The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions (2017).
For a growing number of classrooms, schools, and districts, SEL serves as a coordinating framework for how educators can partner with families and communities to promote students’ social, emotional, and academic learning.
The benefits of focusing on SEL, in addition to academics, are manifold. In the short term, students are more successful in school and daily life when they:
Weissberg (2016) highlights a range of other benefits, including:
In the long run, Weissberg emphasizes that greater social and emotional competence can increase the likelihood of many other educational and personal outcomes, such as: high school graduation, readiness for postsecondary education, career success, positive family and work relationships, improved mental health, reduced criminal behavior, and engaged civic participation.
CASEL’s framework emphasizes integrating skills, attitudes, and behaviors in five core competencies.
Daily interactions with teachers and peers in classrooms is a primary place for students to engage in SEL. Effective programs incorporate four elements that are necessary to successful implementation and achievement of student outcomes: Connected and coordinated sets of activities aimed at fostering skill development; active forms of learning to promote student acquisition of new skills; emphasis on developing personal and social skills; and targeting the specific social and emotional skills outlined in the competencies.
Teachers can take a number of actions to incorporate SEL into the classroom:
In addition to SEL-specific learning activities, teachers can also naturally support students in acquiring these skills through interpersonal and student-centered instructional interactions. SEL can be used as a vehicle for teachers to build relationships with students, students to build relationships with each other, and to rethink how conflict and discipline are addressed. Ultimately, teacher practices should aim to provide students with emotional support; create opportunities for students' voice, autonomy, and mastery experiences; and promote student engagement in the educational process.
SEL in schools starts with the establishment of policies, practices, and structures to promote a safe and supportive learning environment, which positively affect academic, behavioral, and mental health outcomes for students.
School leaders can play a critical role in developing climate and student support services. Key amongst these activities are:
To successfully integrate SEL into school policies, practices, and structures, school leaders are encouraged to develop a vision for the school that prioritizes academic, social, and emotional learning, conduct an SEL-specific resources and needs assessment, and then align new programs and policies to the vision and needs of the school. This includes designing and implementing effective professional learning programs to build internal capacity for SEL, adopting and implementing evidence-based programs, integrating SEL into curriculum instruction, schoolwide practices and policies, and family and community engagement efforts. School leaders also play a critical role in establishing processes to continuously improve SEL through inquiry and data collection.
Setting goals and benchmarks through SEL standards is critical to ensuring that programs are on track to help students develop social and emotional skills. On a national level, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have attempted to include SEL-related skills in two domains: the interpersonal domain, which encompasses teamwork, collaboration, and leadership; and the intrapersonal domain, which encompasses intellectual openness, work ethic/conscientiousness, and positive self-evaluation. However, the CCSS is not comprehensive in terms of SEL needs, neither in terms of standards or assessment.
There are a range of tools available, particularly a number of behavior rating scales, to help schools effectively assess SEL. The American Institutes for Research (AIR), in partnership with CASEL, has developed the Ready to Assess suite of tools to help schools think through the purpose, rigor, practicalities and burdens, and ethics of assessment for SEL.
SRI is equipped to help schools determine the purpose of their assessment and to design surveys that assess a variety of components critical to SEL, including:
SRI is happy to help schools looking to assess students’ SEL and the practices, policies, and structures intended to help students acquire those skills, mindsets, and behaviors.
American Institutes Research. (2015) Are you ready to assess social and emotional development? http://www.air.org/resource/are-you-ready-assess-social-and-emotional-development
Collaborative for Academic, Social, & Emotional Learning
Denham, Susanne. (2016) https://www.edutopia.org/blog/tools-assess-sel-in-schools-susanne-a-denham
Weissberg, Roger. (2016) https://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-sel-essential-for-students-weissberg-durlak-domitrovich-gullotta