Low-achieving adolescent students' perspectives on their interactions with classmates. An exploratory study to inform the implementation of a social emotional learning program in prevocational education

Marion C.E. van de Sande*, Minne Fekkes, René F.W. Diekstra, Carolien Gravesteijn, Paul L. Kocken, Ria Reis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Social and Emotional Learning programs, designed to enhance adolescents’ social and emotional skills, are implemented in schools worldwide. One of these programs is Skills4Life (S4L), for students in Dutch secondary education. To strengthen this program and adapt it to students’ needs, we conducted an exploratory study on their perspectives on their own social-emotional development, focusing on low-achieving students in prevocational education. We interviewed eleven boys and eleven girls in five focus groups on (1) their general school life experiences, (2) their perceptions and experiences regarding interactions with peers, the problems they encountered in these interactions, and (3) the strategies and skills they used to solve these problems. Driven by findings in related studies initial thematic analyzes were extended using a three-step approach: an inductive, data-driven process of open coding; axial coding; and selective coding, using the social-emotional skills comprised in an often-used SEL framework as sensitizing concepts. Overall, students were satisfied with their relationships with classmates and teachers and their ability to manage their daily interaction struggles. Their reflections on their interactions indicate that the skills they preferred to use mirror the social-emotional skills taught in many school programs. However, they also indicated that they did not apply these skills in situations they experienced as unsafe and uncontrollable, e.g., bullying and harassment. The insights into adolescents’ social-emotional skills perceptions and the problems they encountered with peers at school presented here can contribute to customizing school-based skills enhancement programs to their needs. Teacher training is required to help teachers gain insight into students’ perspectives and to use this insight to implement SEL programs tailored to their needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107263
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume156
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s)

Research programs

  • ESSB PSY

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