The objective of this study is to examine whether the social and emotional learning needs are affective in preserving the mental health of students during elementary level education. To this end, it was assessed at what level and in what direction the social and emotional learning needs of students in the second stage of elementary level education relationships their mental symptoms. The participants of this study are 320 elementary school students (Girls n= 149, 48.10%; boys n= 161, 51.90%) who were enrolled to an elementary level school during the 2009-2010 school year in the central district of Izmir. The SocialEmotional Learning Scale developed by Coryn, Spybrook, and Blinkiewicz (2009) and adopted into Turkish by Totan (2011) and the Brief Symptom Inventory and the personal information form developed by Derogatis (1992) and adopted into Turkish by Şahin, Durak Batıgün, and Uğurtaş (2002) were used as data acquisition tools in the study.
According to the research findings, negative and statistically significant relationships were determined between social and emotional learning needs and the mental symptoms. Also, it was determined as a result of multiple linear regression analysis that the social and emotional learning needs of second grade elementary level students are effective in decreasing the mental symptoms. Keywords: Social and emotional learning, mental symptoms, protective guidance services, multiple linear regression analysis INTRODUCTION Social and emotional learning came up during the nineties due to the facts that schools only emphasized academic education and hence neglected the social and emotional learning requirements of the students (Elias et.al., 2003).
It is observed especially during the past decade that many states in the US base their school guidance services on social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning is defined as the process by which students gain awareness, arrangement skills, social relationships and emotions hence becoming better at managing their lives successfully. Another definition regards social and emotional learning as the process by which individuals gain awareness of their emotions and manage them, start taking other individuals into account, make better decisions, display moral and responsible behavior, develop positive relationships and avoiding negative behavior (Zins and Elias, 2006).
Some individuals may succeed in this without any need for support. However, some individuals require support to meet their social and emotional learning needs (Norris, 2003). Hence, the meeting of the social and emotional learning needs of students is as critical as the necessity for academic education. Today, the importance of developing social and emotional learning skills has been accepted in many countries. Schools in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and some *
This paper was presented at Second International Conference on New Trends in Education and Their Implications on April 27-29, 2011, Antalya-Turkey. ** Co-Author: [email protected]
Latin America and Africa countries along with England and more than a dozen countries in Europe add classes for increasing social and emotional learning skills to their curriculum (Schonert-Reichl and Hymel, 2007). Whereas in our country the research on social and emotional learning carried out at schools is very limited (Türnüklü, 2004). However, the importance of gaining social and emotional learning skills between the ages of 12-14 is emphasized (Kabakçı and Korkut Owen, 2010). Social and emotional learning needs are basic requirements that develop the social and emotional learning skills and they are as important as academic education. Giving guidance services at school to help develop the social and emotional learning skills of students not only increase the academic success levels of students but also help them stay away from problematic behavior (Elias et.al., 1997). The increasing of social and emotional learning skills is among the sole responsibilities of both the teachers and the families.
Since in early childhood physical development and health along with communication and language development constitute the indicator of social and emotional development, these development areas are critical for the mental health development of the child. Protecting the mental health of children and supporting their psychological well-being are quite important for their social, emotional and academic development. It is stated by various studies that as mental symptoms decrease many positive behaviors are observed to increase (Payton et.al., 2000; Elias, 2003; Cohen, Onunaku, Clothier, and Poppe, 2005). It is emphasized that starting from early childhood the development of the social and emotional learning needs and the protection of their mental health are effective (Cohen, Onunaku, Clothier, and Poppe, 2005).
The development of social and emotional learning needs and skills is important for the protection of the mental health of elementary and secondary school students (Elias et.al., 2003). Both the theoretical and experimental research findings indicate that activities that aim to increase the social and emotional learning needs and skills of students prevent substance abuse, violence and aggressiveness while increasing their well-being and protect their mental health (Payton et.al., 2000; Elias, 2003). The effect of social and emotional learning needs on the protection of the mental health of students is carefully evaluated in USA and it is included in the school psychological consultancy and guidance services. For instance social and emotional learning is considered as a resource for the protection of the mental health of students in the State of Illinois (Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, 2011).
Even though the development of social and emotional learning is considered to be an important variable in the protection of the mental health of individuals, no study has been found in our country about this subject. Hence, the objective of this study is to examine at what levels and in what directions do social and emotional learning needs affect mental symptoms of second stage elementary school students. METHOD Participants The participants of the study is a group of 310 students attending the second stage of an elementary school in the Karşıyaka province of Izmir of whom 149 (%48.10) are girls and 161 (%51.90) are boys.
Of the participants determined according to proper sampling method 104 (%33.50) students were 6th grade, 101 (%32.60) were 7th grade and 105 (%33.90) were 8th grade students. Procedure The research data was collected by the researchers during the fall semester of the 2010-2011 education year from the second stage of an elementary school at Izmir, Karşıyaka. The data was obtained from a total of 12 different classes. The students took 20-25 minutes on average to fill out the research data acquisition form.
Instruments Social-emotional learning scale (SELS): The scale developed by Coryn, Spybrook, Evergreen and Blinkiewicz (2009) which was adopted into Turkish by Totan (2011) is a 5-point Likert type scale consisting of 20 items and 3 sub-dimensions. Task Articulation, which is the first sub-dimension, is related with the student being aware of his/her responsibilities, his/her ability to decide in the direction of these responsibilities and his/her ability to articulate these responsibilities. Peer Relations, the second subdimension, is a measure of the social relations and the social closeness of the student with his/her peers. Self-regulation, which is the third sub-dimension, evaluates the student’s ability to overcome the problems he/she faces while trying to reach his/her goals and his/her ability to develop strategies to reorganize these problems. Coryn et.al. (2009) have determined as a result of corrective factor analysis that their theoretical scale is validated [χ2= 520.58, df= 167, χ2/df= 3.12, AGFI= .90, CFI= 91, GFI= .92, NFI= .90, RMSEA= .06].
They have calculated the Cronbach Alfa coefficients of these sub-dimensions as .69, .80 and .80 for task articulation, peer relations and self-regulation respectively. During the Turkish adaptation of the scale, Totan (2011) has performed the language validity using a bilingual design and has determined relations varying between .51-.79 for Turkish and English forms. Following the corrective factor analysis, the researcher has reported that the original model is validated in the Turkish form as well [χ2= 487.63, df= 167, χ2/df= 2.92, GFI= .92, NFI= .98, CFI= .99, RFI= .99, SRMR= .033, RMSEA= .057]. Totan (2011) has calculated the internal consistency coefficient for task articulation as .82, for peer relations as .88, for self-regulation as .84 and for the total scale as .94 whereas the test-re-test coefficients were calculated to be .80 for task articulation, .78 for peer relations, .96 for self-regulation and .93 for the total scale.
Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI): Prepared by Derogatis (1993) by abridging the 90 item long form. It is a 5-point Likert type scale with 53 items. The scale was adopted into Turkish by Şahin, Durak Batıgün, and Uğurtaş (2002). As a result of their studies, the researchers have determined that the scale consists of 5 factors explaining 32% of the variance. They have named these five sub-dimensions as depression (14 items), anxiety (17 items), negative self-concept (9 items), somatization (7 items) and hostility (4 items). The Cronbach Alfa coefficients were determined to be .88 for depression, .84 for anxiety, .74 for negative self-concept, .70 for somatization, .73 for hostility and .94 for the total. Personal information form: There are a total of two questions one being a closed ended two-choice question aimed to determine the gender of the participants and the other a closed ended three-choice question aimed to determine the class level of the participants.
The research form also contains a briefing form about the study, an e-mail for contacting the researchers and instructions. Data analysis Pearson Product Moment Correlation coefficient and multiple linear regression analysis methods have been used for data analysis. The hypothetical criteria were examined prior to the analyses. It was observed that there were no related variables exceeding .90 for multicollinearitiy. The outlier value was determined from the research data by univariate 6 observations, by multivariate Mahalanobis Distance from 5 observations. It was determined that the missing values in the research data do not exceed 5%. A negative linearity was determined between social-emotional learning and mental symptoms when examined using linearity scatter plots. While in binary relations the importance level was determined as .