Many districts are interested in a more holistic view of student success, looking beyond academics to understand how to support students’ social and emotional well-being. Schools and districts are noticing strained social relationships, a new version of bullying, and a climate of isolation in some schools. They wonder if mobile devices and social media contribute, and if so, how to mitigate the effects. In order to cultivate a climate of openness and belonging, school leaders are interested in building students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and competencies, including empathy, collaboration, and citizenship (including digital). But it can difficult to integrate SEL into curriculum, especially since these skills haven’t typically been taught or assessed. Schools are also unsure who should be responsible for teaching these topics, and which instructional methods should be used.
In the Words of District Leaders
“We want teachers who are willing to try to learn anything that’s going to help kids be able to move academically and through social emotional learning, which we’re probably spending more time talking about now than academic learning.”
“Our digital resources and platforms have given us the ability to disengage with one another on a very significant level. Whether it’s, ‘Oh, I need to do my homework so I can’t talk to you,’ or ‘I’m going to text you even though your five feet from me. I’m not going to have a conversation…’ I think social emotional practices really come back to building those individual relationships to develop that climate of openness as opposed to a climate of isolation.”
Ideas from the Field
- Districts are incorporating SEL initiatives in classrooms as well as the whole school. These efforts include hosting student-led conversations, launching wellness centers where counselors link students, families, & outside professionals when necessary, and prevention-focused programming for classroom teachers.
- One initiative issues badges to students for demonstrating agreed-upon, discussed traits of model school community members. This includes demonstrating positive character traits, engaging in service, and other non-academic measures a district identifies as important.
Check out the following research-based resources for more information about social-emotional learning.
Identity, Behavior & Relationships topic page – From Digital Promise, an introduction and key findings from the research on social development and relationships and social and emotional learning interventions, including links to additional resources.
The Brain Basis for Integrated Social, Emotional, and Academic Development – This research brief from the Aspen Institute, National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development explores how emotions and relationships drive learning and are a fundamental part of how our brains develop.
We All Teach SEL: Inspiring Activities for Every Classroom – This 11-part blog series from Common Sense Education offers quick, practical tips and tools for integrating SEL into any classroom — no matter the subject or grade.
Navigating Social and Emotional Learning from the Inside Out – This The Wallace Foundation report looks at 25 top SEL programs to identify and summarize key features and attributes of programming for elementary-age children to help schools and OST providers make informed decisions.
SEL Resource Library – From CASEL, this comprehensive collection of high-quality SEL tools and resources can inform and support educators, researchers, policymakers, and parents who are leading SEL work in the field.
SEL & Habits of Success Instructional Strategies – BetterLesson offers 30 specific strategies for preparing students with the SEL skills needed to succeed in school and in life.