Making the Case for Social-Emotional Learning Programs

Vol. 16 No. 8

PSN eletter vol15 no8 sociollearnin

We recently highlighted social-emotional learning programs when discussing the topic of diversity within private-independent schools. A new study shows that social-emotional learning (SEL) programs can have a tremendous impact on students’ overall academic performance and well-being.

SEL programs focus on helping children develop positive emotional skills. They typically concentrate on at least one of the following five components: self-awareness (the ability to recognize and label one’s feelings); self-management (regulating emotions and managing stress); social awareness (showing empathy and appreciating others' perspectives); relationship skills (clearly communicating and engaging in constructive conflict resolution); and responsible decision-making (considering feelings, goals, alternatives, and outcomes).

Researchers compiled data collected from a number of studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, the University of British Columbia, and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). The behaviors and actions of more than 97,000 children in kindergarten through high school were analyzed. The students were from the U.S. and Europe, and of differing races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The findings speak for themselves. Students exposed to SEL programs ranked an average 13 percentile points higher than their non-SEL peers when it came to academic performance. They demonstrated a 6% higher secondary school graduation rate, and an 11% higher college attendance and graduation rate. They also displayed higher social and emotional competencies and were less likely to have anxiety and behavior problems.

Much can be said for these benefits. An interesting note is that the students in these programs were exposed to SEL in many different ways. Some schools incorporated aspects of SEL into their lesson plans in the classroom, others built it into their curriculum, and some focused on it as part of their overall mission.

Private-independent schools work toward their own unique mission, so existing SEL programs differ based on current standings and desired outcomes. But this study highlights the positive impact social-emotional learning initiatives can have on students.

If you haven’t already done so, consider working with your fellow administrators to consider your mission and programs to see whether SEL initiatives make sense for your school. They can have a lasting impact on your students, extending long after they leave your campus.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for School Heads Vol. 15 No. 5 Why We Need to Change From Diversity to Inclusiveness
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 12 No. 2 Dealing With Emotional Outbursts in the Classroom

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 39 No. 3 Conflict Resolution: Moving From Risk and Toxicity to Predictability and Support
I&P Vol. 42 No. 4 The Three Spheres of Influence: School Culture
I&P Vol. 39 No. 16 Establishing Student Achievement Levels


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