Implementing effective SEL classroom practices requires an approach that is intentional in nurturing safe and healthy relationships between faculty and students. This section provides recommendations and tools for how to achieve this in higher education environments.

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  • Using the RULER Method Within Higher Ed: A systemic approach to achieving SEL in Higher Education.
    • Developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI), the RULER method is a systemic approach to inform educators on how to bolster emotional intelligence within the classroom. This method equips individuals of all ages with SEL skills that champion emotional intelligence to create a more equitable, positive, and inclusive society.
    • The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence dissects the RULER acronym the following way:
      • Recognizing emotions in oneself and others.
      • Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions.
      • Labeling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary.
      • Expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context.
      • Regulating emotions with helpful strategies.
  • While the RULER approach can be employed in K-12 instruction, it is also applicable to higher education by enabling students and faculty members to become more self-aware of their emotions. Emotions tend to have a large impact on cognitive and noncognitive skills that are critical in the classroom, including, but not limited to: attentiveness, learning and memory, performance outcomes, mental health, and fostering positive relationships. (See: What is RULER?) Thus, the RULER method establishes a framework that informs how faculty and staff make decisions pertaining to students’ social and emotional needs.
  • Accordingly, the RULER tools highlighted by YCEI are the following:
    • Charter: Builds and sustains positive emotional climates by creating established norms for how people want to feel and how they can help each other to experience those feelings. Some examples include:
    • Mood Meter: Enhances self and social awareness and supports the development of a nuanced emotion vocabulary and a range of strategies for regulating emotion. Students select how they feel on the mood meter based on their emotions. A Mood Meter app is also available. Applications to higher education may include: 
      • Incorporating various activities before, during, and after class that help students self-identify their own emotions, and instructors capture such emotions and subsequently consider which classroom activities to implement. 
      • “How are you feeling?” questionnaires or one-word responses to read the room before class. This approach provides an outlet for students to let the professor know if something is indeed in their mind. This is also a good icebreaker to assess class morale and teach material while being cognizant of how students feel in your classroom. Instructors may insert the words into a word cloud.
      • Example: At the beginning of class an instructor uses a poll to ask all students to submit one word describing how they are feeling at the present moment. The instructor integrates responses into a word  cloud through the polling software and shares it with the class. They discover that a lot of their students are feeling overwhelmed, so they dedicate time at the beginning of the class to validate students’ emotions.
    • Meta-Moment: Provides a process for responding to emotional situations with strategies that align with one’s best self and that support healthy relationships and personal well-being. These may include incorporating:
      • Self-care days/reflections around mid-term and final season where students have a channel to ground themselves and hold space for their thoughts and interpretations of class material and current events. A recommendation is to not assign heavy-load tasks around self-care days.
      • Example: While designing a course, the instructor paces the class so that the workload is lighter during midterms and students have opportunities to engage in self-care, study and reflect on their learning. The instructor also integrates mindfulness during class sessions during this time where students may be experiencing more stressors.
    • Blueprint: Supports the development of empathy and conflict resolution skills by serving as a guide for reflecting on conflict and restoring affected communities.
      • In order to use the Blueprint tool, consider incorporating classroom activities that foster community in the classroom. The SEL Methods area has plenty of resources that aim to alleviate student anxiety and can be intertwined with classroom instruction.

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