Personal and Social Core Competencies for All
by Jenny Williams, SCSBC Director of Educational Support Services ◊
One of the goals of educating children in school is to help them grow into caring, thoughtful, and reflective human beings who will be better able to face the challenges of today’s society. Teachers promote the development of the moral self and critical skills, such as self-direction and regulation, problem-solving, collaboration, and independence. These skills promote godly living – acting justly and loving others. They also relate to the personal and social core competencies of the BC Education curriculum modernization. In Christian schools, we encourage students to walk in relationship with Him who enables us to do what is right and to love others in the power of His strength. We work to help students learn to live out what is right by using a school-wide approach with a common language that describes specific behavioural expectations that demonstrate the outworking of a life that bears the fruits of the Spirit. A school-wide approach focused on the personal and social core competencies is essential in promoting personal, social and emotional growth for all students.
How does the Ministry of Education define personal and social competency?
“Personal and social competency is the set of abilities that relate to students’ identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society. Personal and social competency encompasses the abilities students need to thrive as individuals, to understand and care about themselves and others, and to find and achieve their purposes in the world” (Ministry of Education, 2016).1
The Ministry delineates three competencies within the set of personal and social competencies:
1 Positive Personal and Cultural Identity is about relationships, personal values and choices connected to understanding personal strengths and abilities.
2 Personal Awareness and Responsibility focuses on the development of self-determination, self-regulation and personal well-being. Self-determination is the process by which a person controls their path in life and sets goals along the way. Self-regulation relates to having children understand for themselves what works to help them regulate themselves. Well-being provides a focus on personal and emotional health.
3 Social Responsibility is an awareness and mindfulness about how to develop relationships and build community, how to care for the environment, how to problem solve and value diversity.
How does using school-wide behaviour expectations foster personal, social and emotional development?
When a school-wide matrix of positive behaviour expectations is the basis for teaching pro-social, emotional and behavioural skills, the consistency of language and teaching helps to support the successful development of these skills in all students. Using the best instructional practices allows students to internalize these expectations better. When we give them clear expectations, teach them well and reinforce them well, we help children understand what they need to do to develop personal and social core competencies. All adults in the school can be responsible to effectively reinforce social and emotional skills anywhere in the building by naming, noticing and nurturing positive student behaviours. For example, teachers may use the strategy of notice and name to reinforce the skill of respecting the environment by saying, “Bonnie, I noticed that you picked up the garbage that someone else left on the floor. You are respecting the environment. Thanks for doing that.” When we give them clear expectations, teach them well and reinforce them well, we help children understand what they need to do to develop personal and social core competencies.
How can we support students who have challenges in developing personal, social and emotional skills?
To help organize and promote growth in academics, we often apply a tiered approach. In Tier 1, all students receive instruction within the classroom to further reading, writing, communicating and other academic skills. Approximately 15% of students will require further Tier 2 support, which involves targeted small group instruction. At Tier 3 another 5% may need intensive individualized instruction requiring highly specialized approaches. This tiered approach works effectively for the development of behaviour, social and emotional skills as well as academics.
Example Tier 2 Strategy: Check-in Check System
Many schools have developed a school-wide positive behaviour matrix that defines the goals and behaviour expectations for students. For example, Hope Lutheran Christian Elementary School in Port Coquitlam has four school-wide behaviour expectations that relate to the personal and social core competencies:
Respect: We show respect to receive respect
Love: We love because He first loved us
Encouragement: We encourage each other to act in love and do our best
Adoration: We lift up praise and adoration to God for sending His Son
At Hope Lutheran, everyone gets basic instruction in behavioural expectations or Tier 1 instructions. Students who have difficulty developing some of the personal and social core competency skills have the option of participating in the Check-in Check-out system, a Tier 2 support, which is particularly effective for students who are motivated by adult attention. In this system, students meet with an adult before and after school to review up to three personal and social goals and discuss how they have done. They come to school five minutes early to meet with an adult. Each goal area has a behaviour expectation and core competency that a student assesses when meeting with the adults and graphing their progress shows if the intervention is working. The idea is to get positive attention for meeting expectations.
An example Check-in Check-out goal using the school-wide behaviour expectation language is, “I can be respectful of others (goal) by letting others work or listen quietly (I can statement)”. This goal relates to the following core competencies:
- Positive Personal and Cultural Identity (building relationships)
- Personal Awareness and Responsibility (self-regulation)
- Social Responsibility (contributing to the community and solving problems peacefully)
When teachers identify the expectations for all students, when they teach and reinforce the specific skills, and nurture the skills through having students self-assess how they are doing, it makes developing personal and social core competency become within the grasp of all students. The development of school-wide behaviour expectations creates a practical way for teachers to foster the personal and social core competency areas that promote the healthy development of students’ social-emotional skills, so essential to successful relationships and purpose in school and the world beyond.