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Promote Social-Emotional Development With Proven Programs

Recognizing the documented link between social and emotional learning (SEL) and academic success, a growing number of states have established K-12 standards for student social-emotional competence.

School leaders seeking programs that meet such standards will be interested in a new guide from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). The guide identifies 23 school-based programs that have successfully boosted students’ social and emotional learning (SEL). These research-tested programs can be delivered to the entire student body by existing school staff during the school day.

Looking to promote skills such as problem-solving, decision-making and self-control among elementary-level students? Improved classroom behavior and reduced bullying aren’t the only things to which schools can look forward. High-quality, evidence-based SEL programs also produce, on average, 11 percentile points’ worth of improvement in academic achievement.

In fact, studies show that SEL allows children to engage in learning and benefit from instruction. Further, research indicates that social and emotional skills are critical to successful and productive adulthood; SEL not only positively impacts attitudes about school, but also prevents aggression, mental health problems and substance use.

SEL program development has come a long way in recent years, with traditional classroom-based approaches expanding to include school-wide and district-wide implementation. The report identifies keys to successful implementation, including:

  • Choosing the right program, making sure that it (1) fits well with existing school efforts and activities and (2) matches well with students’ cultural and demographic background.
  • Reviewing sample program materials and watching the program in action at another school.
  • Preparing for the significant demands of implementation, including gaining staff buy-in, attending training, providing ongoing professional development and evaluating program impact.
  • Determining whether lessons are stand-alone or integrated with academics, which will help ensure that the number of required sessions or lessons per year is feasible in the context of other academic priorities.

Some of the programs meeting stringent CASEL criteria are:

PATHS - Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies: (Grades Pre-K to 6)  Promotes peaceful conflict resolution, emotion regulation, empathy and responsible decision making.

Second Step: (Grades Pre-K to 8)  Offers units on skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, friendship skills and problem solving.

Responsive Classroom: (Grades K to 6)  Creates classrooms that are responsive to children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs through developmentally appropriate educational experiences.

For more information on these quality programs and many more, read the CASEL report.

Related resources

EdWorld's School Climate Archive


Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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