2020 Social & Emotional Learning Exchange
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Blog - Joan Cole Duffell

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8/1/2019 Blog - Joan Cole Duffell
Joan Cole Duffell, Executive Director, Committee for Children


Why do you believe the SEL field is gaining momentum and how do you hope the upcoming SEL Exchange captures and advances that momentum?
I think the most important social changes arise from pivotal moments in human history. Today I believe we are witnessing the unraveling of a fundamental social compact: that is, at times we must sacrifice our individual needs and comforts in deference to the greater needs of society. This most basic of understanding of what it means to be a good human­– “We are here for others, not just ourselves and not just for our own tribe”—appears in danger of crumbling. Though many of us have focused on SEL for the past 40 years, I believe the overwhelming tide that is advancing SEL today comes from the recognition among parents and educators that, without the attitudes and skills that comprise SEL, the world will continue its devolution into darkness. SEL is no longer a “nice to have,” it is a lifeline. My hope is that the Exchange will offer the community of researchers, policy makers, program providers, and brilliant practitioners who do this work every day the chance to learn from one another while building a strong community of support to further advance our shared mission.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the field in the past 25 years?
Since the early 1980s, we, CASEL, and others in this field have struggled mightily to convince policy makers and school leaders of the vital importance of evidence-based SEL. Initial momentum came from Dan Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence. Another seminal moment came with the Durlak & Weissberg meta-analysis, which demonstrated the role SEL plays in academic achievement (published in 2011, when NCLB was still the prevailing education policy). At that moment, educators saw SEL as a solution to the problem of high-stakes tests. Today, parents and educators are turning toward the intrinsic value of SEL. In other words, because of the state of the world today, people are more driven to develop kinder, more compassionate human beings than ever before.

What role do you hope Committee for Children plays (or continues to play) in the SEL field?
My vision for Committee for Children is to focus first on deepening our impact with every child, educator, and parent we reach with our programs–and in doing so, more closely measure and deepen our impact on equity. We will place a stronger focus on adult SEL, as this work is on the critical path to our theory of change. We will begin new SEL work with parents of very young children (0-4) because of the enormous opportunities we see in early brain development. And we will continue building community-wide social norming campaigns, such as Captain Compassion. I hope we will continue to be, as CASEL is, a rising tide that lifts all boats in the SEL field, through our focus on policy/advocacy. I hope CFC will always be a thoughtful and generous collaborator, reflecting SEL in our relationships both internally and externally.

What are your biggest takeaways so far from co-chairing the planning committee for this inaugural SEL Exchange?
Planning a conference is a huge undertaking! I say this while acknowledging that Mark Greenberg (my co-chair) and I have conducted but a tiny fraction of the work the staff team has done. I am bowled over by the number of creative presentation proposals we received, most of which were truly imbued with SEL practice in both content and format. My hat goes off the planning team for placing such a strong focus on quality, equity and diversity, ethical decision making, and thoughtful planning into the conference. The Exchange is going to be a unique opportunity for our field to gather, learn, and celebrate this important field. I can’t wait!

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Event Information

October 14-16*, 2020
Pre-Conference Day: October 13, 2020
Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel | Schaumburg, IL
*Programming ends at noon on October 16, 2020

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