Deutsch Intern
    Chair of Special Education V - Education for People with Emotional and Behavioural Disorders


    Socioemotional Development with Ladders of Learning


    Applicant: Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller, University of Würzburg, in cooperation with Dr. Stefanie Roos, TU Dortmund, Dr. Christine Schmalenbach, Nehemiah International University El Salvador, and Anja Grieser

    Cooperating schools: Katholische Hauptschule Marl; Mittelschule München an der Lehrer-Wirth-Straße

    Title of the project: SeELe - socioemotional development with ladders of learning

    Foundation: Heidehof-Stiftung GmbH

    1. Objective

    The programme "SeELe" (socioemotional development with ladders of learning) was developed to provide materials that promote the social and emotional development of students, aged 10 to 15, in school and other pedagogical settings. These materials justice to the heterogeneity of children and young people by structured individual learning activities and dealing independently with individual and joint tasks at their own pace of learning.

    2. Background

    According to an interactionist understanding, the handling of emotions and social behaviour develop in interaction with the social environment (cf. Stein/Müller 2015). This development takes place differently for each person. Basic emotional-social skills are indispensable for a democratic society (cf. Pepper 2017). The project "SeELe" combines aspects of the MultiGradeMultiLevel-Methodology from India and Cooperative Learning in a ladder of learning with individual and common tasks to promote the socioemotional development. Both approaches were developed as a pedagogical-didactiv response to challenging framework and focus on the self-activitiy and interaction of pupils (cf. Müller 2016; Schmalenbach 2017).

    2.1 The MultiGradeMultiLevel-Methodology and its Ladders of Learning

    The MultiGradeMultiLevel-Methodology (MGML) was  developed by the Rishi Valley Institute for Educational Resources (RIVER) 30 years ago. It was originally created as part of the development of rural schools in poor and remote villages around Rishi Valley in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The concept was the answer to the challenges confronted by rural multi-grade schools: The significant heterogeneity of the pupils`age and level of education, a lack of identification with the school and the contents of lessons, school absenteeism and the ensuing learning gaps, and a teaching atmosphere marked by fear and pressure (cf. Müller 2016; Girg/Lichtinger/Müller 2012). Since its successful implementation in India, MGML has been adapted to other countries and is now used in various contexts worldwide. For that the concept is adapted to the local and regional conditions, for example in Ethiopia, Nepal and Kenya. In Germany, too, the ladders of learning have been successfully used several times in different forms and levels of school, among others with pupils in need of social-emotional development (cf. Müller/Lichtinger/Girg 2015).

    The ladders of learning are a central element of MGML. These visibly structure and secure the process of learning, allowing students to design their process of learning at their own pace. The ladders of learning are subdivided into milestones. These include thematically related actitivies and are subdivided into introduction, excercise (reinforcement), evaluation of the desired objective and if necessary remedial or enrichment. Symbols link the activities of the ladder of learning to acitivity cards and fitting materials. The learners visibly recognize their success while proceeding on the ladders of learning (cf. Müller 2012; 2016).

    2.2 Socioemotional Learning

    Emotional and social competences can be considered as key qualifications, too. Although both fields of competence are not identical, they are interconnected and interdependent (cf. Hartmann/Methner 2015, 12 and Schreyer-Mehlhop/Petermann/Siener/Petermann 2011, 202). They can be considered on a development continuum (cf. e.g. Berk 2011, 346) and can be specifically promoted. Success in life, e. g. in the academic field (cf. e. g. Jones/Bouffard 2012), is associated with the existence of an adequate level of social and emotional skills (cf. Halle/Darling-Churchill 2016, 9). The individual students of a school class have different emotional and social competences in different fields (cf. e. g. Stein/Müller 2015). Self-efficacy is a main factor for the development and continuation of socioemotionally competent behaviour (cf. e. g. Roos 2006, 96).

    2.3 Cooperative Learning

    Cooperative learning is a possibility to promote the development of social competences in school daily (cf. Davidson/Howell Major, 2014).  Lessons shall be organized in that way that pupils work together and support each other (cf. Souvignier 1999, 14). In doing so social processes are continual "dealt with, accentuated and structured" (Weidner 2008, 29).

    Cooperative learning is a widely evaluated teaching approach (cf. Slavin 1990). According to meta-analyses and reviews this teaching approach fosters school learning as well as social and emotional development of students (e. g. Johnson/Johnson 1989, 2002; Slavin 1990; Hattie 2009, Kyndt et. al. 2013), especially students from vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities, families with low income, students in the first three classes of the primary schools and urban schools (cf. Ginsburg-Block, Fatuzzo, and Rohrbeck 2006).

    3. The Project SeELe

    Since 2017 the ladder of learning has been developed in order to foster socioemotional competences during inclusive lessons, designed for students from grades 5 and 6. The ladder of learning is devided into five blocks.  Each of them represents a complex of topics, and progress to a new block is only allowed after having dealt with the block completely. The first three milestones introduce the topics of cooperation, communication and biography and serve as a careful approach to self-perception and experience. The following block of the ladder of learning addresses the basic emotions anger, sadness, fear and joy.  Children and youth are free to choose their sequence of processing between the systemically arranged milestones, whereby each milestone represents an emotion. The next block of the ladder of learning deals with emotions such as pride, shame and disgust. The fourth block of milestones deals with topics of relatedness such as friendship, relationship, sexuality as well as communication, cooperation and the resolution of conflicts. The last block addesses one`s own biography and an outlook on the future takes place. Moreover, there are cross-sectional themes that recur again and again such as self-concept, identity, self-efficacy.

    The ladder of learning provides a framework with acitivities alternating between individual-, partner- and group work. Common tasks implement the principles of cooperative learning as far as possible. Due to the application of reflection phases in small groups and transfer tasks, the ladder of learning is integrated in daily life of the children and young people. In the graphic implementation of the ladder of learning attention was paid to clarity and irritation reduction. The individual acitivies of each milestone are arranged around one topic image, which presents the theme in an abstract and impressive way. The colourful pictures give an insight into the topic and at the same time also encourage the students to fill them with their own perceptions and experiences.The work with materials is supported by clearly structured elements (e. g. symbols, numbers, clear and concise sentences).

    You will find a more detailled description of the project and its theoretical backgrounds at Schmalenbach, C., Roos, S., Müller, T. & Grieser, A. (2019). SeELe - Sozial-emotionale Entwicklung mit Lernleitern. Emotionale und Soziale Entwicklung 1, 174-184.

    Projects in this field up to now:

    • Since 2004 annually: university seminars with teacher training students and research stays in Rishi Valley (funded by DAAD 2007 and 2012 - 2017), India
    • Numerous training courses and lectures as well as university seminars on MGML-methodology in Germany and India
    • Visiting professor at IIT Madras, India (2012 - 2017)
    • Organization and implementation of der 1st World Conference on MGML-Methodology at IIT Madras, India 2016
    • Development and implementation of a two-year preschool curriculum including all materials on basis of the MGML-Methodology, India
    • Since 2017, scientific support of the Illeret Nomadic Education System: mobil schools for Dasanaach nomads, Kenya, based on the MGML-Methodology
    • Supervision of a PhD thesis on the effects of learning with ladders of learning (completed 01/2019) in special schools and their effects on the self-concept of school ability (longitudinal analysis, mixed methods)
    • Supervision of these final/master`s theses on learning with ladders of learning (at the University of Würzburg and TU Dortmund)
    • Since 2017, preparation and development of the SeELe-project together with Dr. Stefanie Roos (TU Dortmund) and Dr. Christine Schmalenbach (Nehemiah International, El Salvador) and Anja Grieser (special needs teacher)


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