SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) Matters

Hundreds of rigorous studies show SEL matters. SEL interventions improve academic outcomes, and are useful for:

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Managing emotions

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Cultivating empathy

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Problem solving

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Decision making

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Positive relationships

SEL skills can help children with better attitude and behaviors, closer friends, and superior academic performance (by up to 11 percentile points).

SEL may have positive impact up to 18-years later on several important outcomes: academics, emotional distress, conduct problems, drug use.

SEL skills in kindergarten are associated with lower law and order problems, lesser need for public assistance, and spending time in a detention facility.

A wide variety of groups support SEL: Teachers, Scientists, Parents, Employers, Educators, Principals, and Students.

We see SEL as not a practice or a program, but instead as a way of being. Here are ten perspectives on how we think about SEL:

1. SEL skills are as important as academic skills, for success at school, in relationships, at the workplace, and beyond.

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Research shows many students enter and exit school without the social and behavioral skills they need to succeed in life.

2. SEL skills impact every aspect and every stage of a student’s life.

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Physical health, mental health, behavior, academic achievement, relationships, problem solving skills – these are all affected by SEL skills.

3. SEL is a combined effort of students, teachers, staff, counselors, parents, and the community.

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SEL is best seen as part of an ecosystem that supports the child, rather than as a focused responsibility of SEL teachers to deliver the content and skills.

4. SEL approaches should be inexpensive, time-efficient, and integrated with academic curriculum.

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SEL approaches that are integrated with academic curriculum, affordable, and not time intensive will be the most scalable and impactful.

5. Attention and resilience are essential building blocks of SEL.

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Attention powerfully influences emotions, behavior, relationships, problem solving, and learning; weak attention interferes with improving most other skills.

6. SEL approaches aren’t just for the classroom; they should be a part of the entire school experience for everyone, everywhere, and every day (in the classroom, cafeteria, play ground, and more).

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SEL programs offered as once-a-week standalone classroom “interventions” show only modest positive results in research studies.

7. Implementation quality significantly affects benefits of SEL training.

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Training staff in implementation of the SEL approaches can improve its impact. SEL approaches should offer equitable and culturally responsive solutions, and involve active family and community participation.

8. Quality SEL approaches should promote positive relationships in multicultural societies, among peers, between teachers and students, and between families and the community.

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SEL approaches that emphasize relationships are particularly beneficial for self-regulation.

9. The most effective SEL approaches are well-designed, evidence-based, follow a developmental and sequential approach, are continuously improved through data driven feedback, and help foster positive habits through creating routines and supporting teachers, staff, parents and other members in their ownSEL journey.

10. Eventually, SEL isn’t just a commitment of the school or district administration. It is engagement of the school, district, state and country’s leadership at the highest level.

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