Supporting Independent, Social Conflict Resolution Through Social/Emotional Learning Interventions in a Montessori Classroom
Social conflict is a natural and sometimes frequent occurrence in an early childhood classroom. It is important for the teacher to prepare herself and the children for when social conflict inevitably arises. Conflict should not be viewed as something negative but rather an opportunity to help children refine their social skills, develop empathy and kindness and encourage their independence. The objective of this study is to decrease teacher intervention during conflicts and increase independent, child-initiated problem solving. Interventions included a short morning gathering time exclusively dedicated to SEL (social emotional learning). Other interventions during this time included an emotional check-in with visual emotional cards, consistently modeling conflict resolution strategies and introducing rules from the International Peace Foundation’s I-Care Cat that aim to foster the discussion of emotions and empathy towards others. Children’s literature encompassing a variety of SEL topics was also read and discussed during this time. Data was gathered through a collaborative “peaceful person” (Sonnie McFarland), an emotional knowledge comparison with a control group and teacher observations. The results show an increase in independently solved social conflicts and decrease in teacher intervention. There was also a decrease in social problems occurring in the class in general. Children’s verbal communication skill also became more sophisticated and complex. Children’s knowledge of emotions and feelings also increased post-intervention. A small-scale study such as this would benefit from more time to determine if there are large-scale and enduring effects. However, this study could be used to show that dedicating consistent time to SEL does have some immediate, positive effects on social conflict resolution and social and emotional knowledge.