This symposium features work that addresses gaps in the SEL and school social work research. First, most work on SEL focuses on younger students, leaving us with little knowledge about high school students, especially as they transition from smaller, more structured middle schools to the larger high school environment. Second, most SEL work focuses on a variable-oriented approach, addressing the broad association between SEL needs and student outcomes. Many extant studies fail to account for heterogeneous patterns of SEL needs among students. Third, other studies have not examined how students' mindsets on the importance of SEL needs are related to outcomes depending on gender. Mindsets are students' beliefs that drive their motivations and behaviors, and it is critical to understand its association with students' outcome. Lastly, few studies have examined how academic and behavioral outcomes are associated to whether students agree with their teachers about their SEL needs.
Based in a person-oriented developmental ecological framework, this symposium highlights three papers on the associations among SEL and student outcomes as students enter one high school in semi-urban Central Illinois. The Spencer Foundation funded work presented in this symposium. The first paper examines patterns of SEL needs among a cohort of 9th grade students. Latent class analysis indicated five patterns of co-occurring SEL needs. A pertinent finding from this paper is that students' mindsets about the importance of SEL are associated with involvement in patterns of SEL needs.
The second paper offers an account of the associations among social skills mindsets, academic performance, and behaviors, and their differentiation by gender. Interaction analyses revealed that associations between low mindsets and poorer grades, attendance, and disciplinary problems apply to girls but not boys.
The third paper investigates the association among academics and behaviors with levels of agreement between student-teacher ratings of SEL needs. Based on a subsample of students who had one teacher who best knows the student evaluate their SEL needs, findings highlighted that agreement in the areas of communication, empathy, and engagement are associated with student academics, attendance, and behaviors.
The discussion will revolve around issues related to the significance of understanding configurational patterns of students' needs, its applications to MTSS, interventions relating to students' mindsets as to the importance of SEL, and teacher involvement and student social-emotional development. The session will also discuss implications for school social work practice and research. The symposium will conclude with an overview of the project's plans for the next three years.