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Social and emotional learning

Social and emotional learning skills make good citizens, good learners and successful people. Our center is convening youth workers and policy makers, delivering trainings, and researching social and emotional learning and its contribution to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps.

Comments on this page? Curator: Kate Walker, PhD, associate Extension professor and Extension specialist

Youth Development Insight

Our faculty blog about research, issues and trends in the field. Join the conversation!


See all social and emotional learning blog posts

Reports & journal articles

The Evidence Base for How We Learn: Supporting Students' Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

The Aspen Institute
This research brief draws from brain science, medicine, economics, psychology, and education research to describe why it is essential to address the social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of learning; how these dimensions together shape students' academic and life outcomes; and how these competencies can be taught throughout childhood, adolescence, and beyond. The evidence outlined in this brief moves the nation beyond the debate as to whether schools should attend to students' social and emotional development, to how schools can integrate social, emotional, and academic development into their daily work. 2017.

The Future of Children: Social and Emotional Learning

The Wallace Foundation
This special issue of the journal The Future of Children examines the development of social and emotional learning (SEL) in school and afterschool settings, finding that these skills are essential for children and that teachers and OST staff need professional development to help children acquire them. 2017.

Navigating SEL from the Inside Out

Harvard Graduate School of Education with support from the Wallace Foundation
This in-depth guide to 25 evidence-based programs—aimed at elementary schools and OST providers—offers information about curricular content and programmatic features that practitioners can use to make informed choices about their SEL programs. The guide allows practitioners to compare curricula and methods across top SEL programs. It also explains how programs can be adapted from schools to out-of-school-time settings. 2017.

Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A toolkit of practical strategies and resources

Produced by Extension: Kate Walker, Brandi Olson and Margo Herman
This toolkit is a flexible set of practical tools, templates and activities that can be used with staff and youth to increase intensional practices that support social and emotional learning. It was developed to go along with the 3-hour training, Social and Emotional Learning in Practice and related issue briefs. 2017.

Beyond the Bell: Turning Research into Action in Afterschool and Expanded Learning

American Institutes for Research (AIR)
A series of briefs and tools focused on how afterschool programs can support the social and emotional development of young people. Designed to make research on the afterschool and expanded learning field accessible, easy to read, and ultimately useful in practice. 2016.

Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices in Social & Emotional Learning

Susan Crown Exchange (SCE) and the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality
This field guide of best practices and case examples sheds new light on how out-of-school programs can equip teens with the valuable social and emotional skills they need to succeed. It is the result of the Social and Emotional Learning Challenge, designed to identify promising practices for building skills in six areas: emotion management, empathy, teamwork, initiative, responsibility, and problem solving. 2016.

Are You Ready to Assess Social and Emotional Development?

American Institutes for Research (AIR)
A suite of tools to help education leaders, practitioners, and policymakers decide whether and how to assess social and emotional development. The toolkit includes a brief that invites users to "STOP" and learn about the landscape of SEL assessment, a decision tree that helps users "THINK" about whether and how to use SEL assessments, and a tools index that empowers users to "ACT" with confidence to choose from a list of the selected SEL outcomes tools. 2015.

Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework

The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
Academic skills are not the only thing a child needs to succeed in life. This report draws from research, theory and practice to identify three key factors to life success (agency, integrated identity, competencies) and describe four qualities youth need to grow and learn (self-regulation, knowledge and skills, mindsets, values), and how adults can foster their development in ways that lead to college and career success, healthy relationships and engaged citizenship. 2015.

Workforce Connections: Key “Soft Skills” That Foster Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields

Child Trends
"Soft skills” are centrally important for human capital development and workforce success. However, there is not a clear consensus about which soft skills are most critical. Developing a common understanding is hampered by a lack of comparability in the constructs, definitions, and measures used to assess youth and monitor progress. This confusion obstructs knowledge development and guidance for future investments in youth workforce development programs. This white paper helps bring clarity to the field by recommending a research-based set of key soft skills that increase the chance that youth ages 15-29 will be successful in the workforce. 2015.

Perspectives on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) from Out-of-School Time (OST) Leaders in Minnesota

Produced by Extension: Kate Walker, Dale Blyth and Tim Sheldon
This poster presents results from an online survey of over 900 leaders in the out of school time field. The survey taps their perspectives on social and emotional learning, its importance, its assessment, barriers, current efforts in this area, and which dimensions of SEL are considered most important. 2014.

Measuring 21st Century Skills: Guidance for Educators

Asia Society
This report, prepared by RAND researchers, gives an in-depth review of twenty measurement approaches and tools. It is intended to acquaint teachers, school leaders, and district administrators with the current state of 21st century competencies assessment, provide examples of relevant measures they may wish to consider using, and offer some guidance to help them compare measures and implement an assessment system. 2013.

Positive Youth Development in Organized Programs: How Teens Learn to Manage Emotions

Produced by Extension: Natalie Rusk, Reed W. Larson, Marcela Raffaelli, Kathrin Walker, LaTesha Washington, Vanessa Gutierrez, Hyeyoung Kang, Steve Tran, Stephen Cole Perry
Organized youth programs provide opportunities for adolescents to develop life and career skills while working on real-world projects, such as planning community events or creating public service announcements. In this chapter, the focus is on adolescents’ development of skills for managing emotions. 2013.

After school programs that follow evidence-based practices to promote social and emotional development are effective

Joseph Durlak, Roger Weissberg
This brief is to summarize the findings which indicated that afterschool programs that follow four evidence-based practices are successful in promoting young people’s personal and social development. 2012.

Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century

National research council
An important set of key skills which include problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and self-management - often referred to as "21st century skills" increase deeper learning, college and career readiness, student-centered learning, and higher order thinking. 2012.

Social Policy Report: Social and Emotional Learning in Schools: From Programs to Strategies

Stephanie M. Jones and Suzanne M. Bouffard, Harvard Graduate School of Education
This issue of Social Policy Report focuses on school’s role in supporting social and emotional learning (SEL), proposing that schools take a new approach: integrating the teaching and reinforcement of SEL skills into their daily interactions and practices with students. 2012.

Teaching adolescents to become learners. The role of noncognitive factors in shaping school performance: A critical literature review

Camille Farrington, Melissa Roderick, Elaine Allensworth, Jenny Nagaoka, Tasha Seneca Keyes, David Johnson, Nicole Beechum
Consortium on Chicago School Research brought its trademark approach to school reform: using research and data to identify what matters for student success and school improvement, creating theory-driven frameworks for organizing the research evidence, and asking critical questions about the applicability of research to practice. 2012.

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes

Forum for Youth Investment
Out-of-school time programs can help youth develop skills and attributes they need to be ready for college, work and life, but few have the tools to effectively measure those outcomes. This guide reviews eight youth outcome measurement tools appropriate for use in after-school and other settings. 2011.

The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions

Joseph Durlak, Roger Weissberg, Allison Dymnicki, Rebecca Taylor, Kriston Schellinger
Findings from a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. 2011.

Promoting Social and Emotional Development Is an Essential Part of Students’ Education

Joseph Durlak, Roger Weissberg
This essay argues for the positive impact of school wide programs for Social and Emotional Development. 2011.

A Meta-Analysis of After-School Programs That Seek to Promote Personal and Social Skills in Children and Adolescents

Joseph Durlak, Roger Weissberg, Molly Pachan
A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to enhance the personal and social skills of children and adolescents indicated that, compared to controls, participants demonstrated significant increases in their self-perceptions and bonding to school, positive social behaviors, school grades and levels of academic achievement, and significant reductions in problem behaviors. 2010.

Engagement in After-School Programs as a Predictor of Social Competence and Academic Performance

David Shernoff
Using the experience sampling method, this study examined two questions related to outcomes associated with after-school programming. First, does the quality of experience in after-school programs mediate the effect of program participation on social competence and academic performance? Second, among program participants, is the difference in quality of experience when in programs versus other settings after school related to higher social competence and academic performance? 2010.

The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-Grade Students: Findings from Three Scientific Reviews

John Payton, Roger Weissberg, Joseph Durlak, Allison Dymnicki, Rebecca Taylor, Kriston Schellinger, Molly Pachan
This report summarizes results from three large-scale reviews of research on the impact of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs on elementary-and middle-school students — that is, programs that seek to promote various social and emotional skills. 2008.

The impact of after-school programs that promote personal and social skills

J.A. Durlak and R.P. Weissberg
Conducted in collaboration with Joseph Durlak of Loyola University and funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation, this first report describes the strong positive effects after-school programs can have, and the conditions needed to realize these benefits. 2007.

What we're reading

From journals and the popular media.

See what we're reading about SEL.

Our current symposium series is dedicated to understanding social and emotional learning and its contribution to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps. This series is sponsored by the Minnesota 4-H Foundation Howland Family Endowment for Youth Leadership Development.

Our past presentations

    Social and emotional learning: Assess it to address it

    Gil Noam and Kimberly Schonert-Reichl

    Explore what communities have actually done to measure youth more holistically and how they've used data at the neighborhood, school and program level to enhance social and emotional learning. This symposium is not about what to measure, but about the opportunities that emerge when measuring social and emotional learning, as well as strategies for addressing the challenges that arise. May 6, 2014.

Issue briefs

This peer-reviewed series of issue briefs, funded in part by Youthprise, is designed to help people understand, connect and champion social and emotional learning in a variety of settings and from a variety of perspectives. Please direct questions and suggestions for future issue briefs to the managing editor, Kate Walker.

The Role of Families in Supporting Social and Emotional Learning

Jodi Dworkin and Joyce Serido, February 2017

Assessing Social & Emotional Skills in Out-of-School Time Settings: Considerations for Practitioners

Dale Blyth and Kyla Flaten, November 2016

The Relationship between Youth Program Quality and Social & Emotional Learning

Margo Herman and Dale Blyth, June 2016

Creating Caring Environments

Jeff Walls, June 2016

Education Leaders Perspectives on Social & Emotional Learning

Dale Blyth, Kyla Flaten & Timothy Sheldon, April 2016

Using Brain Science to Boost Social and Emotional Skills

Susan Beaulieu and Kathryn Sharpe, July 2015

The Relationship between Cross-Age Teaching and Social & Emotional Learning

Amber Shanahan, June 2015

Social & Emotional Learning in Religious and Spiritual Communities: Loving one’s Neighbor

Peter Bauck, M.Div., April 2015

Intentional Practices to Support Social & Emotional Learning

Dale Blyth, Brandi Olson & Kate Walker, January 2017

Ways of Being: A Model for Social & Emotional Learning

Dale Blyth, Brandi Olson & Kate Walker, January 2017

Implications for Enhancing Children’s Mental Health

Cari Michaels, M.P.H. and Elizabeth Hagen, M.A., July 2014

Resources for Measuring Social and Emotional Learning

Elizabeth Hagen, M.A., May 2014

Adventures in Social and Emotional Learning: A case study of Voyageur Outward Bound School

Kate Walker, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Potter, M.S., April 2014

Promoting and Developing Social and Emotional Skills in the Secondary Classroom

Megan Olivia Hall, March 2014

Comparing Frameworks

Elizabeth Hagen, M.A., Nov. 2013

Skills for Navigating Life’s Challenges

Elizabeth Hagen, M.A., Nov. 2013


Mapping Social and Emotional Learning in Youth Programs

This advanced workshop is designed for program leaders ready to develop a deeper understanding of how their existing program offerings align to social and emotional skill building.

Responsive Practices to Support SEL

This interactive workshop helps participants practice strategies to respond to unplanned opportunities, integrate cultural responsiveness, and support SEL through everyday conversations and unexpected challenges.

Social and Emotional Learning in Practice

Develop practical strategies to introduce social and emotional learning opportunities and growth into your program.

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