Portrait of a Learner 4-8

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Portrait of a Learner 4-8 > Factors > Social Awareness & Relationship Skills

Social Awareness & Relationship Skills

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How Social Awareness & Relationship Skills connects to...

Learning is powerful when it is collaborative and social––when we learn with and from each other. Social Awareness & Relationship Skills are essential for forming and maintaining positive relationships so that peers and educators can become learning partners. When each student sees how they can use their strengths to contribute to the success of a group, they can better engage in Collaboration and in their learning.

Main Ideas

Social Awareness is the understanding of social norms for behavior and the ability to recognize and understand the perspectives and feelings of others. Social Awareness allows students to empathize with people from diverse backgrounds that are different from their own. This awareness continues to develop into adolescence. Children often first learn about aspects of their own and others' Identities from their parents. For example, learners may learn about their own race and ethnicity via a process called socialization. However, research suggests that white parents are less likely to engage in such socialization than parents from historically and systematically excluded groups. During adolescence, the need to belong and "fit in" with peers is heightened. Adolescents are therefore particularly sensitive to social comparisons, peer influence, and social rejection. As students' relationships with peers become more important, their behavior in the classroom may be restricted by their concerns about what their peers think of them.

Relationship Skills are the specific interpersonal skills based on Social Awareness that allow students to communicate and get along with others, including cooperation and preventing and resolving interpersonal conflicts. These skills can also include cross-cultural competence such as understanding different norms and conventions and using appropriate verbal and nonverbal behavior in diverse cultural situations. Greater intercultural contact can help build these skills.

Social Awareness and Relationship Skills are important, because they enable us to make friends and maintain positive relationships with teachers and peers. Learners who are more socially competent are better able to make and maintain friendships, and strong Social Awareness and Relationship Skills are associated with better academic Motivation, achievement and well-being.

One key aspect of Social Awareness and Relationship Skills is an ability to build common understanding with people from diverse backgrounds. In part, this ability relies on a student's understanding of their own Identity, and those of others. Educators have a unique opportunity to help all students learn about their own and others' Identities, and learn to appreciate, respect and accept differences and disabilities as another facet of Identity.

Students with learning disabilities and those with ADHD tend to have more difficulty with peer relationships and are more likely to be rejected and excluded by their peers. This is often due to stigma, which can be caused in part due to a lack of peers' understanding of behavioral differences. It can also be caused by social immaturity due to delayed maturation of certain regions of the brain or difficulty with emotional regulation due to difficulty with Sensory Integration.

Some of the most important factors underlying effective Social Awareness and Relationship Skills include Collaboration, Communication, prosocial behavior, and a Sense of Belonging. Educators can support student's Social Awareness and Relationship skills by creating a supportive environment where all students feel included, where they are given opportunities to better understand each other, for instance by openly discussing and normalizing differing styles of Communication, and enabling discussions that encourage differing perspectives. In addition, educators can promote the development of Social Awareness and Relationship Skills by providing ample opportunities to collaborate and engage with peers, as well as by modeling and praising prosocial behaviors.

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