By Katrina Schwartz
More schools are working to change school culture through programs aimed at improving the social and emotional skills of students. The lessons directly teach young people how to interact with one another in positive ways, deal with anger, and solve problems, and new studies show they improve academic performance, too. As more schools try this approach, researchers have begun paying closer attention to the effects of social and emotional learning on behavior and academic achievement.
That research is showing that social and emotional learning (SEL) is crucial to mitigating the social problems that inherently exist in schools and detract from learning. These programs are much more than an anti-bullying strategy – they teach life skills.
To that end, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning – better known as CASEL – has spearheaded the effort to evaluate and measure the positive effects of social and emotional learning programs. The organization is releasing a new report that updates the guide released 10 years ago, when this movement was in its infancy.
The 2013 CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs reflects increased rigor in evaluation of programs and draws from the more than 200 studies on SEL learning that have been published in Child Development. CASEL has also designated 23 programs as SELect because they are well-designed for classroom-based instruction, include training and other implementation support for teachers, and are evidence-based. Many of the programs that received the SELect designation went through randomized control trials, while others were evaluated, but only in what the report calls a “quasi-experimental” manner, meaning conditions were assigned to groups in a non-random way.
"Social and emotional learning involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions,” the report states.