Social-emotional learning in different classroom environments

CMU graduate student researched teachers’ relationship with social-emotional learning

| Author: Hadlee Rinn | Media Contact: Kara Owens

Ellen Strzalkowski, a May 2023 graduate of the doctorate of educational technology program, analyzed teachers’ views on social-emotional learning (SEL) during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly focusing on blended and online classrooms. SEL is a method to help students understand their emotions, feel emotions fully, and demonstrate empathy.  

Strzalkowski has a passion for equity and inclusion, which inspired her research on SEL. She is especially enthusiastic about transformative SEL, a branch of SEL that focuses on social justice and identity. Strzalkowski says, “I believe that most teachers are very motivated and passionate about building up their students' academic and non-academic skills alike.” 

Her research showed teachers were invested in SEL and brought these skills to their classrooms. She also learned about the different aspects of support teachers need to implement SEL, such as “culturally responsive, authentic, quality, and focused on the [classroom/school/community] training” and “acknowledgment that it is a complex topic that needs to be approached flexibly.” Participants led many conversations on the importance of cultural responsiveness and complexity and the training needed in all classroom aspects (physical, hybrid, or online). SEL practices in the classroom can be making connections between content and student experiences, allowing students to choose how to explore their own learning, and exploring how identity informs and influences views of self, community, and the world.  

Strzalkowski says, “I hope my research helps school, district, and state administrators see the value and importance of transformative SEL [given] that teachers want to receive quality training that can be helpful for all their students.” 

Currently, Strzalkowski works for an educational technology consulting company, with her main role focusing on bringing SEL into online learning. Strzalkowski hopes to “[continue] to impact the world of culturally responsive online learning through implementing quality transformative SEL strategies.” 

This story is brought to you by the  Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

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