuring that everyone has a voice and has structured opportunities to participate.
In the ASPIRE approach to SEL the teacher participates equally with all students, sits in the Circle
and engages with activities whether these are paired, small group or everyone together. This changes
relationships and understanding as well as skills. As teacher emotional literacy is often cited as relevant in
teaching SEL (e.g., Brackett & Patti, 2016) in this framework all are learning together.
ASPIRE is not intended to replace previous strategies for implementation, but to build on these so that
teachers and students feel safe, engaged and positive about social and emotional learning. Social and
emotional learning has been identified as one of the main pathways to student well-being (Noble, McGrath,
Roffey & Rowling, 2008), but one of the other pathways is a safe, respectful and supportive school
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
environment. We consider these as both interactive and underpinned by the ASPIRE principles. This paper
is not the first to say that social and emotional learning is an approach to education that encompasses not only
knowledge and skills but also a way of supporting mental health, but this must also be embedded in a
congruent learning environment (Greenberg, Domotrovich, Weissberg, & Durlak, 2017). More research is
needed to identify which of the principles have most impact on sustainability, and the ways in which these
can be developed both for SEL and in establishing well-being at the heart of school ethos and practice.
Allen, K., Vella-Brodrik, D., & Waters, L. (2017). School belonging and the role of social and emotional
competencies in fostering an adolescent‟s sense of connectedness in their school. In E. Frydenberg,
A. J. Martin & R. Collie (Eds.), Social and Emotional Learning in Australia and the Asia-Pacific:
Perspectives, Programs and Approaches (pp. 83-99). Dordrecht: Springer.
Bluestein. J. (2001). Creating Emotionally Safe Schools: A Guide for Educators and Parents. Deerfield
Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc.
Blum, R. W. (2005). A case for school connectedness. Educational Leadership, 42(7), 62-70.
Brackett, M. A., & Patti, J. (2016). Creating emotionally intelligent schools: Training in social and emotional
skills begins with educators. School Administrator, 1922.
CASEL (2015). Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs: Middle and High School Edition.
Retrieved on 3rd August 2017 from:
Cefai, C., & Cavioni, V. (2014). Social and Emotional Education in Primary School: Integrating theory and
Research into Practice. Dordrecht: Springer.
Cooperrider, D., Sorenson Jnr., P.F., Yaegar, T., & Whitney, D. (Eds.) (2001). Appreciative Inquiry: An
Emerging Direction for Organizational Development. Champaign, IL: Stipes.
Craig, C. (2007). The potential dangers of a systematic, explicit approach to teaching social and emotional
skills. Scotland: Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing.
Crepeau, J. M., & Richards, M. A. (2003). A Show of Hands: Using Puppets with Young Children. St Paul,
MN: Redleaf Press.
Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) (2005). National framework for values education in
Australian schools. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.
Dobia, B., & Roffey, S. (2017). Respect for culture social and emotional learning with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Youth. In E. Frydenberg, A. J. Martin & R. Collie (Eds.), Social and Emotional
Learning in Australia and the Asia-Pacific: Perspectives, Progams and Approaches (pp. 313-334).
Dordrecht: Springer.
Dobia, B., Bodkin-Andrews, G., Parada, R. H., O‟Rourke, V., Gilbert, S., & Roffey, S. (2014). The
Aboriginal Girls’ Circle: Enhancing connectedness and promoting resilience for Aboriginal girls.
Final Report. Penrith, NSW: University of Western Sydney.
Durlak, J. A. (2015) What everyone should know about implementation. In J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich,
R. P. Weissberg & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning Research and
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
Practice (pp. 395-405). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Ecclestone K. & Hayes, D. (2008). The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education. London: Routledge
Education Services Australia (2010). National Safe Schools Framework (revised). Carlton South, VIC:
Commonwealth of Australia.
Egan, G. (2002). The Skilled Helper: A Problem Management and Opportunity Development Approach to
Helping (7th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole.
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Ground-breaking research to release your inner optimist and thrive.
Oxford: OneWorld Publications.
Gable, S. L., & Haidt, J. (2005). What (and why) is positive psychology? Review of General Psychology,
9(2), 103-110.
Gilman, R., Scott Huebner, E., & Furlong, M.J. (Eds.) (2009). Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools.
London: Routledge.
Gottfredson, D. C., & Gottfredson, G. D. (2002). Quality of school-based prevention programs: results from a
national survey. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 39(1), 3-35.
Greenberg, M. T., Domitrovitch C. E., Weissberg, R. P. & Durlak, J. A. (2017). Social-emotional learning as
a public health approach to education. Future of Children, 27(1), 13-32.
Growing Great Schools (2017). List of Registered Circle Solutions Schools. Retrieved on 7th November 2017
Hamedani. M.G., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2015). Social and Emotional Learning in High School: How
Three Urban High Schools, Engage, Educate and Empower Youth. Stanford Centre for Opportunity
Policy in Education
Hirsh, R. A. (2004). Early Childhood Curriculum: Incorporating Multiple Intelligences, Developmentally
Appropriate Practice and Play. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
Hoffman, D. M. (2009). Reflecting on social emotional learning: a critical perspective on trends in the United
States. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 533556.
House of Commons (2017). Children and Young Peoples Mental Health: The Role of Education. Retrieved
on 1st August 2017 from:
Hromek, R., & Roffey, S. (2009). Games as a pedagogy to promote social and emotional learning: „It's fun
and we learn things‟. Simulation and Gaming, 40(1), 626 -644.
Humphrey, N. (2013). Social and Emotional Learning: a critical appraisal. London: Sage Education.
Johnson, D. W. Johnson, R. T., & Shane, M. B. (2000). Cooperative Learning Methods: A Meta-analysis
University of Minnesota. Retrieved on 1st July 2017 from:
Koopman-Holm, B., & Tsai, J. L. (2014). Focusing on the negative: cultural differences in expressing
sympathy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(6), 1092-1115.
Littlefield, L., Cavanagh, S., Knapp, R., & O‟Grady, L. (2017). KidsMatter: Building the capacity of
Australian primary schools and early childhood services to foster children‟s social and emotional
ISSN 2073-7629
© 2017 CRES Special Issue Volume 9, Number 2, November 2017 pp
skills and promote children‟s mental health. In E. Frydenberg, A. J. Martin & R. Collie (Eds.), Social
and Emotional Learning in Australia and the Asia-Pacific: Perspectives, Progams and Approaches
(pp 293-311). Dordrecht: Springer.
McCarthy, F., & Roffey.S. (2013). Circle Solutions: a philosophy and pedagogy for learning positive
relationships. What promotes and inhibits sustainable outcomes? International Journal for Emotional
Education, 5(1), 36-55.
McCashen, W. (2005). The Strengths Approach: A strengths based resource for sharing power and creating
change. Bendigo, VIC: St Luke‟s Innovative Resources.
McNeely, C. A., Nonnemaker, J. M., & Blum. R. W. (2002). Promoting school connectedness. Evidence from
the National Longitudinal study of adolescent health. Journal of School Health, 72(4), 138-146.
Noble, T., McGrath, H., Roffey, S., & Rowling, L. (2008). Scoping Study into Approaches to Student
Wellbeing. Canberra, ACT: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations,
Commonwealth of Australia
NSW Commission for Children and Young People (2007). Ask the children: overview of children's
understandings of wellbeing. Surry Hills, N.S.W.: NSW Commission for Children & Young People,
Retrieved on 1st August 2017 from:
Nutbrown, C., & Clough, P. (2009). Citizenship and inclusion in the early years. Understanding and
responding to children‟s perspectives of belonging. International Journal of Early Years Education,
17(3), 91-206.
Reinders, H. (2010). Towards a classroom pedagogy for learner autonomy: A framework of independent
language learning skills. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(5), 40-55.
Roffey, S. (2005). Respect in practice: The challenge of emotional literacy in education. Australian
Association for Research in Education conference papers. Retrieved on 1st August 2017 from:
Roffey, S. (2013). Inclusive and Exclusive Belonging: The impact on individual and community wellbeing.
Educational and Child Psychology, 30(1), 38-49.
Roffey. S. (2014). Circle Solutions for Student Wellbeing. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation,
social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 6878.
Sari, M. (2012). Sense of school belonging amongst elementary school students. Cukurova University Faculty
of Education Journal, 41(1), 1-11.
Skelton, P., Seevers, B., Dormody, T., & Hodnett, F. (2012). A conceptual process model for improving
youth science comprehension. Journal of Extension, 50(3), Article 3IAW1.
Tabibnia, G., & Leiderman, M. D. (2007). Fairness and cooperation are rewarding: Evidence from social
cognitive neuroscience. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1118, 90-101.
Werner, E. E. (2004). What can we learn about resilience from large scale longitudinal studies? In S.
Goldstein & R. B. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of Resilience in Children (pp. 91-105). New York, NY:
Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
... The ASPIRE pedagogy has been developed to address these concerns and implemented with students in diverse settings (Dobia et al., 2014). ASPIRE is an acronym that stands for Agency, Safety, Positivity, Inclusion, Respect, and Equity (Dobia and Roffey, 2017;Roffey, 2017Roffey, , 2020. Students are given activities, games, hypotheticals and role-plays that encourage them to think about emotions, relationships and other important issues (but not incidents), discuss these with their peers, and focus on actions that support their own and others' wellbeing. ...
Full-text available
Background: Previous research has suggested that social disconnectedness experienced at school is linked to mental health problems, however, more research is needed to investigate (1) whether the accumulation of various types of social disconnectedness is associated with risk for mental health problems, and (2) whether loneliness is a mechanism that explains these associations. Methods: Using data from the Danish National Youth Study 2019 (UNG19), nation-wide cross-sectional data from 29,086 high school students in Denmark were analyzed to assess associations between social disconnectedness experienced at school (lack of classmate support, lack of teacher support, lack of class social cohesion, and not being part of the school community) and various mental health outcomes, as well as the mediating role of loneliness for each type of disconnectedness. Multilevel regression analyses were conducted to assess the associations. Results: Descriptive analyses suggest that 27.5% of Danish high school students experience at least one type of social disconnectedness at school. Each type of social disconnectedness was positively associated with mental health problems (depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms, stress, sleep problems, suicidal ideation, non-suicidal self-injury, eating disorder, body dissatisfaction, and low self-esteem) and negatively associated with mental well-being. In all cases, loneliness significantly mediated the associations. We found a clear dose-response pattern, where each addition in types of social disconnectedness was associated with (1) stronger negative coefficients with mental well-being and (2) stronger positive coefficients with mental health problems. Conclusion: Our results add to a large evidence-base suggesting that mental health problems among adolescents may be prevented by promoting social connectedness at school. More specifically, fostering social connectedness at school may prevent loneliness, which in turn may promote mental well-being and prevent mental health problems during the developmental stages of adolescence. It is important to note that focusing on single indicators of school social connectedness/disconnectedness would appear to be insufficient. Implications for practices within school settings to enhance social connectedness are discussed.
... Extending the emphasis on flexibility and responsiveness to include student voice and collective learning, Roffey (2017) highlights the importance of the principles of agency, safety, positivity, inclusion, respect and equity for teaching and learning SEL. This pedagogical approach has particular relevance for breaking down stereotypes and cultivating collaboration, compassion and a sense of shared humanity. ...
Full-text available
While social and emotional learning (SEL) can have many benefits for psychosocial development and well-being, the extent to which the benefits of SEL are realised depends to a large extent on how well it is implemented. This chapter takes up the question of what is necessary for effective implementation of SEL initiatives and why it is important to attend to implementation factors when undertaking SEL in schools and other settings. Included in the discussion is a consideration of policy settings and curriculum frameworks that provide important context and support for SEL implementation in schools. Critical research-based factors for effective implementation of SEL programmes are identified and discussed. The chapter also provides a detailed examination of the benefits and components of systemic approaches to implementation using a whole school approach.
... This conceptual framework has developed as an outcome of evidence and practice, drawing from the fields of educational and positive psychology. Circle Solutions takes a strengths-based approach that emphasises the importance of creating a safe classroom environment for SEL for both teachers and children (Ecclestone & Hayes, 2009;Dobia & Roffey, 2017;Roffey, 2017b). ...
Full-text available
Aim: To evaluate the impact and process of introducing Circle Solutions (Circles) in six primary schools. Rationale: Many frameworks for social and emotional learning (SEL) aim to develop individual skills. Circle Solutions is based on a collective approach with a specific pedagogy. This paper explores the impact that Circle Solutions have on belonging and inclusion. Method: Teachers in six primary schools were trained in Circle Solutions and asked to run the intervention once a week for up to six months, with three additional schools providing a waitlist control condition. A mixed-method approach was used to evaluate changes in pupils social-emotional skills, behaviour and connectedness. Five teachers completed the Teacher Attitudes to Social Emotional Learning survey (TASEL) prior to and following the intervention. 157 pupils completed a modified version of the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) plus two open-ended questions. Findings: Although quantitative findings did not indicate statistically significant differences, qualitative responses suggested that the introduction of Circle Solutions increased inclusiveness and valuing of others, developed students' emotional awareness, enhanced a positive sense of self and stimulated student engagement. Teachers increased their sense of efficacy for teaching social emotional skills and identified improvements in teacher-student relationships as well as in student confidence, peer relationships, empathy, kindness, and student engagement. Limitations: Issues with systemic implementation were identified. Conclusion: Circle Solutions appears to have the potential to improve relationships, contributing to more connected and inclusive classrooms where children feel valued and appreciate others. Consideration needs to be given to sustainability and methodology in the evaluation of such programmes. There is a role for educational psychologists in establishing and supporting this intervention as happened throughout this study.
... When people feel they belong, positive emotional and cognitive outcomes occur [58]. A sense of belonging can be experienced in many contexts [59]. It relates to the inclusiveness of all participants where a culture of connection is built through relationships to promote a sense of belonging [60]. ...
Full-text available
Objective Shortages in the speciality nursing workforce, both nationally and internationally are driving the need for the development of an evidence-based model to inform recruitment and retention into speciality nursing practice. This study aimed to identify the factors influencing rapid and early career transition into speciality nursing practice. Methods A comprehensive systematic review of the literature was undertaken using a convergent qualitative synthesis design where results from qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies were transformed into qualitative findings. Databases included CINAHL, Medline, Scopus and PsycINFO. Search terms were: nurse, early career, rapid career, transition, specialty, and Medical Subject Heading terms included: professional development and educational, nursing, and continuing. Using validated tools, papers were independently assessed by a minimum of two reviewers. Results Twenty-three research articles were included. There were no randomized control trials. Through thematic analysis and matrix mapping of the results, the TRANSPEC model was developed. The model outlines three phases of transition: pre-entry, incomer and insider. There has been little focus on pre-entry with programs being designed at the incomer and insider phases. Impacting on these phases are three concepts: the self (professional and personal), the transition processes (informal and formal) and a sense of belonging. The overarching theme influencing the phases and concepts is the context of practice. Enablers and inhibitors influence successful transition and therefore impact on recruitment and retention. Each nurse’s transition is influenced by time. Conclusions For successful transition, the enablers and inhibitors impacting on the three concepts, phases and the context of practice need to be considered when developing any program. It is apparent that while previous studies have focused on the transition processes, such as curricula, the development of the self and a sense of belonging are also essential to successful transition. Further studies should include the pre-entry phase.
The increasing move to remote work has raised new questions in the field of workplace wellbeing and engagement with the individual’s emotional health and the quality of working relationships as essential concerns. In particular, loneliness, as a specific form of low-quality connections at work, has also become a key area of concern and research, given it is a discreet disrupter to wellbeing and engagement, not just to the individual but across the broader workplace. Hence there is a pressing need for workplaces and in particular coaches to assist their coachees to create high quality connections at work. Relationships are at the heart of the human experience, with Self-Determination theory having identified “relatedness” as one of three core psychological needs. A fundamental ingredient to fostering quality relationships are emotions, yet within the workplace, emotions have historically been avoided and viewed as the remit of therapists rather than coaches. Hence, specific knowledge and skill development has been lacking in coach training and practice. This chapter explores how the coaching relationship can facilitate the creation of positive relationships, work with emotions and loneliness (as a socio-emotional construct) in the workplace with coaching examples and a case study to illustrate coaching in practice.
Adolescent girls are the future leaders of the world. They are desperately needed and increasingly in pain. Adolescent youth are facing a mental health epidemic caused by many complex factors. High-achieving settings are now considered a high-risk factor for adolescents, along with youth experiencing trauma, discrimination, and poverty. These students face immense pressure to excel, social isolation, and limited relationships. Positive Psychology provides a pathway for school environments to build structures that support adolescent well-being. Specifically, this paper will focus on how cooperative games and play are a pathway to increase well-being and build leadership competencies in adolescent girls.
Conference Paper
Background: Whilst research has focused on young people’s (YP’s) experience and understanding of the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) phenomenon (Begley, 2015), the ELSA intervention (Barker, 2017) and YP’s perception of the effectiveness of the intervention (Hills, 2016), it has not yet considered the experience or ‘journey’ through the intervention from the YP’s perspective. / Aims: This study therefore aims to gain an understanding of how the YP experiences the ELSA intervention. Sample: Four YP in years seven and eight and three ELSAs were interviewed. Eight ELSAs also took part in a focus group. Methods: The research was conducted using a qualitative, in-depth multiple case study design and involved semi-structured interviews, drawing tasks, diaries and a focus group. / Findings: YP reported that the qualities of their ELSAs and the relationship they develop are important to their experience of the intervention and help them to meet their targets. They said that the relationship grew stronger over time and made them
Conference Paper
This study sought to shed light on the role a Black Supplementary School (BSS) played in supporting Black boys who were performing at national average or higher at GCSE level. They had been labelled with challenging behaviour by their mainstream educational provision. This study explored the views of 5 pupils, 4 parents and 5 BSS staff regarding ways in which the BSS supported them. The research adopted a single case study design. It employed qualitative data collection using semi–structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data with inductive methods of inquiry. Critical Race Theory-Community Cultural Wealth (CRT-CCW) and Bioecological Process, Person, Context, Time (B-PPCT) model were used conceptually to guide the structure of the interview schedules. However, the interview schedules were flexible enough to allow participants to reveal any perspectives that they felt were significant to the research. One overarching theme “Education is more than academia” and four themes; “Strong Sense of Belonging”, “Pupil empowerment through unique opportunities”, “Knowing and growing thy self” and “Supporting systemic strategies” developed from the data. Overall, the findings suggest that the BSS taught pupils not only academia, but aspects of racialised identity and self-knowledge. They also provided a layer of support for the pupils’ parents. The staff, parents and pupils all described a strong sense of belonging to the BSS and likened it to being part of a family. Based on the present study’s findings, there are implications for educational psychologists and other education professionals. It is hoped that the findings of this study will be used to enhance professional practice based on a deepened understanding of the needs of this group and ways to support them.
Full-text available
Evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, when implemented effectively, lead to measurable and potentially long-lasting improvements in many areas of children’s lives. In the short term, SEL programs can enhance children’s confidence in themselves; increase their engagement in school, along with their test scores and grades; and reduce conduct problems while promoting desirable behaviors. In the long term, children with greater social-emotional competence are more likely to be ready for college, succeed in their careers, have positive relationships and better mental health, and become engaged citizens. Those benefits make SEL programs an ideal foundation for a public health approach to education-that is, an approach that seeks to improve the general population’s wellbeing. In this article, Mark Greenberg, Celene Domitrovich, Roger Weissberg, and Joseph Durlak argue that SEL can support a public health approach to education for three reasons. First, schools are ideal sites for interventions with children. Second, school-based SEL programs can improve students’ competence, enhance their academic achievement, and make them less likely to experience future behavioral and emotional problems. Third, evidence-based SEL interventions in all schools-that is, universal interventions-could substantially affect public health. The authors begin by defining social and emotional learning and summarizing research that shows why SEL is important for positive outcomes, both while students are in school and as they grow into adults. Then they describe what a public health approach to education would involve. In doing so, they present the prevention paradox- “a large number of people exposed to a small risk may generate many more cases [of an undesirable outcome] than a small number exposed to a high risk”-to explain why universal approaches that target an entire population are essential. Finally, they outline an effective, school-based public health approach to SEL that would maximize positive outcomes for our nation’s children.
Full-text available
The literature on school belonging is not well advanced in Australia and is complicated by a disparity in terminology (e.g., school belonging has been referred to as school connectedness, school bonding, affiliation with school, school community). Nevertheless, there is a common understanding that school belonging is vital and necessary for the social and emotional well-being of adolescence. This chapter will present a general overview of school belonging and associated empirical studies, present findings of a meta-analysis that has investigated the relationship between social and emotional competencies and school belonging, and discuss practical implications for how to increase social and emotional competencies that may in turn enhance school belonging. The field of research concerned with school belonging and social and emotional competencies holds promise for future directions with respect to the applied impact in schools.
Full-text available
A sense of connectedness is increasingly recognised as a protective factor in resilience and well-being (Benard, 1991; Blum, 2005; Libbey, 2004). This paper reviews some of the international literature on belonging, especially within the school context, and explores the important distinction between those school communities that are inclusive and facilitate participation for all students and those that maintain an exclusive position that regulates who may belong and who may not, who is valued and who is marginalised. This is set within a broader socio-political context. This paper addresses some of the beliefs and behaviours that promote healthy and inclusive relationships and puts forward a case for building inclusive school communities. Effective school and classroom practices are illustrated in the findings of a small study on Circle Solutions. This is a philosophy and pedagogy that aims to enhance the relational quality in a school and promote a sense of inclusive belonging. Our primary focus here is vulnerable and often challenging students. We address what this means for the role and responsibility of educational psychologists in increasing inclusive connectedness and reducing rates of exclusion.
Full-text available
Improving youth science comprehension in the United States is imperative to reverse current trends in student achievement and to meet an expected shortage of scientists in the future. This lag in achievement scores and need for future scientists is a problem. One challenge is to link inquiry-based learning and experiential education with curriculum designed to improve understanding, skill development, and reasoning abilities to achieve the broader impacts of improved science comprehension. The authors propose a conceptual process model for delivering Extension programs designed to enhance youth achievement in the sciences.
Full-text available
The main purpose of this study was to investigate elementary school students' sense of school belonging. The Psychological Sense of School Membership Scale was administrated to 364 (174 female and 190 male) students, attending sixth-, seventh-and eighth-grade in Adana, Turkey. To analyze the gathered data, descriptive statistics were investigated and, one-way analysis of variance and t-test were performed. The findings indicated that female students had significantly higher sense of school belonging and a lower feeling of rejection in school and, significant differences were found in favor of the students who have higher academic achievement. It is also found that students who were attending to the schools that have middle and high socio-economic status have higher sense of school membership.
Full-text available
Feeling concern about the suffering of others is considered a basic human response, and yet we know surprisingly little about the cultural factors that shape how people respond to the suffering of another person. To this end, we conducted 4 studies that tested the hypothesis that American expressions of sympathy focus on the negative less and positive more than German expressions of sympathy, in part because Americans want to avoid negative states more than Germans do. In Study 1, we demonstrate that American sympathy cards contain less negative and more positive content than German sympathy cards. In Study 2, we show that European Americans want to avoid negative states more than Germans do. In Study 3, we demonstrate that these cultural differences in "avoided negative affect" mediate cultural differences in how comfortable Americans and Germans feel focusing on the negative (vs. positive) when expressing sympathy for the hypothetical death of an acquaintance's father. To examine whether greater avoided negative affect results in lesser focus on the negative and greater focus on the positive when responding to another person's suffering, in Study 4, American and German participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions: (a) to "push negative images away" (i.e., increasing desire to avoid negative affect) from or (b) to "pull negative images closer" (i.e., decreasing desire to avoid negative affect) to themselves. Participants were then asked to pick a card to send to an acquaintance whose father had hypothetically just died. Across cultures, participants in the "push negative away" condition were less likely to choose sympathy cards with negative (vs. positive) content than were those in the "pull negative closer" condition. Together, these studies suggest that cultures differ in their desire to avoid negative affect and that these differences influence the degree to which expressions of sympathy focus on the negative (vs. positive). We discuss the implications of these findings for current models of sympathy, compassion, and helping. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
KidsMatter is an Australian promotion, prevention and early intervention mental health initiative currently being implemented in over 3,000 primary schools and 400 early childhood services. It provides a framework for addressing children’s mental health that includes: creating a positive environment; fostering children’s social and emotional skills; supporting parenting; and early intervention for children experiencing mental health difficulties. KidsMatter recognises that children who have developmentally appropriate social and emotional skills are more likely to have better outcomes than children who are less competent. Children develop social and emotional skills in the context of their relationships with the significant adults in their lives, including parents, carers and educators. KidsMatter supports early childhood services and schools to embed social and emotional learning (SEL) within the curriculum provided for children. It recommends the implementation of evidence-based SEL programs, but also emphasises the importance of using daily interactions with children to support the development of their SEL skills, providing opportunities for children to practice and adapt their SEL skills and working collaboratively with families to assist children’s development of SEL skills.
International research into the benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL) is frequently cited in support of incorporating universal approaches to SEL in schools. However, the SEL competencies widely applied have not been investigated for their cross-cultural applicability. In this chapter, we investigate the role of culture in the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and the implications for SEL. We begin with an illustrative vignette that raises questions of culture and cultural difference and introduces a review of the policy and practice domains pertinent to our inquiry. A cultural analysis reveals the reasons why standardised approaches to SEL are inadequate for supporting social and emotional development amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and their communities. Drawing on our own work in schools, we highlight the crucial role of culture and identity in mediating self-awareness and social development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. This is demonstrated through discussion of findings from the ‘Indigenous adaptation’ of KidsMatter and from the implementation and evaluation of the Aboriginal Girls’ Circle (AGC) initiative. An examination of the ASPIRE principles underpinning the AGC demonstrates the ways that SEL has been integrated with support for cultural identity, and the benefits of doing so. We conclude that culturally responsive SEL requires a ‘two-way’ approach negotiated with local communities on the basis of mutual learning and respect for Indigenous cultures.
Preamble Please note this document is not critical of classroom teachers, head teachers or other professionals who, in the course of their working lives have to help young people improve their social and emotional skills. The critique advanced here solely focuses on a centralised, systematic, programmatic approach which recommends that all children, in all schools should be formally taught these skills on a year on year basis from 3 to 18. The Centre for Confidence and Well-being is committed to improving the well-being of young people. We think it is being eroded by a complex interaction of various cultural changes and we do not believe there are any short-cuts or panaceas. We think SEAL is being presented as a panacea and may not simply be diversionary but ultimately part of the problem. SEAL covers a huge range of disparate approaches and strands. Of course, there are elements to this work which we would not only accept but also recommend. For example, we are in favour of improving the climate in schools to make the atmosphere more positive and supportive of young people. We promote the idea of fostering good relationships between teachers and pupils. We are all for pupils been given more of a voice. We also think that some amount of skill based training for older secondary school pupils may be beneficial. What we question is the explicit teaching year on year of social and emotional skills to all children and the accompany framework of learning outcomes and evaluations.