Exploring social and emotional learning in a grade 4 classroom: a teacher’s self-study.
Mkhize, Ntokozo Sibusisiwe.
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I am a teacher at a primary school in South Africa. This thesis presents a self-study project exploring social and emotional learning in my personal history and my Grade 4 classroom. I wanted to discover ways of improving my teaching practice to create a secure, compassionate, and loving learning environment. The first research question I asked was, What can I learn about social and emotional learning from my memories? This inspired me to revisit my childhood and adolescent experiences and reflect on learning engendered by my parents, teachers, friends, and other people. I evoked memories using personal history research strategies such as artefact retrieval, photographs, and narrative writing. In addressing my second question, What can I learn through exploring social and emotional learning in my Grade 4 classroom?, I offered a detailed portrayal of interactions during lessons in various subjects. I documented the lessons in my teaching developmental portfolio, which included journal entries and learners’ written and drawing activities. The classes were audio-recorded and photographed. As I engaged in this self-study project, I explored teacher learning and social and emotional learning from a socio-cultural theoretical perspective, emphasising the importance of working together in educational settings to make sense of collective and individual experiences. I was fortunate to work with three critical friends who helped me uncover different ways of making sense of my research and enhancing my teaching. The thesis presents seven themes that elucidate my understanding of social and emotional learning and implications thereof for teaching: 1. Social and emotional learning promotes self-awareness; 2. Social and emotional learning fosters a sense of belonging; 3. Social and emotional learning supports safe and nurturing environments; and 4. Social and emotional learning cultivates social and emotional relationships. 5. Social and emotional learning develops resilience and an optimistic approach; 6. Social and emotional learning is a source for emotional healing; and 7. Social and emotional learning encourages responsiveness to social justice. My study demonstrates how school children’s voices should be positioned at the forefront in teachers’ self-study research in ways that respect children’s dignity and perspectives and acknowledge them as key contributors.