SEL Strategies Educators Can Use to Improve Decision-Making Skills in K-12 Students

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The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) found that five core competencies provide the ideal foundation for high-quality social-emotional learning (SEL) curricula. Those competencies include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making skills. Based on immense research, CASEL concluded that this systemic approach to the SEL framework was key to establishing unbiased learning environments that enhance students’ social, emotional, and academic needs across all key settings.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at one of these areas of competence—responsible decision making. This skill helps students develop the ability to not only recognize their impact on others but also identify the differences between good and bad decisions. Building this skill can also influence other CASEL core competencies, like social awareness and relationship skills. As part of an SEL curriculum, responsible decision-making skills can be integrated into schoolwide programs and educators can model strategies for students that encourage independent thinking in various situations. Before diving into SEL strategies for improving student decision-making skills, let’s take a moment to consider the competency’s essential elements.

What Are the Elements of Responsible Decision Making?

As stated in CASEL’s SEL framework, responsible decision making refers to one’s “ability to make caring and constructive choices across diverse situations.” To develop these skills, K-12 students must be taught how to comprehensively analyze problems by considering ethical implications and evaluating consequences. Other elements of responsible decision making—pulled from CASEL’s interactive SEL framework—include the capacity to:

  • Demonstrate curiosity and open-mindedness when faced with a problem
  • Approach situations logically
  • Identify solutions for personal and social problems
  • Anticipate consequences of actions for collective, social, and personal wellbeing
  • Recognize the usefulness of applying critical thinking skills in all situations
  • Reflect on individual responsibilities to promote personal, family, and community wellbeing
  • Evaluate the impact of decisions on a personal, interpersonal, communal, and institutional level

Essentially, these core elements brand responsible decision making as a lifelong skill—one that all students can apply both now and into adulthood. While teaching students responsible decision-making skills, educators should also consider how adult interactions influence the way kids make decisions. Ideally, SEL strategies should look at how students can be supported in making their own decisions as well as learn from natural consequences. The long-term goal is to help them confidently make responsible and independent choices.

SEL Strategies Educators Can Use to Improve Student Decision-Making Skills

Here are some SEL tools and strategies that educators can use to foster elements of responsible decision making in the classroom, throughout the school, and within their families and communities:

Personal SEL Reflection

Personal SEL Reflection is a CASEL tool designed to help staff assess their personal strengths and promote schoolwide growth across all five CASEL competencies. Through self-reflection exercises, staff can develop strategies to address common themes that require responsible decision-making skills, such as:

  • Problem analysis
  • Identifying solutions
  • Reflection on impact

This tool is very effective in group settings where individuals can discuss common themes and develop strategies that support the SEL framework. To get the most out of this activity, educators should think of specific situations relating to each themed statement. This tool also allows educators to collaborate with their colleagues to rate their strengths, compare challenges, and set goals to better utilize their responsible decision-making skills in future situations.

Modeling SEL for Students

Modeling SEL is another CASEL exercise that staff can adapt schoolwide to demonstrate problem-solving strategies for students. By intentionally modeling positive examples of responsible decision-making skills, staff can seamlessly integrate SEL strategies into the school climate. This modeling activity is also a great opportunity for staff to engage in foundational learning on SEL practices both inside and outside of school. While it’s targeted at students, it can be expanded to include schoolwide considerations for how staff should model adult SEL interactions with other staff members. This includes interactions with community partnerships and families.

Establishing School and Family Partnerships

This CASEL strategy emphasizes the importance of involving families in decisions that affect their children’s learning—a tool that educators can use to promote SEL practices both inside and outside of school. This strategy can be implemented by establishing school and family partnerships that support responsible decision-making skills. CASEL’s Guide to Schoolwide SEL Essentials suggests using this strategy to:

  • Organize parent-teacher conferences and meetings that encourage family involvement.
  • Invite families to join decision-making committees, such as the SEL team, district committee, or school improvement team.
  • Encourage families to participate when school climate surveys are shared.

Ideally, well-executed SEL programs foster relationships across all key settings to provide students with a conducive learning environment that’s supportive and engaging. And establishing these partnerships within CASEL’s SEL framework is a great way to inspire those connections.

Long-Term Impacts of Teaching Responsible Decision-Making Skills

A student’s capacity to make constructive decisions will depend on their ability to analyze situations. These decisions will follow them throughout every stage of their lives, affecting the wellbeing of themselves and others. For these reasons, it’s incredibly important that students learn to develop skills that support responsible decision making. And CASEL’s SEL framework is the perfect model for stimulating that growth at every level. By demonstrating correct behaviors through SEL strategies that encourage responsible decision making, educators can help students better analyze situations, reflect on different perspectives, and evaluate consequences—all of which encompasses the five CASEL competencies.

If you are interested in learning how Navigate360’s Suite360: Student Curriculum aligns with the core competencies outlined by CASEL—including responsible decision making—download our Suite360 a solution of Navigate360 + CASEL brochure.

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