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Why You Should Incorporate SEL and DEI through Student Reflection & Ownership

Why You Should Incorporate SEL and DEI through Student Reflection & Ownership

Personalized Learning  |  EE Summit

During the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit 2019, one of our keynote speakers, Principal Baruti Kafele, discussed the achievement gap, the attitude gap, and the role all educators play in addressing both. I was familiar with the achievement gap, but I was unfamiliar with the attitude gap. Principal Kafele defines it as, “the gap between those students who have the will to strive for excellence, and those who don’t.” We all know that it’s nearly impossible to change the will of our students, I had plenty of teachers try and fail when I was a student. But the notion that our students need to develop socially and emotionally in order to reach their full potential resonated with me. And not just in the context of when we have them in our buildings – ideally, we want our students to take the academic and non-academic lessons they learn while with us, and apply them to life and the outside world. As we prepare students for their futures, it’s imperative that we prioritize their social-emotional development. We can equip them with a lens to view the diversity the world has to offer as a way to build bridges to solve the problems we couldn’t. At Education Elements, we believe that Student Reflection & Ownership provides a framework for supporting the social-emotional development of students and ultimately, creates an environment that empowers them to become happy, successful, agents of change.

Student Reflection & Ownership: Students have frequent opportunities to reflect on what they are learning and their success in learning. Students make goals to improve their learning outcomes and have opportunities to make authentic choices for their learning. Students have authentic choice and ownership over their learning.

The Core Four Elements of Personalized Learning

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” The framework consists of the following competencies: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. These competencies create an impact far greater than we can sometimes comprehend. At times, our students who want and need the most social-emotional support are the students who push back against it the most. A mentor of mine once said that supporting the development of my most challenging students was like planting and watering seeds. Some would grow sooner than others, but they all needed and deserved my time and dedication. Through Student Reflection & Ownership, these competencies place students in the driver's seat to reflect on their academic and non-academic successes and areas of growth. Through this reflection and ownership, students can then begin to advocate for the personalized experience that best supports their growth and development. 

Discover The Ultimate Guide for Personalized Learning - A guide that provides a curated set of resources and literature about how personalized learning is most effectively applied in K-12 settings, alongside many of the tools and resources that we have internally developed to help our district partners launch, implement and sustain personalized learning. Check out the guide. 


When our personalized learning framework is implemented with fidelity, students have a rigorous learning experience that considers who they are, what they are passionate about, and how they learn. Student Reflection & Ownership are foundational pieces for student achievement and social-emotional development. In addition to social-emotional development, the CASEL framework guides students through a reflection of the different components that make up their identity. This self-reflection can lead to self-awareness and ultimately social awareness. After engaging in the process of crafting and unpacking their personal identity, students can begin to look around and appreciate the differences in their peers. Self-awareness and social awareness promote the idea that diversity exists and we all want to feel included, regardless of our identity. Empathy and inclusion go hand in hand. At a workshop during our last company-wide retreat, our facilitators stated that diversity is everyone being invited to the dance, inclusion is everyone being able to dance, and equity is having a say in which songs get played. There are countless benefits of diversity in our schools, but a diverse environment is just the first step of many. Our goal as educators is to have all of our students understand who they are, what they need, and how they can support their peers and those who will come after them with access to life-changing experiences and information.

How Personalized Learning Aligns with Social-Emotional Learning  - Download the Brief



Student Reflection & Ownership is one of the cornerstones that support social-emotional development and developing a lens that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. In order to address the attitude Principal Kafele mentioned, students have to know who they are, who their peers are, and what they need to be successful. As challenging as it is to tap into a student’s will to succeed, practices rooted in Student Reflection & Ownership can lead to self-awareness, social awareness, and the development of a lens and skill set that can change student lives.


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About Dexter Korto - Guest Author

Dexter Korto is a former Design Principal at Education Elements.

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