Portrait of a Learner 9-12

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Portrait of a Learner 9-12 > 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 and Relationship Skills are essential for forming and maintaining positive relationships so that peers and educators can become learning partners. When each student feels supported by their peers, and sees how they can use their strengths and work with others to contribute to the success of a group, they can better engage 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, with adolescents continuing to learn through school, peers, and community. During adolescence, the need to belong and "fit in" with peers is heightened and therefore adolescents may be particularly sensitive to social comparisons, peer influence, and social rejection. As relationships with peers become more important, learners' 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 wellbeing.

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, particularly students for whom impulsivity is a component of their ADHD. Rejection and exclusion is often due to stigma, which can be caused in part by a lack of peers' understanding of behavioral differences. It can also be caused by social immaturity due to delayed development 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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