LSU and Alabama...Friends?

Special education programs collaborate on cutting-edge research for K-3 educators, pre-service teachers, and K-3 students.

November 4, 2022

BATON ROUGE, LA – While Alabama and LSU may be rivals on the football field, the schools are collaborating to help K-3 educators in both states improve student outcomes through SEL (Social Emotional Learning) curriculum and instruction.

SELSG+ is a professional learning solution that aims to help educators meet all their students’ needs. Developed by Dr. Greg Benner at the University of Alabama alongside xSEL Labs, Rush University Medical Center, Oregon Research Institute, Research Press, and Trifoia, SELSG+ seeks to serve the following stakeholders: 
- All K-3 students, through SEL instruction and materials suitable for every student. 
- At-risk K-3 students, through assessment, identification, and tiered interventions and training to master SEL skills. 
- All K-3 educators, through professional development and online study groups to give teachers more confidence and fluency teaching SEL skills to all students. 

Dr. Greg Benner and Dr. Paul Mooney have collaborated to give LSU special education students access to the SELSG+ materials. The students are learning the content in their EDCI 4710 class, which is taught by Valentina Rideaux. The students are using the SEL lessons for the co-teaching portion of the course. After the co-teaching presentations, they will also use the SEL curriculum to design a framework approach which will be their assessment for the consultation portion of the course.Students in EDCI 4710

Dr. Mooney explains, “LSU special education programs instructors work hard to develop the skills of our teacher education candidates. Skill development crosses the areas of instruction, assessment, and collaboration. Instruction encompasses both academic and social-emotional-behavioral skill development so that our candidates can effectively and meaningfully work with students with or at risk for disabilities as well as students who are not struggling in school."

“The social emotional learning curriculum and instructional/collaboration opportunities presented to us by Drs. Benner, Michael, Walton, Lee, and colleagues at the University of Alabama have been a great fit for our program. The partnership experience provided us a research-informed curriculum to develop elementary grades students’ social skills. It includes materials that our candidates can use now and in the future to hone their own teaching skills and positively impact meaningful outcomes of the students they teach," said Mooney.

“The partnership experience also fit well within one of our teacher preparation courses – a collaboration course – so that our candidates could work together to learn and use the social emotional learning materials. And it allowed our candidates and course instructor to professionally collaborate with Dr. Benner and colleagues at the University of Alabama in providing them feedback about how their social emotional learning curriculum and teacher work study group process can be used in teacher preparation programming. The LSU-Alabama partnership has been a win-win for all of us, both in the classroom and out in the field,” Mooney added.

According to a 2018 survey from McGraw Hill Education, 93% of teachers and 96% of administrators agreed that SEL is as important as academic learning in K-12 classrooms – skills which have only become more important since 2020. When it comes to SEL training programs, there is a lot of room to improve outcomes for students and educators alike. Dr. Benner explains, “Educators receive an average of eight hours of training on effective SEL strategies and even less training on how to differentiate to youth with significant behavior concerns. As a result, educators feel unprepared to provide explicit, differentiated SEL instruction, particularly for students with and at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders.”

“Improving youth SEL outcomes for all students requires educators to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to deliver differentiated SEL instruction,” said Benner. “Our goal is to give elementary educators the ability to improve the social and emotional health of the students they serve, including those who are struggling most.”

The SELSG+ project team has expanded to school districts in Alabama for program evaluations this year. If the results from the evaluation are positive, the SELSG+ program will be made available nationally in 2023.
Learn more about these programs.

LSU School of Education 
The School of Education’s grades 1-5 dual certification degree is an eight-semester program of study that allows students to graduate with two certifications. Candidates who are interested in the PK-3 or 6-12 programs can complete the five-course minor in special education in addition to their respective program coursework. That alone makes you stand out to the school principal who will offer you your first job upon graduation. Special Education Program faculty members have a vested interest in your exceptional and transformative development.  We work with public school mentor teacher teams to develop your teaching skills to improve the outcomes of students with and without disabilities. This professional support system will expand your teaching toolkit beyond the traditional teacher education program.

The University of Alabama College of Education
The Department of Special Education and Multiple Abilities (SPEMA) prepares students to serve as reflective decision makers in instructional settings for exceptional learners. The SPEMA faculty believe that a teacher preparation program should emphasize roles and responsibilities that integrate the strengths of learners, parents, general education teachers, special education teachers, related service professionals, and the community. A combination of learning opportunities that include a coordinated knowledge base, diverse school-based practicums, and internship experiences are designed to facilitate the development of logical, critical, and reflective thinking skills. These skills will enable students to synthesize information and conceptualize knowledge that prepare them as future educators to effectively plan, develop, problem solve, and implement programs for diverse learners. Based on the fundamental belief that success is a function of the interaction between the individual and the environment, the over-arching goal of teacher education programs offered by the Program in Special Education and Multiple Abilities at The University of Alabama is the development, validation, and use of techniques for maximizing students’ (with and without exceptionalities) attainment of their full potential.

click here for more stories