Street Law’s New Perspectives deliberative discussion program has been integrated with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) core competencies. CASEL is a leader in the field of social-emotional learning (SEL), with an integrated framework that Street Law used to develop instructional materials and teacher training. 

Deliberative discussion about contested public issues can be a stressful experience. Discussion participants are asked to share opinions about and eventually search for consensus around a controversial topic. Sometimes, discussion participants come into the deliberation having very different and very strong views about the topic. Some participants may even have deep personal connections to the topic, which can then make the discussion even more delicate.       

Integrating effective social-emotional learning practices into Street Law’s Deliberation format and facilitation techniques supports students in developing the skills and competencies to engage in difficult, yet necessary, discussions. 

Within the existing Deliberation structure, Street Law has incorporated supports for the following CASEL core competencies:

  • Self-awareness: Students begin a Street Law Deliberation considering discussion norms. Facilitators are encouraged to ask students to consider which norms they feel strongest in, and which norms they’d like to improve during the discussion. At the end of a Street Law Deliberation, students are asked to self-assess and reflect on the process, specifically returning to the discussion norms. 
  • Self-management: Street Law’s Deliberation norms include supports for student self-management, including asking students to “Cooperate (rather than compete) with one another.” Many students are used to a debate discussion format, which results in a clear winner and loser. Because Street Law’s Deliberation format has a different end in mind—to search for consensus, not to find a winner or loser—students may need self-discipline and to set goals and collaborate in order to adhere to this norm. 
  • Social awareness: This core competency is embedded throughout the Deliberation process, starting with the norms that ask students to “Listen carefully,” “Encourage others to speak,” and “Remain engaged and respectful when controversy arises.” All Street Law Deliberation readings present a balanced view of a contested topic, with logical arguments for multiple sides. As a part of the process, participants are asked to present resonant arguments for multiple sides of the topic, and reinforce the resonant arguments that their peers present. Eventually, the scaffolded structure of the Deliberation process is removed in Step 6, as participants freely talk with one another. This is a time for students to authentically practice their SEL skills. 
  • Relationship skills: Throughout the deliberative discussion process, students must communicate clearly, listen well, and negotiate conflict constructively and peacefully. Like the other SEL competencies, this process starts with introducing students to norms to support this behavior. Relationship skills are then fostered through Steps 4-6 of the Deliberation process, as participants work in pairs and then quads to discuss the contested political issue. Because the end goal of a Street Law Deliberation is to seek consensus, students’ communication and relationship skills are honed and put to the test throughout the process. 
  • Responsible decision-making: Street Law Deliberation topics are always about current, relevant contested political topics; topics that students will confront in their own lives in one way or another. By providing students with the content knowledge and skills to discuss these topics, students engage in a process for making responsible decisions. 

Students’ core SEL competencies can develop through engaging in Street Law’s Deliberations, but some students may benefit from additional SEL supports. To that end, Street Law has created a variety of optional resources and tools:

  • SEL Mini-Lessons: These three short mini-lessons on Norms, Listening, and Empathy, support skill-building for key aspects of deliberative discussion. 
  • Ice Breakers for Small Groups: To support relationship-building, Street Law has put together several short, simple ice breakers that small Deliberation groups can complete prior to the Deliberation. These ice breakers are meant to build comfort and generate empathy prior to engaging participants in difficult discussion. 
  • Deliberation Lesson Guides: Each deliberation has a “Lesson Guide” paired with it. On each guide, there is a box of SEL tips developed specifically for that deliberation topic. Tips include facilitation techniques, planning considerations, and more. 

Do you have questions or suggestions about social-emotional learning integration into Street Law’s Deliberations? Email Jen at jwheeler@streetlaw.org