Class is in Session

Class is in Session: Social-Emotional Learning and College Success

As higher education institutions work to support students in new and deeper ways, social-emotional learning has become increasingly relevant for student success. This semester, College Possible’s Catalyze program has invested in offering a graduate-level course on social-emotional learning to eleven near-peer AmeriCorps coaches who are supporting students from low-income backgrounds at colleges across the country. The pilot program was formed in collaboration with Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota School of Graduate and Professional Programs, who is providing the graduate credit.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL), as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Focusing on the practical implementation of research, knowledge and skills to coaching, this course works as a supplement to the training coaches already receive year-round. Coaches, when given the knowledge about social-emotional learning, develop better awareness and enhancement of their own skills, leading to academic success and personal growth.

The Course

Coaches in the pilot course met once a week to share experiences and discuss assigned readings in depth. In some instances, coaches were responsible for finding relevant articles to share with their peers, and for leading discussions on how this research impacted their work. Since our coaches are serving at institutions across the nation, classes take place virtually. The course utilized multiple tools to encourage participants to deeply and collaboratively engage in their learning. Video conferencing application Zoom was the setting for the classroom. It allowed coaches to interact not only voice-to-voice, but also face-to-face, fostering meaningful discussions despite the distance. Another application,, allowed coaches to share, annotate and discuss readings throughout the week.

According to Jake Law, Catalyze’s instructional design specialist, “ has really been great tools in our repertoire as they allow coaches to build understanding during the week, connect at different times and build off the ideas of their classmates. That way, when we get into Zoom for our live session, we all have an idea of what we are talking about, and can take the conversation to a more meaningful level during that one-hour class.”

Weekly readings and responses were just part of course activities. A more tangible component of the course was having coaches choose a student from their portfolio (with the student’s permission) to engage with as a case study. The coach and their student intentionally found practical ways to implement social-emotional learning strategies into coaching sessions and the student’s daily life. Their experiences were shared with other coaches to diversify skills and collectively build a toolkit of best practices.

Upon completing the course on April 26, coaches received two graduate credits that can be applied toward a variety of graduate degree programs. The graduate course program hopes to have further offerings to help meet the unique interests and skills of all College Possible coaches.

  • Meet Jessica

    “Making it through college, a step that people think is impossible for students with backgrounds like mine, is the most amazing thing.”

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    “If I could describe my experience as a college student in one word—it would be ‘amazing!'”

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