This fall, UCI School of Education doctoral student Jenny Woo showcased her social-emotional learning activity, 52 Essential Conversations, during the university’s campus-wide Honors Program’s New Student Orientation.
The learning activity contains questions designed to develop life skills in six categories: self-awareness, relationship skills, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Examples of questions include: “what is the bravest thing you’ve done, and how did you do it and feel afterward,” and “think of a good friend – how do they make you feel and how should friends make you feel?”
"This seemed to be a great way for students to get to know other students in a much deeper way than the traditional academic-y 'what's your major and what are your aspirations,'" said Woo, a second-year doctoral student specializing in Human Development in Context.
Students and administrators were both enthusiastic about the conversations generated by the activity.
"They were great conversation starters and provided fruitful interactions between Honors Peer Mentors and Mentees,” added Arianna Warner, honors advisor, Campuswide Honors.
"This workshop truly changed the way I saw myself and my future," said one of the student mentors. "52 Essential Conversations helped me navigate through the question, 'Who are you?' After taking the training and participating in this workshop, I had a clear plan for my future and became confident in the person I am. Not only that, but I also had meaningful discussions with my peers about values and morals, which helped me become more socially aware. I recommend this workshop to all college students struggling to find their own path!"
Since its introduction in May 2018, 52 Essential Conversations has been used in 44 countries by parents, teachers, special educators, counselors, social workers, therapists, and community members.
Responding to the success of the initial orientation workshops, Woo is recruiting undergraduates for research associate and facilitator positions to help scale up the presentation format for wider implementation. "In 2020, I would like to see workshops available for all class standings, including graduate students," Woo said.
Woo recently developed a complementary emotional intelligence game, 52 Essential Relationships, using the same format but focused on emotional mastery, communication skills, productive mentorship, and conflict resolution.
Jenny Woo's research interests included social-emotional learning, development of executive functions, family engagement, motivation, identity development, and critical consciousness. Woo, who holds a master's degree in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University and a MBA from UC Berkeley, has worked as a human capital consultant, executive coach, Montessori language director, career coach, and university instructor. Woo created 52 Essential Conversations as a research project while a master's student at Harvard. As a parent and a teacher, she saw a need to help children develop skills for life. She is advised by Chancellor's Professor Carol Connor.