Shannon Wanless to Lead AERA Special Interest Group

Shannon Wanless, University of Pittsburgh School of Education faculty member and director of the Office of Child Development, was elected chair of the Social Emotional Learning Special Interest Group (SEL SIG) for the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Wanless has been an active member of the SEL SIG for over a decade, working to integrate social justice and equity as a core part of the group’s agenda.

Social emotional learning is a critical component to human development, says Wanless, because it helps students to develop empathy, manage emotions, and maintain relationships

“This SEL SIG community has been my scholarly home for my entire academic career,” says Wanless. “It is an honor to have an opportunity to serve this field – especially at a time when there is so much interest in bringing a more critical eye to our definitions, questions, programs, and measures.”

According to AERA, the purpose of the SEL SIG is to “examine relationships among social-emotional competencies and academic, health, and citizenship outcomes; and the impact of social emotional learning (SEL) interventions on the adjustment, behavior, and academic performance of students; and factors that influence the effectiveness of SEL intervention including the role of educators and families.”

Wanless wrote about the importance of social justice and equity in social emotional learning in a blog post she co-authored with past SEL SIG chair and University of Delaware faculty member Tia Barnes.

They call for the social emotional learning community to value contributions from scholars of color, increase social justice training, and provide opportunities for people to develop an awareness of how their social identities and biases impact their SEL science and practice.

“This year, I plan to focus on lifting up SEL research that is using an equity lens, and creating space for members to learn how we can each play a role in advancing social justice with our SEL scholarship,” says Wanless.

Wanless is joined on the board by former Pitt Education student Jasmine Williams, who received her PhD in Applied Developmental Psychology in 2018. Williams received the school’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Early Career Award in March.

AERA SEL SIG also includes faculty from universities across the world and experts from social emotional learning non-profit organizations.

Learn more

Visit the Office of Child Development website.