Great Lakes Equity Center Guidance

Great Lakes Equity Center Guidance

Once the initial the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) framework was drafted, it was submitted to the Great Lakes Equity Center (GLEC) for a culturally responsive review. The Great Lakes Equity Center is a technical assistance and research center located at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. GLEC provides technical assistance, resources, and professional learning opportunities; conducts research related to equity, civil rights, and systemic school reform, and serves as a resource to educational agencies across the nation.

GLEC experts provided feedback on SEL guidance and competencies, and center work group members incorporated that feedback.

To assist schools and districts throughout the nation with implementing culturally responsive SEL, GLEC provides additional guidance. To ensure effective SEL implementation, GLEC staff say that it is important for schools and districts to review this guidance before implementing districtwide SEL.

When integrating SEL into teaching and learning, GLEC recommends district and school leaders consider the following:

  • Everyone’s behaviors are socially and culturally influenced. In other words, students' and adults' behaviors are influenced by their own cultural histories, community practices, and multiple personal identities. Effective SEL instruction involves demonstrating an appreciation and valuing of students' own personal identities, cultural histories and community practices. Effective SEL instruction will not position behaviors that are more reflective of white, mainstream, middle class, male culture as the only "right,” "correct," "healthy," or "legitimate" responses to social situations. For example, in some cultures, looking directly at another’s face may be considered respectful or forthright, while in other cultures, looking directly at another’s face may be considered disrespectful or rude. Effective SEL teaching and learning practices recognize that there are multiple viewpoints and multiple constructive ways to react to various situations. To effectively integrate SEL, it’s important for teachers to situate students' cultural, home and community practices in instruction, allowing students to provide context and examples that are meaningful and appropriate.
  • Context matters. Effective SEL instruction does not over-simplify what "appropriate" social and emotional responses are without exploring the complexities of social interactions. There is typically not a direct one-to-one causal relationship between an event and how one reacts to the event. Various contextual variables influence how one interprets, and then responds, in a given situation. These contextual variables include the precipitating incident; what others were doing prior to, during and after the incident; the involved individuals' interpretation of the incident; and the responses of others, who are influenced by their own personal histories with similar situations, etc. Acknowledge and recognize these contextual variables as factors contributing to how a person responds.
  • Recognize issues of power and privilege. Members from nondominant groups (people of color, people with disabilities, people who identify as gender-nonconforming etc.) that have been historically marginalized in schools and in society live with systems of oppression (i.e., racism, sexism, ableism, heteronormativity, etc.) every day. GLEC experts say it is important for teachers to recognize that some skills taught by SEL instruction could perpetuate students' oppression, emphasizing compliant behaviors rather than addressing inequitable policies and practices in the school and classroom. It is also important for educators to consider that some behaviors exhibited by students often deemed inappropriate or problematic by adults are symptomatic of larger issues related to classroom, school and district policies (written or unwritten) and practices that marginalize and oppress students and specific student groups. GLEC experts recommend using a focused effort to seek students' input on classroom and school climate to assess, monitor and redress inequities.
  • Effective SEL instruction should empower students. Effective SEL instruction is not be about behavior regulation or promoting compliance. SEL instruction done well empowers students to constructively question inequitable treatment and make decisions that will move them toward self-determination.

Ultimately, it is critical to monitor the impact of SEL instruction to ensure equitable outcomes across groups, meaning that no one group will benefit at the expense of another group as a result of SEL assessment and instructional practices.

The following are practices that reflect a culturally sustaining approach to instruction and could be considered when reflecting on SEL instruction:

  • Base curriculum on the cultural-linguistic realities of students, and view those realities as assets.
  • Perpetuate and foster linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism by sustaining in-group cultural practices and cross-group cultural practices. Researcher Django Paris calls this “linguistic and cultural dexterity and plurality.”1
  • Reflect and support communities’ language and cultural practices, in ways both traditional (as they may have done it in previous generations or where they emigrated from) and evolving (how they are adapting in their new community, how they are doing things differently).
  • Address the fact of what it means to have an identity (e.g., female, transgender, African).

For additional resources on culturally responsive SEL, review the materials that follow: