Executive Extra

Monthly content focused on leadership exclusively for the Executive members of NAA.

SEL Considerations and Implementation Strategies

Early Lessons from Schools and Out-of-School Time Programs Implementing Social and Emotional Learning, a report by the RAND Corporation, offers early lessons for schools and out-of-school-time programs on how to carry out high-quality social and emotional learning instruction.

The report presents findings from the first two years of the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI), a multiyear effort funded by The Wallace Foundation exploring whether and how children can benefit from partnerships between schools and OST programs focused on building social and emotional skills.

The report, which focused on the six communities in PSELI, is designed to be useful to those carrying out SEL instruction in schools, out-of-school-time programs, or both, and should also be of interest to policymakers, SEL technical assistance providers, funders, researchers, and others who are considering supporting youth social and emotional development.

The report touches on SEL's growing importance among educators and policymakers, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and identifies the following three essential elements for supporting SEL, courtesy of The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development:

1. Establishing safe, relationship-based, and equitable learning environments.
2. Teaching and practicing social, emotional, and cognitive skills.
3. Embedding social, emotional, and cognitive skills into academic learning.

The report also goes into detail about what we know so far about implementing successful SEL—from a clearly defined vision and set of goals, to building staff capacity and more.

When it comes to launching and coordinating SEL work across multiple sites, the report found that regardless of the degree of influence and oversight that districts and OSTIs exert in OST programs, they play an indispensable role in supporting site-level implementation of multi-part initiatives. There were several key takeaways and early lessons from the PSELI communities studied:

  • A clearer vision for SEL, paired with desired "look-fors" could have supported a stronger launch.
  • Clear system-to-site communication required dedicated staff time.
  • Time constraints meant that this multi-part SEL project took more time to roll out than planned.
  • Churn and unanticipated external events have been the norm, not the exception, requiring the communities to adapt their PSELI work to make it more resilient.

For those looking to launch SEL efforts across multiple sites, the report suggests defining the targeted SEL skills and success prior to launching any SEL initiative, determining system-level supports needed for end users by working backwards, creating a manager role for the SEL effort, and creating onboarding materials in anticipation of staff turnover.

Partnerships between schools and OST programs are an additional integral facet to supporting youth development, especially due to the high potential to accelerate children's social and emotional development. When it comes to developing partnerships with schools to advance SEL efforts, the report found SEL outcomes are positively associated with stable and safe environments; strong and supportive relationships with multiple adults; consistent messages—particularly about expectations for positive behavior—across settings; and more practice in SEL. Based on the findings from studying the PSELI communities, the report found:

  • Being committed to SEL and taking the time to meet were important starting points for district-OSTI partnerships.
  • School-OST partnerships benefited from new structures to support collaboration and some new staff roles that bridged both settings.
  • Staff turnover posed serious challenges for district-OSTI and school-OST partnerships.
  • There was a perceived and actual power differential between schools and OST programs.
  • Joint professional development (PD) for school and OST staff was difficult to execute.
  • SEL rituals were a good starting point for OST and school staff to create continuity, which was deepened by use of consistent SEL curricula.

The report goes on to offer suggestions for successfully building these partnerships, including face-to-face meetings and documenting and formalizing SEL processes and routines.

To learn more and view the report in its entirety, click here.

Courtesy of NAA.