Outcomes Beyond Test Scores—What Is Social-Emotional Learning?

From the executive summary: “Social-emotional learning (SEL) involves how students think and feel about themselves, get along with others, and regulate their attention and behavior. SEL plays an important role in students’ school and life outcomes. Although SEL may be disrupted under conditions of scarcity or stress, social-emotional skills are protective for students who face risk due to socioeconomic disadvantage or school difficulties. Opportunities abound to promote SEL in schools and classrooms. Education that has a combined academic and social-emotional focus offers the greatest value to students, schools, and society.

“To support children’s SEL, educators and policy makers should:

  • Support a wide range of effective school and afterschool SEL programs for children.
  • Help scale effective SEL practices to reach more classroom and school settings and ensure that all children are served.
  • Strengthen research on SEL to fill gaps in what we know, including best practices for integrating effective SEL practices into educational settings.”
Content Comments 

This is a short, nicely written article on SEL: what the field currently understands about its development from birth to grade 8, evidence of its effectiveness in school learning, and future directions for policy and research. Based on current work in SEL, it is not surprising that some areas of additional work are effective integration of SEL and academic learning, better measures of SEL, and more research of SEL in later adolescence. A helpful section in this article is a description of how social-emotional skills develop and change from birth to early adolescence. As the authors state in this paper, future SEL work “can only be addressed through strong and equal partnerships among policymakers, practitioners, and researchers” in the areas of SEL and academics” (p. 6). This paper begins the conversation by well presenting the landscape of SEL in research and practice.