Phase 2: Exploring SEL in Practice

Published by Heather Woods on

What does social and emotional learning look like in practice? How are elementary school educators and administrators defining social and emotional learning? What strategies are they using in their classrooms? How are they learning about SEL?

These questions are encompassed within my driving question for phase two of the research project:

How do Canadian Elementary School Educators conceptualize and enact social and emotional learning within their classrooms?

So how am I exploring this?

To start, I am conducting 10-12 individual interviews with Canadian Educators and Administrators. Last week, I gave you some insight into how I was recruiting for this study through social media (namely Facebook and Twitter). Here is an update on the recruitment process numbers regarding this approach. The latest post, I included the following hashtags: #BCEd #ABEd #CdnEd #SKEd #MBEdu #EduQC #NBEd #NFLDEd #NSEd #EduPEI #NWTEd #YukonEd #NunavutEd

Platform/DateSharesPeople ReachedEngagement
Facebook – April 17th, 202013UnknownUnknown
Facebook – April 25th, 2020424825
Twitter – April 17th, 20209161081
Twitter – April 25th, 2020568441
Twitter – May 1st, 2020277634

So once educators and administrators have been recruited for an interview, what happens?

Once an individual signs up to participate, they are sent a Zoom link that coordinates with the time they selected to speak with me. I receive a notification that they have signed up, and I update their Zoom link to include a password to make it more secure and a copy of the informed consent for them to review and sign.

At the time of the interview, we review that the participant has read the informed consent and agrees to participate in the recorded interview. I record on Zoom, but also an external recorder (this one if you’re interested, so far I like it). We then begin the semi-structured interview.

A semi-structured interview allows you to explore the main ideas of your research question. Still, it allows for the flexibility of delving deeper into topics as they arise in the discussion. Thus, you have a loose structure to follow, with possible follow-up questions (e.g., can you tell me more about x, y, z; What did that look like?).

The goal of exploring my research question through the use of a one-on-one interview allows me to deeply examine educator’s and administrator’s practices surrounding social and emotional learning. I have the opportunity to ask plenty of follow-up questions to clarify my understanding. This contrasts with the focus group.

Why focus groups?

The second possible way that I am hoping to explore this question is through the use of focus groups with educators. I mentioned above, unlike interviews, I do not have the opportunity to ask as many follow up questions in a focus group. This is due to the more reserved role of the interviewer in a focus group. My role here is to offer a handful of questions (see my protocol here).

Once the question has been posed, the floor is open for educators to share their experiences. In this setting, participants (4-6 per group) can ask follow-up questions and add their own experiences. The difference here is that one educator sharing may remind another of similar or very different experiences and can share their thoughts. This is a unique opportunity to share what is working and isn’t working for educators as each share from their unique context.

Of course, the same initial process is followed regarding informed consent and accessing a Zoom room. However, there is an added level to the informed consent, as we ask all participants to maintain confidentiality about what they share and who is participating.

Do participants have to use video/audio?

To ensure that everyone is comfortable with participating, we are flexible with how you share. For the interviews, participation can be done through a video call or a voice chat on Zoom. The focus groups offer even more flexibility. Participants can participate through video chat, voice chat, or participate just in the text chat box to respond to the conversations that are happening. So, if you don’t want to be seen or heard, you can still participate in the discussion. I will read out your comments to the group for you. Or, if all participants agree, the whole focus group could be text-based.

How are things going?

Currently, I have spoken with 6 educators from Ontario. Over the next two weeks, I will be speaking to at least two more educators from across Canada.

At this time, we have not had any focus groups. I may need to restructure how I recruit for these or how we schedule them.

What is happening with the Scoping Review?

The scoping review is still underway. I have begun pulling full-text PDFs for the full-text review of the articles. Already, I am noticing that some articles will be excluded based on the location of the researchers. This information wasn’t readily available in the title/abstract screening process. Below is the current status of the scoping review:

Screened articles TI/ABIrrelevantFlagged for Full-Text ScreeningFull-Text ScreenedExcludedFull-Text Remaining
TI/AB: Title and Abstract screening

One of the issues that I am currently running into is finding PDFs for some of the older articles. With libraries presently closed, I am unable to check hard copies or request an inter-library loan. Finding these articles may have to wait until things begin going back to normal after the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Another thought that I’ve been thinking about since the beginning of this project is whether we will place time constraints on the project. CASEL coined SEL in the mid-90s. So, whether we look at articles before this time is an ongoing discussion that my supervisor and I have been having.

What do you think?

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to email me at

By participating in discussions through the comment section on this website, you consent to your participation in the study.

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