Many schools across the U.S are implementing restorative practices to reduce disciplinary cases and improve the general school climate. Restorative practices are the process of learning and refining social-emotional learning skills to provide a safe emotional and physical environment. In essence, restorative practices are used as a substitute to zero-tolerance policies in schools because they prevent conflict and create a healthy climate in the school. This study presents the literature review of restorative practices and social-emotional learning, annotation of the research resources, and a reflection on the insights developed from the topic.
Restorative practices are connected to structural interventions and social-emotional learning practices. Integrating healthy practices with social-emotional learning greatly improves school discipline models (Hulvershorn & Mulholland, 2018). Restoration practices are about relationship building and are rooted in supporting positive relationship development and restorative justice. On the other hand, social-emotional learning helps recognize their and other students’ emotions for them to develop empathy. Hulvershorn & Mulholland (2018) argue that social-emotional learning curriculum teaches students appropriate actions besides providing safe environments to practice whatever they learn. For instance, students can learn positive behaviors like kindness, empathy, and caring from social-emotional learning programs to improve their relationships with fellow students and teachers. In this way, restorative practices are connected to social-emotional learning.
Research shows that preventive practices like restorative practices and social-emotional learning eliminate the need for suspensions. Like restorative justice, healthy practices advocates for healing harm instead of punishing misbehavior. Through restorative practices and social-emotional learning, social workers in school are trained to enhance a sense of trust and communal engagement through group work, thus establishing a culturally responsive and antiracist environment (Lustick, Norton, Lopez & Greene-Rooks, 2020). School social workers play a substantive role in implementing restorative practices in the school environment. The author(s) conceive restorative practices and social-emotional learning through an interdisciplinary lens that combines community building and social work. According to Lustick et al. (2020), the social work approach helps groups to develop into community circles through structured shared experiences that help groups and individuals feel supported by others to solve their problems. In a culturally diverse context like a school environment, teachers build a unique community that is reflective and responsive to various experiences, customs and beliefs of students.
Aligning restorative practices and SWPBIS (school-wide positive behavior intervention and support) promotes social-emotional behavior and learning nationwide, especially in elementary schools. SWPBIS facilitates the implementation of data-driven intervention and prevention strategies through a multi-layered decision-making framework, ultimately improving students’ academic and behavioral outcomes (Kervick, Garnett, Moore, Ballysingh & Smith, 2020). SWPBIS is a special framework made to enhance understanding among students about the expected behavior in schools. Mostly, schools work within this framework according to the specific needs of students. Kervick et al. (2020) suggest that restorative practices and SWPBIS share common goals; increasing time for classroom instruction, enhancing positive community in schools, and reducing exclusionary discipline cases.
Investing in restorative practices and emotional learning approaches in schools fosters strong relationships between teachers and students. This is due to teaching students about building empathy, which keeps them motivated about their teachers besides having a sense of emotional awareness. In his research, Motsinger (2018) finds out that emotional understanding, motivation, and empathy affect relationships between teachers and students. The foundation of his study is anchored on the explicit teaching of social-emotional learning practices to enhance students’ self-regulation in schools. In other words, students should be able to utilize skills, attitudes, and knowledge learned from the classroom whenever necessary to understand and manage their emotions effectively (Motsinger, 2018). These skills can include empathy towards others, positive goal setting, positive relationships, and responsible decision-making to handle challenging situations appropriately.
Restorative practices have been implemented in other countries too. For instance, implementing restorative procedures in Scotland significantly improved the school atmosphere characterized by calm and positive students about their school experience (Raffenbeul, 2019). Also, the staff utilized restorative practices to address challenging behaviors due to confidence in restorative protocols and routines. In Ontario, Canada, implementing restorative practices reduced exclusionary practices for errant students. According to Raffenbeul (2019), increased restorative practices led to a significant drop in suspension rates. In London, implementing restorative practices created a learning environment with problem-solving opportunities in schools (Raffenbeul, 2019). Restorative practices and social-emotional learning approaches opened up constructive and alternative ways of dealing with conflict, emotion, and life. It equipped students with tools for approaching conflicting situations with calmer strategies in all scenarios.
Hulvershorn, K., & Mulholland, S. (2018). Restorative practices and the integration of social emotional learning as a path to positive school climates. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning.
This article explores the connection between restorative practices and social-emotional learning practices in schools. This research is informed by educational policy analysis methodology, which places restorative practices in a broad context besides considering important methods to study. This essay is founded on the unintended effects of conventional punitive approaches to school discipline. The findings of this research indicate that combining restorative procedures with social-emotional learning practices equips students with important skills like communication, empathy, kindness, and caring. Overall, this article is of good quality for future research to agitate for more constructive alternatives which foster a healthy and productive learning climate in schools.
Kervick, C. T., Garnett, B., Moore, M., Ballysingh, T. A., & Smith, L. C. (2020). Introducing Restorative Practices in a Diverse Elementary School to Build Community and Reduce Exclusionary Discipline: Year One Processes, Facilitators, and Next Steps. School Community Journal, 30(2), 155-183.
This article explores the effectiveness of restorative practices in American schools in improving school climate and reducing exclusionary discipline. The research aimed to answer questions like how restorative practices can be aligned with school behavioral structures. The researcher interviewed staff, parents, and teachers besides administering staff surveys. Findings showed that strong leadership influences the implementation of restorative practices’ community development. This article lays the foundation for future research on evaluating restorative practices, understanding best practices, and developing recommendations for sustaining fidelity development with time.
Lustick, H., Norton, C., Lopez, S. R., & Greene-Rooks, J. H. (2020). Restorative practices for empowerment: A social work lens. Children & Schools, 42(2), 89-97.
This article discusses using preventive practices like social-emotional learning and restorative procedures to reduce suspension rates. This research aimed to examine the challenges and successes of community-building circles on the basis of inclusion and equity after implementation. This study collected data through interviews with students and teachers. Findings showed that the nature of implementing restorative practices depended on the relationships between teachers and students, and training should be conducted consistently across schools and classes to maintain this relationship. Generally, this article’s quality is superb and lays the foundation for future research to find more information about race with a restorative context.
Motsinger, S. E. (2018). Social-Emotional Learning and restorative practices and its impact on perceptions of teacher and student relationships (Doctoral dissertation, San Diego State University).
This research is about the perception of students and teachers in an institution that has made a persistent investment in restorative practices and social-emotional learning practices. The author utilizes qualitative research that includes semi-structured interviews with administrators, students, and teachers. His research questions aimed at the perceptions of the school fraternity on the impacts of restorative practices on the relationship between administrators, teachers, and students. Findings indicate that students demonstrated strong relationships with their teachers because they are motivated and taught by their teachers to have empathy. Overall, this study is of superb quality and lays the foundation for future research on the implications of restorative practices on educators and policymakers.
Raffenbeul, N. (2019). The Impact of Restorative Practices on Discipline Data and Procedures in Schools.
This article highlights the effects of restorative practices on procedures and discipline data in schools. This research aims to evaluate restorative practices and their effects on processes and discipline data in an educational system. The research question in this paper aimed to provide the solution to the impact of restorative justice on behaviors and procedures in schools. This research design involves evaluating the effects of restorative justice in different schools. Overall findings in this research show that restorative practices are the most viable discipline alternatives to traditional punitive procedures. Schools that implemented restorative practices programs reported a school climate change that reflected mutual concern and respect.
Among the insights gained about this topic, school social workers also play an integral role in implementing social-emotional learning practices. According to Lustick et al. (2020), social workers work together with teachers and counselors to start a circle practice that is trauma-informed, culturally responsive, and antiracist. In other words, social workers can empower marginalized students by helping teachers recognize and address unconscious bias in classroom discipline procedures. Although many research papers focus on restorative circles, many forms of restorative practices exist. Raffenbeul (2019) highlights family group conferencing, circles, restoration conferences, and victim-offender mediation as key categories of healthy school practices. These categories embrace various strategies based on understanding communication and relationship-fostering principles.
Additionally, integrating social-emotional learning with restorative practices improves relationships between teachers and students. According to Motsinger (2018), good relationships between teachers and students enhance the learning environment, and students gain a lot. Relationships between teachers and students can be determined through observed interactions between teachers and students, including the teacher’s responsiveness to student needs, feedback quality, and student perspective. Such interactions can be evidenced in either through classroom organizations, emotional support, and instructional support.