Social, Emotional, and Essential

It’s rare when child development, education, and health experts reach a consensus, but it happened. All agree that social and emotional skills matter to kids’ growth and well-being.
November 2018, Volume 42, Issue 3

It’s rare when child development, education, and health experts reach a consensus, but it happened. All agree that social and emotional skills matter to kids’ growth and well-being.

Positive Outcomes

Decades of research suggest that preparing children to be caring, ethical, contributing adults requires supporting them to develop social, emotional, and character skills. This means focusing and deploying attention, understanding and managing emotions, empathizing with and respecting others, navigating social conflicts effectively, and standing up for principles of justice and fairness.

Students who learn these social-emotional skills reap far-reaching and long-term benefits. Says who? Years of research. It shows:

  • Classrooms function more effectively and student learning increases.
  • Children are more likely to have better grades and earn higher standardized test scores.
  • Students are more likely to make and sustain friendships.
  • Children are equipped to better handle negative life events and chronic stressors.

Effective SEL Programs

No matter the level of instruction of SEL in schools, there’s always room for improvement. Some key features in SEL programs have been shown to result in the highest level of success.

SEL efforts are most successful when they are presented within a support system, build adult competencies, consider the broader community as opposed to just in schools, target a key set of skills across multiple domains of development, and set reasonable, reachable goals.

Overcoming Challenges

Despite the impressive and expanding body of evidence in favor of programs and interventions focused on SEL skills, challenges remain. Consider what challenges you’ve worked to overcome in your school. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Ensuring sufficient exposure and intensity.
  • Prioritizing and integrating SEL into daily practices.
  • Extending SEL beyond classrooms.
  • Ensuring sufficient staff support and training.
  • Facilitating program ownership and buy-in.
  • Using data to inform decision-making.
  • Applying and transferring skills.

If you’ve encountered these challenges, know they’re common challenges across the board, but there are ways to overcome them.

How to Use the Guide

To dive deeper into these issues, check out the latest issue of Leading Lessons on social and emotional learning.

Designed to use with your staff members, this guide features two areas of discussion: developing SEL instructional skills and SEL in out-of-school settings. Within those sections, you’ll find the following to get your team thinking about strategy:

  • Key considerations: Factors to keep in mind for any school looking to develop an SEL program.
  • Reflections: Questions to ask yourself and your team when looking to develop an SEL program for your particular school and circumstances.

The guide also provides an extensive list of resources that will help your school partner with the right program for your school’s needs. Whether your focus area for SEL is interpersonal skills, character, cognitive regulation, emotional processes, or mindset, these resources have you covered. Each resource gives a percentage of how much it focuses on one of these key areas.

Research highlights are from the Wallace SEL Knowledge Center, with a particular emphasis on the 2017 Navigating SEL from the Inside Out report.

Copyright © 2018. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.

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