Social & Emotional Learning The authors hope that a summary of the evidence-based for social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, and recommendations for future research will encourage more initiatives in this field. Multiple Factors Can Influence SEL Program Outcomes SEL programs are coordinated curriculums in sequenced units that create the space and opportunity for people […]23 Nov 2023
What We Know, and What We Need To Find Out About School Social and Emotional Learning Programs
June 23, 2023
Social & Emotional Learning
The authors hope that a summary of the evidence-based for social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, and recommendations for future research will encourage more initiatives in this field.
Multiple Factors Can Influence SEL Program Outcomes
SEL programs are coordinated curriculums in sequenced units that create the space and opportunity for people to develop their SEL competencies. This could be done through individual classrooms or even through a whole school approach.
Multiple factors can interact to influence program outcomes in both the short and long term. These could include “school leadership, the social and emotional development of program providers, the quality of professional training and assistance that is offered, funding, and coordination and collaboration among multiple stakeholders.”
Universal programs and approaches refer to programs where all students and adults in the setting are engaged in SEL learning. This approach is the most practical with regard to learning time and the ability to integrate with other academic subjects. They also do not single out individual students to reduce the likelihood of stigma. A universal approach can be used with targeted approaches (Tier 2 and 3) to support the needs of individual students.
SEL Programs Show Positive Impact on Student Outcomes
This article reviews 12 meta-analyses of universal school-based SEL programs and interventions from early childhood education through high school, including 523 reports from different countries and covering about a million students.
The review shows that SEL programs have consistent positive impacts on student outcomes. These include “increased SEL skills, attitudes, prosocial behavior, and academic achievement, and decreased conduct problems and emotional distress.” When compared to other universal prevention programs SEL programs compare favorably with regard to reducing levels of conduct problems. For example, one study reports 11% more of the student body improved their conduct after participation in an SEL program.
While SEL programs have also been associated with an increase in academic performance when compared to other educational interventions only 76 studies reported on academic outcomes.
The authors did not find much consistency in the conditions and mechanisms to make SEL programs most effective. “Some programs achieve better results than others, but the reasons for this variability have yet to be explained.”
Further Research and Training Is Needed To Derive Even Better Results
The authors state that further research needs to be done around two important questions: “First, what skills for what youth developed at what ages lead to what types of short- and long-term outcomes? Second, what are the most important individual, ecological, methodological, and programmatic variables that promote or hinder the development of different SEL skills for school-aged youth and influence short- and long-term adjustment?”
Since SEL programs unequivocally have positive effects on students, SEL approaches should be integrated at different circular levels, and schools should train their teachers in pedagogical strategies that promote SEL skills. At the end of the day “researchers, policy makers, and practitioners should collaborate in working toward an understanding of what works best for whom, when, why, and under what conditions” in order to serve the diverse needs of all students.
“Researchers, policy makers, and practitioners should collaborate in working toward an understanding of what works best for whom, when, why, and under what conditions.”
“Some programs achieve better results than others, but the reasons for this variability have yet to be explained.”
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) can be broadly defined as the “process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2020; Niemi, 2020).”
A robust evidence base shows that universal SEL programs have varied positive effects on students. It highlights the need for schools to develop and implement purposeful universal (Tier 1) SEL curriculums that help students, and educators, cultivate the skills and environments they need to improve their SEL competencies. These programs should be integrated across subjects and divisions and involved multiple perspectives and stakeholders in the planning process since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this type of programming. — Ayla Reau
Durlak, J. A., Mahoney, J. L., & Boyle, A. E. (2022). What we know, and what we need to find out about universal, school-based social and emotional learning programs for children and adolescents: A review of meta-analyses and directions for future research. Psychological Bulletin, 148(11-12), 765–782.