Teachers' experiences of facilitating competency-based social-emotional learning in the Foundation Phase
Schools should be safe and enabling learning environments where learner wellbeing is promoted through educating the whole child with an equal focus on the importance of academic achievement, social and emotional development as well as health and civic engagement. The South African schooling system is plagued with many challenges. The ability for teachers to manage their classrooms that are often overcrowded and lacking in resources is a continual problem. These classroom environments are not conducive to learning where on-going and persistent learner misbehaviour causes stress and anxiety that ultimately impacts on teacher commitment and motivation and explains the high levels of teacher burnout. All of these factors contribute to a failing educational system with poor academic outcomes. South African learners deserve an education that develops both academic and social and emotional competence to build the resilience that the youth of today need to thrive and develop when faced with our current and future life challenges. In light of this, equipping teachers with the tools to manage their classrooms becomes a critical component to consider. Competency-based social and emotional learning is an innovative intervention approach that offers teachers' the tools to build strong and trusting bi-directional relationships that ultimately change the relational dynamics between teachers, learners and peers. Through this, classrooms are transformed into positive learning environments where learners feel safe to explore and try out new behaviours. This process enables children and adults to apply a set of skills or competencies to navigate through life to ensure success initially in school, later in the workplace, and ultimately, as constructive and responsible members of society. These competencies are: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social-Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision Making. The advantages of competency-based, well-implemented social and emotional learning are evident in research supporting social and emotional development, at teacher and student level, as a precursor to positive classroom outcomes such as quality teacher classroom management, improved academic achievement, strengthened relationships in classrooms, all of which positively impact student behaviour and emotional health and overall teacher and student commitment to school. In the South African school context, limited attention has been given to competency-based, social and emotional learning despite its multiple benefits. In response to this limitation, this qualitative phenomenological study explores teacher experiences of facilitating competency-based social-emotional learning in the Foundation Phase in the hope that the research will contribute to seeing an increase in effective, competency-based social and emotional learning integration in South African classrooms. In accordance with the qualitative phenomenological nature of the research, the data in this study was collected in two ways from eighteen participants who were purposely selected and consented to partake in the research. Firstly, open-ended individual interviews were conducted with each participant. Secondly, all of the participants were requested to write reflections on their personal experiences of facilitating a competency-based social and emotional learning process over the past two and a half years. The data in all data sets obtained in this study were analysed by means of thematic analysis. The findings were reported with reference to three main themes: • Teachers' perceptions of CBSEL based on their involvement in the programme • Applying a programme-based approach to the facilitation of CBSEL • The impact of the facilitation of CBSEL With reference to Teachers' perceptions of CBSEL based on their involvement in the programme, the subthemes indicated a need to contextualise the participants' experiences through defining CBSEL and exploring participant validation of the need for CBSEL, along with the participants' personal strengths and competencies associated with the facilitation of CBSEL. With reference to Applying a programme-based approach to the facilitation of CBSEL, the subthemes explored the effectiveness of the primary and secondary resources and activities applied within the programme along with the advantages and challenges of a programme-based approach to CBSEL. With reference to The impact of the facilitation of CBSEL, the subthemes assessed the positive relational dynamics experienced in the classroom and playground through CBSEL. Short and long-term benefits of CBSEL were also addressed. This study aims to contributing to creating an awareness of the value of introducing competency-based social and emotional learning in schools in the Western Cape. Through this study, the benefits and challenges of CBSEL for South African schooling communities were explored and understood, giving insight into the next steps that need to be taken, such as comprehensive teacher professional development training and school leadership buy in for CBSEL. It is hoped that this research will contribute to seeing an increase in effective, competency-based social and emotional learning in South African classrooms as an integrated process requiring support at multiple levels.
- Health Sciences