Social Emotional Learning and Preservice Teachers: Assessing Perceived Knowledge, Benefit, Confidence, and Competence

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Megan Weemer
Alicia Wodika


As the SEL movement in education gains momentum, equipping preservice teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to develop their own emotional competence and promote their future students’ SEL well-being is critical. However, the extent to which SEL training occurs within teacher education preparation programs varies widely. This mixed methods study examined preservice teachers’ perceived knowledge, need, and benefit of SEL, perceived confidence in providing SEL instruction, and perceptions of their own SEL competence. PreK-12 senior level teacher education majors at a Midwestern university completed a Qualtrics-based survey consisting of demographic questions, along with Likert scales and open-ended responses. Open coding, along with descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze data. Quantitative results indicated that PreK-5 preservice teachers had higher overall scores for all scales including benefits, confidence, and competence of SEL than their secondary teacher education major counterparts; however, there were no significant differences between groups. While scales were generally high, the lowest scale was confidence in their ability to provide SEL instruction. Qualitative analysis revealed that most preservice teachers can broadly define SEL, but lack a comprehensive understanding of the SEL competencies, along with limited awareness of and experience with the Illinois SEL Standards. Results of this study are meant to inform teacher preparation programs by providing insight as to how to best support and prepare preservice teachers for the implementation of SEL-related initiatives. 

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