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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 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!

  • 10/15

    Responsible decision making, a social and emotional skill

  • Carrie Ann Olson

    Bombarded by advertisements of what to buy, media messages of how to look and peer pressure of what to do, responsible decision making can be tough stuff. Every day, youth are tasked with promoting their own health, avoiding risky behaviors and dealing honestly and fairly with others. That’s decision making – a social and emotional skill. Decision making can be defined as the process of making choices among possible alternatives. How can you help youth to have the skills for mastering this skill? There are many guides for you to use – including a new online course. Read more.


  • 7/15

    How to make impactful summer learning experiences

    Carrie Ann Olson

    The summer schedule for young people can be full of adventure, curiosity and exploration. On the other hand, the lack of structure can cause boredom and lack of motivation.

    Youth practitioners may find it hard to come up with appealing activities non-formal learning environments that foster education and career success, healthy relationships and engaged citizenship. Read more.

See all social and emotional learning blog posts

Reports & journal articles

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.

Beyond Content: Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning into the Strive Framework

Strive Together
This report is organized into three volumes – Volume I identifies and defines competencies that are clearly related to academic achievement and are malleable, Volume II summarizes available measures in the context of the cradle-to-career continuum, and Volume III offers a compendium of assessment tools. 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. (PDF) 2007.

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

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.

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, February 2015

Ways of Being: A Model for Social & Emotional Learning

Dale Blyth, Brandi Olson & Kate Walker, January 2015

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
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