SEL-E: Social and Emotional Learning Intervention to Enhance Pre-service Teachers' Empathy Development in a Technology-mediated Learning Space
The pandemic opened a need to better understand how to support the social and emotional aspects of learning in online settings. The explicit inclusion of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in teacher preparation programs must feature as prominently in online settings as it must in traditional classrooms. The goal is twofold: future educators benefit personally through application to their own well-being, and their future students benefit from teachers who successfully apply SEL in their own teaching. The exploratory mixed-method study presented here is focused on the impact of a 9-week SEL intervention on pre-service teachers' empathy development in an online course. Quantitative measures consisted of SEL, and empathy surveys administered before and after the intervention, and an additional survey focused on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) was administered after the intervention. For SEL constructs, a dependent paired t-test indicated statistical significance for SEL and two associated components, self-awareness and relationship skills; however, no statistical significance was found for two other components, social awareness and for empathy. PLS-SEM analysis also indicated a positive effect on the acceptance of online discussion as a valid means to practice empathy. Qualitative thematic and discourse analysis indicated that pre-service teachers enhanced the SEL aspects and its core skill of empathy. The limitations of the study are that the sample of convenience was small (n=39), time constraints, and the course contents emphasized social context. The implications of the study help inform higher education and teacher professional development programs that make use of online modalities.