A contemporary outlook on education and learning shows that kindergarten actually resembles the newfangled first grade instead of being the preliminary stage. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the notion of academic performance has transformed drastically, causing more kindergarten educators to engage in the teaching process and help children attain their knowledge (White et al., 2017). This focus on helping children learn new information provided lots of new opportunities for the process of early development and learning and paved the way for the concept of social-emotional skills. The problem of the current research project is that modern kindergarten teachers have altered their expectations and started believing that children could have basic knowledge before they even enter kindergarten (Murano et al., 2020; Zinsser et al., 2019). This statement is also justified by the fact that the existing quality of kindergarten education could be hindered by narrower approaches to academic attainment and skills. According to Poulou et al. (2018), this could have long-term implications for school adjustment because of poor social-emotional development.
Particularly, there are two sides of the subject that have to be addressed in order to create opportunities for educators to establish the best learning environment for kindergarten children. The first element of the discussion is that a thorough focus on learning could be too demanding for young children, resulting in a lowered level of motivation and a diminished sense of self-efficacy (Eklund et al., 2018; Ng & Bull, 2018). The second issue that would transpire was the improper engagement in the learning process, where the focus on academic performance could damage the social-emotional scale of development. In line with Wenz-Gross et al. (2018), social-emotional skills represent healthy child development and cannot be left unrecognized as a supporting area and not a concept that interferes with academic performance. Despite the shift in educational values and approaches, the inherent significance of social-emotional skills is still prevalent among kindergarten teachers. Children are required to learn how to pay attention, share, and follow directions in order to pass the social-emotional development test.
What is even more important, all of the US states were able to reach common ground in terms of social-emotional learning standards. It allowed educators from all states to support preschool learning and ensure that essential capacities are considered when deploying various programs (Moreno et al., 2019). From maintaining academic performance to teaching children to become productive and determined, the new approaches to kindergarten education seem to be less problematic than their predecessors from the 20th century. The new focus is on the opportunity to diversify and reach out to children that could have been affected by inappropriate wellbeing, poverty, or any other crucial variable (Blewitt et al., 2020; Poulou, 2017). Social-emotional skills are still associated with health and employment outcomes on a long-term scale. This is a predictor of risky behaviors and the level of educational attainment in kindergarten children. Even though some of the children could enter kindergarten unprepared, a correct social-emotional development program could aid them in navigating through the behavioral demands and academic expectations of educators.
The core purpose of the current thesis is to engage in a detailed discussion on the topic of social-emotional skills in kindergarten children to promote the development of an educational program that would improve the learning process. Owing to the existence of the gap related to the lack of social-emotional development that is known for increasing the risks for poor discipline and behavioral issues, it can be safe to say that there is a need for a unique, multi-layered approach that appeals to all stakeholders, including parents and educators, in the first place. The presence of evidence-based solutions and numerous derivative practices that promote social-emotional skills is a significant contributor to future school successes and the further development of interpersonal relationships. The author will review relevant literature on the subject and then survey 50 preschool educators and 50 parents of preschool students. A complex program will be developed as a result of processing the literature review and survey results. It is going to be necessary because children have to learn how to implement adaptive functioning while controlling negative behaviors. The differences between existing programs hint at the fact that the best social-emotional skills development program would assemble the best elements while leaving out obsolete aids.
Early Childhood Programming
The primary question that has to be addressed when reviewing the role of social-emotional skill development is the possibility of assessing the effectiveness of proposed programs. The number of implications for public policy makes this factor a fundamental contributor to the debate on early childhood programming (Mondi et al., 2021). In other words, research studies should examine more than just interventions aimed at the improvements in the area of children’s IQ scores. The lack of a multidimensional approach motivated the researchers to assess intervention outcomes and introduce changes intended to alter the ways in which childhood interventions are seen by the public in general (Humphries et al., 2018). This was one of the focal reasons why social competencies have been outlined as related to kindergarten children. Closer to the end of the 20th century, researchers finally recognized the role of social competence and attempted connecting motivational and socio-emotional variables. Therefore, early childhood programming is an effective way to impact children’s wellbeing and affect their attitudes toward learning.
During the early 21st century, it was reported that the ability to regulate behaviors and emotions could be seen as the fundamental skills showcasing a child’s school readiness. According to Bailey et al. (2019), social-emotional learning represents one of the crucial steps that have to be taken during early childhood to aid educators and researchers in promoting respective education programs. Improved child wellbeing and parent-educator relationships represent the key pillars of preschool education and all-inclusive skill training programs. There is a strong association between early childhood programming and an increased level of adjustability (Denham et al., 2020). This factor makes it safe to say that health outcomes, social interactions, and even the academic performance of kindergarten children could be affected by social-emotional skills training programs of various calibers. The willingness to target social-emotional skills exclusively is one of the main reasons why development programs have been launched at larger scales, allowing for more unique approaches to be developed and deployed.
Even so, it was exceptionally hard for the researchers to foresee any large-scale changes that could occur in the case of deploying social-emotional skill development programs. This was one of the main reasons that the initial focus was placed on general early childhood education and its broader implications for the community (Voith et al., 2020). The enthusiasm regarding social-emotional development in kindergarten children grew rather quickly, making preschoolers into a perfect sample for testing methodological improvements in skills development programs. Further promotion of social-emotional skills attracted practitioners and parents to the process of developing innovative programs and evaluating past evidence. For instance, Chung et al. (2020) noted that preschool interventions from the 2010s are much more effective than their counterparts from the 2000s because of a much more comprehensive approach to home- and classroom-based interpositions. The advent of early childhood programming became a revelation for preschool educators because they unlocked a series of new approaches to maintaining positive behaviors and appropriate academic performance.
It was also found that the majority of programs developed in an attempt to affect social-emotional skills are only aimed at short-term effects of training. According to Bailey et al. (2019), the lack of longitudinal research represents a challenge that has to be addressed in order to alter inclusion criteria and weak methodological foundations that averted educators and parents from coming up with comprehensive solutions that are going to be representative and evidence-based. Irrespective of this limitation, the notion of early childhood programming keeps affecting the occurrence of problem behaviors in preschool children. This is why the depth and completeness of today’s programs surpass their predecessors by a notch and add rigor to the most popular agendas of social-emotional skills training (Humphries et al., 2018). Nevertheless, there is a need to discuss more than just mere programs on the subject of social-emotional skills training because children’s behaviors and attitudes could be subject to much more background variables that have not been addressed in the related works yet.
In line with the research on the topic of early childhood programming, many educators were striving to implement all the available empirical research. It was necessary to create a link between social-emotional development and its learning counterpart (Burroughs & Barkauskas, 2017). The academic element of the development process had to be included in the discussion as well, causing the researchers to develop a whole new framework for the most complex cases. When the role of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning has increased during the 21st century, it also created more opportunities for educators in terms of how they shaped new policies and practices associated with preschool children’s development. In the words of Weissberg (2019), it was an important change because it altered the process of how feelings and thoughts of children and their parents have been incorporated into the learning process. Social-emotional skills were deemed predictors of secure interpersonal relationships that were formed in a culturally and socially appropriate manner.
The core social-emotional competency that had to be addressed by educators and researchers was the possibility of exploring the environment within different contexts and cultures. A thorough focus on research allowed the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning to highlight the core areas that deserve attention when looking at social-emotional skills and respective development programs. The five areas of reference that have been included in the majority of topical discussions were self-management, self-awareness, informed decision-making, relationship skills, and societal awareness (Humphries et al., 2018). At the moment when the core social-emotional competencies have been highlighted, numerous educators across the US have gained access to a powerful planning tool. From cultural peculiarities to required skills, they have got a chance to address any relevant area while maintaining children’s academic performance and respecting their unique background (Mondi et al., 2021). It was an essential step toward adaptive approaches that could improve the effectiveness of social-emotional learning.
The need for outlining social-emotional competencies was also caused by the fact that the majority of behavioral, cognitive, and verbal traits of preschoolers could be seen as dynamic. Therefore, certain attitudes could be seen as problematic in one community and welcomed in another, causing educators to find more ways to adjust their practices to the needs of preschoolers and their parents (Weissberg, 2019). The cultural implications of these approaches cannot be ignored either because of the inherent bias experienced by educators when assessing the underlying disparities and structures. Social-emotional skills in development and learning programs have to be carefully implemented while shaping preschoolers’ behaviors and cultural specifics. Without enough attention being paid to the smaller details, educators will be subject to including their own bias in the learning process and limit children’s adaptive capabilities (Bustamante et al., 2017). The importance of social-emotional competencies can also be explained through the prism of cultural peculiarities and barriers that have to be addressed by educators in order to avoid confronting certain beliefs or differences.
Skill-Based Social-Emotional Interventions
Skills-based interventions for preschool children represent one of the research areas that have been addressed in-depth over the course of the past several decades. There are basic differences in the quality of evidence, the scope of the program, and the theoretical foundations of interventions. All of these variables make it safe to say that every community has the opportunity to pick a social-emotional learning intervention that revolves around the skills and behaviors that are characteristic of that given public group (Humphries et al., 2018). The most general description of the skill-based programs would be that of a custom curriculum intended to address all the peculiarities of associated preschool students. The variety of approaches to social-emotional learning positively affects the scalability and efficiency of newer interventions that address narrower issues (Weissberg, 2019). At the same time, skill-based interventions do not require the administration to deploy multi-component programs and only focus on interventions that are appropriate for the target audience.
The number of skills-based social-emotional learning programs continues to grow quickly. This is an imperative feature to consider because modern education aims to remain consistent with the notion of diversity and meet all the criteria established by the parents of preschool students (Mondi et al., 2021). From high to low levels of linked evidence, all programs should remain focused on social-emotional skills and their benefits for preschoolers. The fact that skills-based interventions are the most prevalent among today’s educators also shows that social-emotional learning affects preschoolers in a positive manner. The willingness to include additional stakeholders in the discussion process (e.g., preschoolers’ parents) also increases the overall effectiveness of social-emotional learning due to a stronger connection to personalized values (Voith et al., 2020). Irrespective of the risk factors associated with the education process, it should be stated that the consistency of skills-based social-emotional learning programs is the highest among all interventions available to preschool educators.
The ultimate element that has to be included in the discussion on the topic of social-emotional skills in kindergarten children is the growing role of parents in the development of respective development programs. Social-emotional development cannot be viewed separately from child-parent relationships that are built at home (Bailey et al., 2019). Such a heavy influence cannot be left unrecognized because the majority of existing programs focus on academic performance and totally overlook parental attempts to contribute to the effectiveness of the proposed programs. For example, there are Al’s Pals and Preschool PATHS programs that include numerous parent-child activities in addition to the in-class suggestions (Stanley, 2019). Additional research on the topic of parental involvement also showed that strong educational programs could be paired with or complemented by intensive parent-based interventions. According to Bustamante et al. (2017), the Head Start program represents a perfect example of such a setup since inappropriate child behavior could be addressed at home, preventing in-class externalizations. Therefore, parental involvement could improve all existing programs instead of only mediating the approaches where problematic children are in focus.
These findings ultimately prove that the existing models of social-emotional skill programs contain additional benefits that can be unlocked only under the condition where a separate parent program is included. Any of the given interventions should go beyond the classroom in order to protect the existing level of academic performance while also sustaining peer competence and social interaction skills (Chung et al., 2020). The future program could utilize the essential elements of the ParentCorps program to promote discussion groups, professional development sessions, and teacher-child-parent friendship meetings. The mental health of preschool children is crucial because they should not be required to focus exclusively on their academic performance (Burroughs & Barkauskas, 2017). The benefits of parental involvement relate to the opportunity of reducing behavioral risks in problem children and improving physical health in all families with preschool children. Even if parental involvement could become a costly initiative, its outcomes could revolve around considerable potential from multiple options within the framework of social-emotional skill development programs that have not been explored by academics yet.
Professional Development for Educators
Ultimately, social-emotional learning requires educators to engage in detailed classroom management so as to focus on the skills that have to be attained by every preschooler. The quality of the teaching process accordingly depends on how all the additional benefits are created by educators in line with student needs (Burroughs & Barkauskas, 2017). The outcomes that can be achieved by preschoolers could have long-term implications due to the inherent intensity of promotion of emotional, social, and self-regulation skills. Despite the presence of other educational programs, skill development can be regarded as the most complex and all-inclusive agenda. Through the interface of short lessons, educators will get a chance to enhance their knowledge-sharing initiatives via audiovisual content (Bailey et al., 2019). Discussion sessions and planning activities can be held to practice the newly acquired skills and ensure that educators’ efforts actually affect the given preschoolers. Such everyday interactions could become an essential contribution to the educational process while also being paired with feedback from parents and other educators.
Another reason to pay attention to the professional development of educators is the need to develop conflict resolution strategies that would be effective among preschoolers. The prevalence of impulsive behaviors could affect learning outcomes and force frustration among young learners who are not able to follow the program (Voith et al., 2020). The key benefit of social-emotional skills is that it helps both students and educators recognize the importance of controlling aggression, communicating about sentiments, and using appropriate methods of self-regulation. Within the framework of any given social-emotional skill training program, preschoolers can be subject to engaging in fewer episodes of aggressive behavior and utilize the newly acquired social competencies. As suggested by Chung et al. (2020), the implementation of social-emotional learning programs could promote professional attitudes among educators as well. Self-control will be fostered through play and communication, affecting children’s social-emotional skills and mediating their exposure to negative events.
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