Social-Emotional Learning - Challenge Map

Social-Emotional Learning

Social-Emotional Learning

The Challenge

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 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’ SEL skills and competencies, including empathy, collaboration, and decision-making. But it can be 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.

Challenge Stats


Respondents reported this challenge is widespread


Respondents reported they experience this challenge often


Respondents reported this challenge is urgent

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.

In the Words of District Staff

SEL was not a major priority previously in our district, though this year we started seeing a growing need for it during face to face instruction. [During COVID-19], SEL has become vital. Many of the educators we work with recognize this need but do not have the resources or development necessary to implement SEL well with their learners.
District-level teacher support specialist
Spring 2020

“We want teachers who are willing to try to learn anything that could help kids be able to move academically and through social-emotional learning, which we're probably spending more time talking about right now than academic learning.”

“We see SEL as something that is not apart from technology but that technology allows you to actually build SEL competencies with kids. It's everything from teaching kids how to be great citizens to being able to elevate kids voices around causes of social justice or activism on behalf of community issues.”


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 - 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.

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