Often seen as the last year before things get serious, its looking like Year 10 is a critical time for gauging students’ future success.
The more failing grades students have during Year 10, the more likely they are to experience social-emotional learning problems, academic difficulties and behavioral problems in senior school.
The University of Illinois studied more than 320 students, exploring the relationship of social-emotional learning needs with eighth- and ninth-graders' (Years 9 and 10 in Australia) academic performance and behavior. The study was published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review.
Despite the gender stereotype that boys are more likely to be the problem children in school, the researchers found that girls constitute the majority of youths who struggled the most academically, socially and behaviorally.
The researchers identified five patterns among the youths in the study, who were all students at one Illinois high school.
About 44% of the students had no significant social-emotional learning needs, about 25% needed help with assertion, school/peer engagement and internalisation issues; nearly 17% had social skills needs; more than 6% had difficulties with self-control and other behavioral problems; and about 7% had significant needs across all of the domains.
In exploring gender differences among the five groups, it was found girls accounted for nearly 66% of students with high needs across all of the domains.
Students in the high-needs group – and their peers who had primarily social skills deficits – had the poorest academic performance, receiving the most failing grades during eighth grade and the lowest marks.
Among students in the high-needs group, girls were the least engaged with school and their peers, had more disciplinary referrals and were absent more days than the boys.
Absenteeism was associated with having behavioral needs and with assertion, engagement and internalisation needs.
In a related study using the same study population, researchers explored whether differing social skills mindsets were associated with gender disparities in student outcomes, such as academic achievement and negative behaviors.
Students' perceived value of social skills were assessed using the Social Skills Improvement System Student Version, a questionnaire that asks students to rate the importance of social skills across seven domains: communication, cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, engagement and self-control.
Girls who placed little value on social skills earned lower grades, had more disciplinary referrals and poorer attendance records than boys with a similar mindset, the data indicated.
Boys with low social skills mindsets had an average attendance rate of 94%, while girls with similar mindsets had an average attendance rate of 87%, so even though these boys thought social skills were unimportant, they were still attending school but the girls were not."
Although a number of social-emotional learning programs are being used in schools, these programs tend to take cookie-cutter approaches and might be more effective if they were tailored to students' individual needs and gender, the researchers found.
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