Social and Emotional Learning in Schools: Excerpts from a Helpful Overview

A large-scale meta-analysis of 213 studies involving over 270,000 students confirmed that SEL [social-emotional learning] produces significant positive effects in six different aspects of adjustment. These outcomes included improvements in academic performance, SEL skills, prosocial behaviors, and attitudes toward self and others (e.g., self-esteem, bonding to school), as well as reductions in conduct problems and emotional distress (e.g., anxiety and depression). [Emphasis added.]

Teachers were more successful when conducting programs than were outside staff members who entered the school to administer programs. This indicated that SEL interventions can be incorporated into routine educational practice. [Emphasis added.]

Unfortunately, most programs are introduced into schools as a succession of fragmented fads, isolated from other programs, and the school becomes a hodgepodge of prevention and youth development initiatives, with little direction, coordination, sustainability, or impact.

Many teachers respond favorably to the possibility of providing SEL programming to their students, although they need administrative and policy support to do so effectively. Their efforts are enhanced when … leaders champion a vision, policies, professional learning communities, and supports for coordinated classroom, schoolwide, family, and community programming. [Emphasis added.]

Families, educators, and community members seek to raise children who are knowledgeable, responsible, caring, and socially competent—on their way to becoming positive family members and neighbors, contributing citizens, and productive workers. We want to ensure that all students attain mastery in all academic subjects and become culturally literate, intellectually reflective, and lifelong learners. We also want to teach young people to interact in socially skilled and respectful ways with their families, peers, and school staff and community members; to practice safe and healthy behaviors; and to develop work habits and dispositions for college, career, and life success.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning includes five competence domains in its framework for SEL:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social-awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making

Excerpts from “Social and Emotional Learning: Past, Present, and Future” by Roger P. Weissberg, Joseph A. Durlak, Celene E. Domitrovich, and Thomas P. Gullota in the Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice.

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