This article is part of an ongoing series featuring conversations with experts and researchers in SEL, behavior support, and learning technology led by Classcraft CEO and Co-founder Shawn Young.
For the fifth installment in our Chat With the Experts webinar series, we had the pleasure to speak with Trent Goble, VP of K12 Strategy at the influential education technology company Instructure. Trent shared deep insight into the role and evolution of SEL, and how it factors into the assessment and technology in schools.
There were a lot of important topics covered in this webinar, but much of the conversation illustrated the importance of SEL-informed instruction and leadership in schools. Below are three key insights that can help both administrators and teachers navigate the unique challenges that schools are facing today.
Edtech adoption needs to start with admins supporting teachers at all levels
In the wake of COVID, there has been a big shift in the way that educators approach teaching. Whether it’s using new technology in the classroom or developing new strategies to connect and engage with students. “Kids are feeling disconnected from their peers and social groups after being out of school for a long period of time, which has created new challenges for teachers and administrators,” says Trent.
While there is a noticeable academic impact on students as they return to the classroom, administrators have also shifted focus to addressing social-emotional challenges with SEL-centered edtech products. Trent explains that there’s a trend of giving teachers these products and expecting that they magically result in better outcomes, however, he feels that there is a widening gap between the SEL tools that support teachers and the expected outcome. “While we invest a lot in edtech tools, I think that we often put all of the technology adoption on the teachers to figure out,” says Trent. ”Adoption of technology needs to come from admins first.”
When working with first-year teachers and inexperienced teachers, “there is a deep learning curve, especially when implementing systems of technical support,” says Trent. He confirmed that when implementing new systems such as Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Canvas, the ones that “typically require years of learning [should be reorganized] into consumable and intuitive systems that require little training.” Implementing edtech “needs to be done in a way that enhances the work that teachers are already doing and allows them to be more effective with their time and their resources.”
Define what success looks like with assessment
With the emphasis on helping students develop SEL skills, there is a growing dialogue between educators regarding the face of student success. Trent explains that historically, schools have focused solely on academic success, yet he’s asking for a shift in a more balanced approach of academic and social skill assessment. “We don’t want to send kids out into the world that are brilliant but also socially disconnected,” says Trent.
He also implores educators and school leaders to review their reasons for assessment. “We always define assessment as just being a test or a quiz. I think the goal of assessment is to be a better teacher,” says Trent. “Assessment is about making sure that if a student isn’t doing their work or not studying, as a teacher, you’ll try to figure out a way to remedy that situation — and it often comes down to behavior.” For him, it ties back to adopting an LMS that collects and uses data in a humanized way. “A good use of data is really being structured around appropriate interventions, or your ability to provide appropriate interventions for kids”
Lead by collaboration to strengthen school culture
Administrators need to not only know how to support SEL instruction in the classroom but also need to understand how it affects every element in the school itself. When it comes to leadership, Trent recommends a highly collaborative process in decision-making since it will help create a transition from “this is my idea and this is the right way to do it” to “how do we, the staff, utilize all of our experiences to continue to grow and expand on what we’re doing to better meet the needs of more students.”
Overall, strong leadership begins with clarity of expectations and leading by example, especially when implementing edtech tools. “Behind every successful school is a highly effective leader and there are no exceptions.” says Trent. We couldn’t agree more.
We’d like to thank Trenton Goble for sharing his time and expertise with us. These takeaways were only a small part of a deep and wide-ranging discussion, so be sure to watch the full webinar below for more!