THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SKILLS: SURVEY OVERVIEW

Digest №23. THE OECD REPORT ON SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SKILLS – BEYOND ACADEMIC LEARNING

Over the last few years, many researchers and governments have recognised the importance of students’ academic performance and the need to develop emotional intelligence and social-emotional skills for their further personal development. In this regard, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published the results from the Survey of Social and Emotional Skills – Beyond Academic Learning in secondary education.  2019 saw the main stage of the survey that covered 10 urban schools in 9 countries. These countries are as follows:

No.

City

Country

1

Bogota

Columbia

2

Manizales

Columbia

3

Houston

USA

4

Ottawa

Canada

5

Helsinki

Finland

6

Sintra

Portugal

7

Istanbul

Turkey

8

Moscow

Russia

9

Daegu

South Korea

10

Suzhou

China

The survey involved 10-15-year-old students, their parents and schools from 10 cities who answered pre-tested questionnaires. Almost 3,000 students of each age group took part in the survey. 10-year-old children were the youngest group, while 15-year-olds were the largest age group of children in the participant countries and in the world. Given that PISA test also involves 15-year-old children, it is possible to compare the results of two surveys.

Before examining the results of this survey, we would like to provide a brief overview of the previous surveys on social and emotional skills.

The relationship between social and emotional skills and academic performance. Some authors use the concept of social and emotional skills as a synonym for non-cognitive skills, so the definition of social and emotional skills is quite broad in the literature. The standardized tests are unable to measure these skills to know students’ cognitive abilities. They are defined as permanent characteristics of human behaviour, thinking and emotions that may change to some extent under the influence of socialization and education regardless of the genetics.

As most of the world’s education systems focus on improving students’ academic performance, the number of studies has been published to show how social and emotional skills may influence their academic perfromance. According to Lechner, Angerb & Rammstedt (2019), these studies may be divided into 3 groups:

  • The influence of social and emotional skills on academic performance;
  • The role of educational factors in the development of social and emotional skills;
  • The influence of social and emotional skills on the achievements in adulthood.

The third strand (achievements in adulthood) has the leading number of published studies. These studies show the growing importance of social and emotional skills and how they influence employment and income, health and life expectancy, marital stability, psychological well-being and overall life satisfaction. The first strand (academic achievements) has the second largest number of studies and it examines the impact of social and emotional skills on academic achievements, willingness or unwillingness to continue education.

Although there has not been much research on the second strand (the influence of educational factors), they have shown that social and emotional skills may change. There is a number of studies pointing out that some educational parameters (preschool, homework, learning intensity, special educational interventions) have a significant impact on students’ non-cognitive skills.

Big Five Personality Test and academic achievements. The Big Five Personality Test is a key component of the studies on general social and emotional skills. This tool differentiates personal traits of people based on the typology.  The Big Five is most commonly used in psychological research and has been proved reliable and valid by numerous studies. The Big Five Personality Test has a higher level of scientific evidence than another well-known tool in psychometrics, Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. There are five factors of the Big Five Personality Test:

  • Extraversion is an ability to interact, communicate and establish relationships with others;
  • Agreeableness is an ability to respect other people and express a desire to interact with them;
  • Conscientiousness is a capacity for self-organisation, responsibility and productivity;
  • Emotional Stability is an ability to relax, be a calm and good-natured person;
  • Openness includes an interest of a person in new things, creativity and aesthetic perception.

The Big Five tool is also fundamental for the OECD’s Beyond Academic Learning. The authors of the study highly appreciate the effectiveness of this typology in identifying social and emotional characteristics and personal traits of students. They determined three skills for each of the five factors, and suggested two additional factors: motivation to learn and belief in own effectiveness.

Factor

Skill

Description

 

Openness

The pursuit of knowledge

A student is curious of new ideas and enjoys reading

 

Tolerance

A student is open to different views and shows respect to other cultures

 

Creativity

Searching and working on errors, coming up with new ways of doing something or thinking about it

 

Conscientiousness

Responsibility

A student keeps his or her word and gets things done accurately and on time

 

Self-organisation

A student is not easily distracted, focuses on one thing and works towards the goal

 

Persistence

A student never quits a task until he or she gets it done

 

Extraversion

Sociability

A student is able to establish friendly relations with unfamiliar people and keeps in touch with friends

 

Self-restraint

A student is able to express freely his or her views, feelings, needs and has an influence on others

 

Energy

Active, enthusiastic and straightforward in everyday life

 

Harmony

Empathy

A student is able to understand and take care of others;  appreciates and tries to build close relationships

 

Trust

A student believes in the noble intentions of others and can be forgiving

 

Cooperation

A student is able to get along with others and appreciates the relationships between all people

 

Emotional stability

Stress resistance

A student is able to effectively manage distractions and calmly address emerging challenges

 

Optimism

Students are expecting good things from themselves and from their lives in general

 

Emotional management

There are effective strategies to suppress anger related to emerging problems

 

Additional factors

Motivation to learn

Students set high standards for themselves and work hard to achieve them

 

Belief in own effectiveness

A student is confident that he or she will cope with the task and be able to achieve the goal

 

The OECD has designed the survey methodology of social and emotional skills based on these characteristics. See next article for the results from this survey.

 

References:

Komarraju, M., Karau, S. J., Schmeck, R. R., & Avdic, A. (2011). The Big Five personality traits, learning styles, and academic achievement. Personality and individual differences, 51(4), 472-477.

Lechner, C. M., Anger, S., & Rammstedt, B. (2019). Socio-emotional skills in education and beyond: recent evidence and future research avenues. In Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education. Edward Elgar Publishing.

OECD (2021), Beyond Academic Learning: First Results from the Survey of Social and Emotional Skills, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Villaseñor, P. (2018). The different ways that teachers can influence the socio-emotional development of their students: A literature review. World Development Report.

Link to Part 2

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