As the benefits of social-emotional learning (SEL) have become clear, schools have seen a blossoming of programs that aim to equip students with fundamental executive function, emotional, and interpersonal skills. But with so many areas of focus under the SEL umbrella, how can system leaders choose which program will be effective in their specific settings?
For the first time, a new guide takes a deep dive into 25 evidence-based SEL programs, outlining and comparing their curricula and programmatic features. System leaders can use the report to select from among the top SEL programs and find the one that will work best in their settings.
The guide, created by developmental psychologist Stephanie Jones and her research team, acknowledges that for an SEL program to be effective, it must work to develop key skills across the many domains of childhood development, and — importantly — it must promote and support teachers’ own social and emotional competencies as well. The program should also set reasonable short- and long-term goals and build partnerships with the family-school community.
But implementing such a comprehensive program can be challenging. Teachers may face difficulties finding sufficient time to devote to SEL lessons, integrating those lessons into academic content, or extending them to hallways, the cafeteria, recess, and out-of-school time. It can also be tough for administrators to thoroughly train all faculty and staff and to make them feel the program is relevant — and not burdensome. And many schools struggle to use data to pinpoint their specific needs and to monitor the effectiveness of the program.
The report outlines how, and to what extent, specific programs address these challenges, parsing out each program’s strengths. To find a strong SEL program that incorporates the components that best fit your school’s needs, review the report’s longer profiles of individual programs, which include each program’s components as well as the SEL skills targeted and instructional methods used.
These are the variables you can assess, to help you determine which program is the right fit for your district. Certain SEL programs may:
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Stephanie Jones researches social-emotional problems and competencies in childhood and adolescence focusing on issues related to inequality and stressed, vulnerable contexts. She also designs, implements and evaluates strategies and programs that integrate social-emotional and academic learning.