SSHRC CCSIF Innovation Through Co-Production:
Supporting Social Competence in Preschool Children Through Multi-Stakeholder Engagement
Overview of the Project
This project addresses vulnerabilities in children’s social competence by applying an innovative model of knowledge co-production to support Early Childhood Educators (RECEs). The outcomes of this project will include: (1) a parent-centered service provision to support the development of social competence in Durham Region children, and (2) a replicable approach to address vulnerabilities in children’s development. Recent research suggests that the social competency of young children is an emerging issue in the Durham Region. The COVID 19 pandemic has exacerbated this vulnerability, since it has resulted in many more social, emotional, behavioural, cognitive, physical, and mental health problems among young children (Cost et al., 2021; Jacobs, 2022; Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University, 2020; Statistics Canada, 2020; Vaillancourt, McDougall, Comeau, & Finn, 2021; Vaillancourt, Szatmari, Georgiades, Georgiades, & Krygsman, 2021). With a growing need to address children’s vulnerabilities comes the need to enhance the capacity of RECEs with skills, strategies, and tools to effectively support the development of social competence. The research process is informed by design thinking and begins with the following guiding question: How might we provide experiences that positively influence social competence in Durham Region preschool aged children?
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
The most influential framework for social competence has been provided by The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Social and emotional learning (SEL) is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2020). CASEL’s SEL framework addresses five broad interrelated areas of social and emotional competence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Evidence-based SEL programs in preschools and schools have been widely assessed and show that they improve social and emotional competence (CAMH, 2017; Durlak & Mahoney, 2019; Jones et al., 2021; Jones, Barnes, Bailey, & Doolittle, 2017; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2017). The value of the CASEL’s SEL framework for this research project is that it integrates SEL throughout all of the settings where children develop social competence. It emphasizes authentic partnerships between schools and families/caregivers so that they can help plan, implement, and reinforce their children’s social and emotional development. Trusted community partners provide safe and rich opportunities to practice the five areas of social and emotional competence. As the purpose of the current project is to co-produce a parent-focused service provision to support social competence in young children, CASEL’s SEL framework with its five areas of social and emotional competence will inform and guide discussions throughout the design process.