Professional Development

NAA publishes fresh, new content every week covering a wide variety of topics related to the field of aftershool. In addition, NAA offers a variety of opportunities for virtual professional development (PD) through meaningful content, conversations and connections. Click here to see full descriptions of virtual PD offerings.

Improving Climate and Delivery of SEL for Youth

Early Lessons from Schools and Out-of-School Time Programs Implementing Social and Emotional Learning presents findings from the first two years of the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI), a multiyear effort exploring whether and how children can benefit from partnerships between schools and OST programs focused on building social and emotional skills.

The report, authored by the RAND Corporation, focuses on the six communities taking part in the initiative funded by The Wallace Foundation and is designed to be useful to those carrying out SEL instruction in schools, out-of-school-time programs or both.

When it comes to improving climate and delivery of SEL for youth, evidence cited in the report suggests that SEL work is more successful at improving climate and student outcomes when it is implemented school- or program-wide.

The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development identified three core approaches to implementing SEL for students, which are discussed in the report as: Setting a positive climate; offering explicit SEL instruction to students; and integrating SEL into academic instruction and OST activities. Those three components, along with school-OST partnerships, are the primary mechanisms through which the 38 PSELI sites studied work to improve students' SEL outcomes.

The report offered several key takeaways and early lessons related to climate and delivery found from the PSELI communities studied:

• SEL rituals and routines were a good starting point for promoting a positive climate. The six communities adopted SEL rituals and routines in schools and OST programs, drawing primarily on CASEL's three signature practices: welcoming inclusion activities, such as greeting each student by name; engaging strategies, such as students working together; and optimistic closures to reflect on the day's activities. Some interviewed staff reported that these rituals and routines had a positive effect on school and OST program climate.

• Time for stand-alone SEL lessons was often cut short. Across communities, most of the 38 schools had planned to offer at least 30 minutes of explicit SEL instruction each week during the 2018–2019 school year. And in three of the six communities, system leaders planned for OST programs to offer explicit SEL lessons, with frequency ranging from daily to weekly. But teachers and OST instructors were not always able to offer the full lessons because of interruptions or unexpected demands on school or program schedules.

• Most of the schools adapted the SEL curriculum used. According to interviews, common reasons for adapting a curriculum were to shorten the lessons or to adapt portions of the curriculum to meet the needs of specific groups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. Staff in all six communities expressed a need for curriculum materials that would be appropriate to a diverse student body.

• SEL content sequences for OST programs were in an early stage of development. OST programs had substantially fewer published SEL materials to choose from than schools did. The OSTIs took several approaches to address this gap: Working with sites to pilot new OST materials from developers that had existing, established school-based curricula; writing their own content; and using existing school-based curricula. In the report's spring 2019 observations, it was found that the highest frequency of SEL instruction in OST programs occurred in a community that had piloted OST lessons created by the developer of the SEL curriculum that schools were using.

• Guidance about how to integrate SEL into academics and regular classes lagged behind guidance about how to deliver stand-alone SEL lessons. PSELI communities had not provided formal guidance to instructors about how to integrate SEL into academics and activities by the end of the second year of PSELI participation. Yet most site-level interviewees described their own efforts to do this, primarily through pedagogical practices that they viewed as consistent with high-quality instruction. Although the interviewees typically did not attribute these efforts to PSELI or describe them as SEL, the report's interviews, observations, and survey data suggest that such practices were common.

Ultimately, there were several early lessons and recommendations related to improving climate and delivery. The report suggests creating clear guidance documents that define SEL rituals and routines and provide explicit direction regarding how, when, and with what frequency to implement SEL practices. It also noted the importance of including protected time for SEL in the master schedule, making a realistic allocation that reflects necessary transition times and arrivals, as well as student energy levels during the day.

Additionally, the report suggests providing explicit guidance to staff on how to integrate SEL instruction into school-day academics and OST activities, including specific pedagogical strategies and lesson content (such as how to collaborate effectively) that instructors can easily implement across subject areas and types of activities. SEL standards in schools and OST programs' continuous quality improvement processes can help frame this guidance.

To read more on the topic of improving climate and delivery of SEL for youth, read the report in its entirety by clicking here.

Courtesy of NAA.

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.