Although the definition of social awareness is fairly succinct, it's a nuanced skill that develops significantly throughout childhood. In fact, most people acknowledge that being 'socially aware' is something that continues to hone throughout adult life; as we're introduced to new information and experiences that require us to understand the views and standpoints of others.
As we grow, social awareness skills and societal awareness helps us to understand how one fits into and contributes to the community and the world, as well as how we get what we need from the world.
In the long term, social awareness skills will help us understand professionalism in the workplace, as well as making it easier to share information, communicate, and collaborate with others. From a personal point of view, social awareness is a fundamental part of creating friendships and relationships - helping us to lead happy and fulfilled lives.
Although social awareness is still developing during a child's school years, it's a vitally important skill to foster in children - not only because of the lifelong implications but also help them and others get the most out of their education.
In school, youngsters with strong social awareness can more easily adapt to changing environments, considering how others might feel, and will engage in fewer disruptive behaviors.
Schools are a perfect place to watch the development of social awareness - and every passing moment will present examples of growing emotional intelligence and awareness in children.
Consider an instance where two children are sitting quietly, taking part in collaborative learning. A third child may want to join in, and so abruptly enters the interaction; using clumsy body language to make themselves the center of attention. This gives the other children no option but to engage.
If the two original children also have a fairly underdeveloped social ability, this kind of forced interaction might be accepted - but if their emotional skills are slightly more developed, the third child's action is likely to be considered rude. Even if the children don't address any negative feelings immediately, it's likely to inform social decisions further down the line - and it's almost certainly interrupted teaching and learning.
Social-emotional learning theory is underpinned by the work of Daniel Goleman, who builds the idea of social and emotional intelligence (EQ) around a number of key social awareness components, they include:
Emotional self-awareness: Being emotionally aware is the skill behind understanding what one is feeling and appreciating how different moods can impact those around us.
Self-regulation: Self-regulation is the art of controlling the response to emotions - anticipating outcomes in an effort to avoid being emotionally reactive in personal and social situations.
Motivation: Motivation involves understanding how to use emotional factors to learn and achieve personal goals.
Empathy: Empathy is the skill of considering the emotions and circumstances of other individuals.
Respect: Respect is best defined as having a regard for another person or group's experiences, emotions, wishes, or rights.
Kindness: Kindness is the idea of being friendly and considerate to other people, and is especially important even if you don't share their views or standpoint.
Listening Actively: Active listening is the skill of truly being seen to listen - paying attention, and taking time to understand what is being said.
Cooperation: Cooperation is an important part of finding a resolution or a way of working with other individuals or groups. It often involves compromise - but helps to achieve shared goals.
According to the information produced by Goleman, schools that help to build the above social skills in their students see significant reductions in the instances of disciplinary problems, bullying, violence, and substance misuse - while academic performance, community engagement, and overall emotional well-being increases.
So, how can social awareness be taught in school?
First, it's important to understand where each child's EQ currently sits - every child enters the classroom with a different background and set of experiences, so it's important to identify those whose awareness needs an initial helping hand or slightly more on-going support.
From this beginning, teachers should be ready to discuss emotions in the classroom - and that discussion should, as much as possible, be free from judgement. There's a tendency to label some emotions as 'good' - while some are considered 'bad'. In truth, there's no right or wrong when it comes to how a student is feeling; instead, there are simply appropriate ways of expressing those emotions - often dependant on the setting or circumstances.
There's no single, magic lesson that will have the components of EQ fall immediately into place for every child. Instead, the Positive Action model emphasizes each positive action and ability; promoting a healthy and positive cycle.
With each unit, children at your school will start to recognize and manage their emotions, develop an understanding of others, and handle social situations effectively; both in school and in the community - paving the way for success throughout life.
Positive Action offers webinars and resources that give you and your team the chance to review information about the program in detail and ask any questions you might have. If you'd like to hear more about what we can offer your school, feel free to contact us and chat about what the next steps could look like for your school.