Professor Neil Humphrey, University of Manchester
The emperor has no clothes: challenging the new orthodoxy of the social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) programme
Since its initial launch as part of the Primary Behaviour and Attendance Pilot, the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme has swept through the English education system, with current estimates suggesting that it is being implemented in 90% of primary schools and 70% of secondary schools. The SEAL programme has been promoted as a panacea, with most schools and Local Authorities (LAs) adopting it in an unquestioning manner. However, far from being a universal remedy, the various evaluation studies that have been conducted to date on the different guises of SEAL suggest that it has in fact failed to achieve the majority of its intended outcomes. In this seminar, I will provide a review of these studies in order to substantiate this claim, before presenting a critical analysis of the broader issues surrounding the orthodoxy of ‘social and emotional learning' (SEL) in education. These issues include the lack of conceptual coherence evident in SEL, problems with the evidence base, and the superiority assumption of whole school approaches. I will conclude by considering how SEAL rose to such prominence in the English education system through the lens of Stich's (1993) four-factor model of the promotion of unfounded ideas.
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