Key takeaways

  • Effective implementation of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) requires more than just weekly lessons; it necessitates building relationships, consistency, and integration across all aspects of school life.
  • Utilizing resources like CASEL's framework can guide schools in organizing, implementing, and continuously improving their SEL programs, fostering a supportive environment for students, staff, and parents alike.
  • A well-executed SEL plan leads to students who are empathetic problem-solvers, supported by a cohesive school community, resulting in improved attendance, enhanced academic achievement, and overall positive school culture.

Some scenarios of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) implementation for you:

  1. The district has bought a new program where the guidance counselor comes once a week to deliver the social and emotional learning lessons to your class. Is this the most effective use of anyone's time? Being an elementary school teacher, having a ‘distance’ teacher deliver these sessions,  these are going to have very little impact if it’s limited to once a week for thirty minutes.  First of all, educators know that learning social and emotional skills are best done with someone you have a safe and stable relationship with and secondly, if you want children to apply the learning into everyday life this needs to be encouraged, reinforced, and celebrated when it happens. 

  2. You may be in a district that is expecting class teachers to deliver social and emotional learning within the curriculum of the classroom, this works well if you feel confident enough to do this and have the right resources to support you.

  3. The school district has implemented a social and emotional program that is based in classrooms but has given no thought about how this needs to be supported in the district discipline code, the messages to parents, the ethos in schools, the focus of the district on student wellbeing, the consistency of approaches in different classrooms, etc. 

Hopefully, you are not in any of the situations above, but if you are, you should consider a new way of looking at SEL implementation and how that is best achieved in schools. There are a couple of resources that can help with this.

CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) is an organization that was founded in 1994 by notable national leaders within the area of social and emotional aspects of life. The aim of this group was to provide educators with resources to support high-quality, evidence-based, social, and emotional learning, seeing it as being a vital part of the education of all students from Pre-K to 12th grade. They offer guidance on how to implement a district-wide social and emotional learning program, thinking about all aspects of schools where social and emotional learning has influence. Within their resources, they also offer a framework for school-wide implementation of social and emotional learning and look at aspects that are wider than classroom instruction.

The CASEL school-wide implementation plan is arranged into three sections; organize, implement, and improve.  Within these sections, there are focus areas to support with the implementation of social and emotional learning across the school.  

CI for Systemic SELsource: CASEL 

Section 1: Organize

  • Focus Area 1a: Build awareness, commitment and ownership/Build foundational support 

  • Focus Area 1b: Create a shared plan

The main aim of organize is to establish a SEL team within the school who review the current practice to get a baseline of what needs to happen next. The team start to develop plans on how to promote the ideas of social and emotional learning to the staff so that they feel confident enough to deliver lessons in SEL to their students. The SEL team, with the whole staff group then consider all the aspects of SEL that need to develop in school.  Devising a shared plan to be able to build a firm structure to grow the SEL ideas on.   

Section 2: Implement

  • Focus Area 2: Strengthen Adult SEL Competencies and Capacity

  • Focus Area 3: Promote SEL for students

The main aim of implementation is to put into operation the shared plan that was constructed, specifically thinking about the elements of building staff skills in the area and how to support instruction and development of SEL for students. Within this area, it is also establishing structures for the staff team to be able to help and support each other in developing SEL in school.  The development of parent awareness and support along with partnerships to support SEL outside school is an element here.       

Section 3: Improve

  • Focus Area 4: Practice continuous improvement

The main aim of improvement is to see the process of developing SEL within the school as an ongoing system, so once the original plan has been executed, the next plan is developed and implemented. Alongside this, the idea that review what is being done and necessary changes to make sure that the SEL provision is of high quality and meets the needs of the student cohort, by improving their skills and understanding in the area.   

The system of organizing, implementing, and improving is not a completely new concept in schools. This is how schools develop and grow in the initiatives that they put in place, but the CASEL guide is very helpful in thinking about SEL in schools and all the factors that come into play when dealing with this.

By using the CASEL guidance and implementing a schoolwide system for SEL, hopefully, you will have scenarios like this:

Students who understand how to learn with others can problem-solve when things go wrong in an empathic way. They can talk about how things feel and how that affects them. The administration within the school deals with rare negative behavior incidents in a supportive way that develops the students’ concept of responsible decision-making. The staff within the school work in a consistent collegiate manner that helps social skills grow across the grade levels. Parents and community partners feel that they can raise issues within the school and feel part of the development process. The school district has supported rigorous planning for SEL by providing time and resources to make this happen. Finally, the attendance is 98%+ and the attainment of students has rapidly improved over the time that the SEL plan has been in place.  

The CASEL Framework: What is it and how does it affect my classroom?

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In conclusion, effective implementation of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) goes beyond mere classroom lessons; it requires a holistic approach encompassing relationship-building, consistency, and integration across all aspects of school life. By leveraging resources such as CASEL's framework, schools can organize, implement, and continuously improve their SEL programs, fostering a supportive environment for students, staff, and parents alike. A well-executed SEL plan not only equips students with the skills to navigate challenges empathetically but also cultivates a positive school culture, leading to improved attendance, enhanced academic achievement, and overall student well-being. By embracing SEL and following structured implementation strategies, schools can pave the way for a brighter future, where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

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Author: Nicola Jones-Ford

Posted: 10 Nov 2020

Estimated time to read: 9 mins

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