Social emotional learning (SEL) is a process through which people build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships and making responsible decisions that support success in school and in life.
SEL is an intentional approach to building student assets and emphasizing development of the whole child. SEL supports educational equity and can function as a key protective factor for all students.
Framework and guiding principles
- SEL implementation starts with capacity building.
- SEL requires collaboration between families, educators, community partners, and young people in its design and imple- mentation.
- Washington State SEL is shaped by a commitment to the following four guiding principles:
- Equity: Each child receives what he or she needs to develop his or her full potential.
- Culturally responsive: Culture is viewed as a resource for learning, not a barrier.
- Universal design: Learning differences are planned for and accommodated.
- Trauma informed: Knowledge of the effects of trauma is integrated into policy and practice.
What does Washington State require?
Beginning January 2020, the Washington State Legislature requires teacher and principal preparation programs to ensure candidates can recognize signs of emotional or behavioral distress in students and appropriately refer students for assistance and support. RCW 28A.410.270, RCW 28A.410.273, Program Standards 2.C.vii, WAC 181-78A-232(3)(g)
The guidance provided to candidates must include:
- Washington State social emotional learning standards and benchmarks. These are student standards and include:
- Social awareness
- Social management
- Social efficacy
- Related competencies such as trauma-informed practices, consideration of adverse childhood experiences, mental health literacy, anti-bullying strategies, and culturally sustaining practices.
Why is social emotional learning important?
- SEL promotes important school outcomes including improved academic achievement for students.
- SEL reduces toxic teacher stress and improves teacher retention rates.
- SEL increases positive life outcomes, including improved graduation rates and employment prospects for students.
- SEL improves school climate and school safety.
Entry points for teacher preparation program providers
Although there are multiple evidence-based SEL programs that support student development, most recognize that one of the first steps in implementing any SEL program is to focus on adult social and emotional skills. To model and encourage positive student interactions, teachers themselves need the social and emotional skills required to communicate effectively with students and to handle stressful situations that can occur in classrooms.
- Relationships matter. Preparation program providers should model positive relationship building between faculty, faculty and candidates, and candidates. Program leaders should demonstrate how to draw from the diverse cultures and backgrounds of the faculty and candidates.
- Context matters. Individuals use their social emotional skills depending on the context in which they find themselves. Program leaders should create environments that support the application and further development of each adult’s own culturally responsive social emotional competencies, including opportunities to practice all six of the Washington State standards.
- Knowledge of self matters. Program leaders and faculty should begin by developing their own SEL competencies and reflecting on how their own experiences and cultural background impact their work as an educator. Program faculty should model and discuss the metacognitive processes involved in self-regulation and social interactions with candidates through a continuous cycle of learning and self-reflection.
- Community engagement matters. Collaborating with families, community members and organizations is foundational to implementing SEL at any level. Program leaders and faculty should model and discuss authentic community engagement to prepare pre-service teachers to enact culturally sustaining,
- Awareness of current SEL work matters. Program faculty should learn about the current SEL work in Washington State by familiarizing themselves with the standards, benchmarks, indicators, and guiding principles. Program leaders should also explore ways SEL work can be embedded throughout coursework and fieldwork.
- Theory-to-practice connections matter. Candidates should have opportunities to discuss how they observe SEL being implemented by individual classroom teachers and in school buildings through specific SEL programs and through integrated approaches. Program leaders should also prepare field instructors and mentor teachers to be able to facilitate targeted observation of and reflection on structures that support SEL, including academic lessons, everyday classroom routines, participation structures, explicit conversations about SEL, and more. 5 Candidates should be given opportunities to practice embedding SEL skill instruction into lesson design and implementation.
- Leadership matters. Program leaders should assemble a team of diverse stakeholders to advance the work of integrating SEL into the program. The team can reflect together on why the work is important and envision a future of what SEL looks like for their program. This includes setting goals, allocating staff time and resources, participating in professional learning, determining how outcomes are assessed, and identifying strategies for how to sustain momentum over time.
Entry points for principal preparation program providers
Build faculty SEL competency
- Relationships matter. Preparation program providers can model positive relationship-building among faculty and candidates. Program leaders should demonstrate how to draw from the diverse cultures and backgrounds of the candidates to prepare them to enact culturally sustaining and equitable leadership practices.
- Context matters. Individuals use their social emotional skills depending on the context in which they find themselves. Program leaders should create environments that support application and further development of adults’ own culturally responsive social emotional competencies, including opportunities to practice all six of the Washington State standards.
- Knowledge of self matters. Program leaders and faculty should begin with developing their own SEL competencies. They should also reflect on how their experiences and cultural background impact their work as a principal educator.
- Awareness of current SEL work matters. Program faculty should learn about the current SEL work in Washington State by exploring the standards, benchmarks, indicators, and guiding principles. Program leaders should also explore ways SEL work can be embedded throughout coursework and practicum experiences.
- Embed social and emotional learning into coursework. Washington State’s SEL standards are directly connected to numerous NELP building level standards. View the crosswalk document.
- Embed authentic social and emotional learning into principal internship experiences. Authentic internship opportunities should include experiences that improve the candidates’ own social and emotional competencies, and experiences facilitating social and emotional growth in others. Candidates should also gain experience in school-wide systems to promote social and emotional learning.
- Develop equity-focused and culturally sustaining social and emotional learning coursework and internship experiences. Coursework and internship experiences may include a focus on whole-child development and/or strengthening student and adult relationships for all students.
- Emphasize family and community connections. Social and emotional learning is a collaborative and intercultural process. Coursework and internship experiences should prepare principal candidates to establish meaningful partnerships with families and communities to promote culturally sustaining SEL.
Resources for educator preparation programs
Educator preparation program SEL implementation briefs
- Washington State principal preparation program SEL implementation brief
- Washington State teacher preparation program SEL implementation brief
Standards and crosswalks
- Washington State Social Emotional Learning (SEL) standards and benchmarks
- NELP building standards and SEL standards crosswalk
- InTASC standards and SEL standards crosswalk
SEL and educator support resources
- Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) social emotional learning (SEL) webpage includes guidance, resources, and multiple links to collective funds of knowledge on SEL such as:
- American Institutes for Research (AIR) offers a SEL Coaching Toolkit for instructional coaches, administrators, and district leaders who support teachers/staff in integrating SEL into their daily instructional practices.
- Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child (CRTWC) offers a framework for integrating social, emotional, and cultural competencies into P-12 pre-service teacher preparation.
- Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the leading national source for research and resources related to SEL in schools and communities and offers many valuable resources for educators, such as:
- CASEL Guide to Schoolwide SEL: Guidance for systemic SEL implementation in schools
- Focus on the Classroom: How to foster supportive classroom environments that engage in explicit SEL and integrate SEL throughout instruction
- Focus on Family Partnerships: How to create meaningful partnership opportunities and two-way communication that invite families to understand, experience, inform, and support the social and emotional development of their students.
- CASEL CARES Initiative Resources: Resources designed to support educators, parents, and anyone who works with children during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Identifying signs of emotional or behavioral distress in students, and referral process resources
- OSPI trauma informed schools and adverse childhood experiences resources
- OSPI mental, social, and behavioral health resources
- OSPI youth suicide prevention, intervention, & postvention
Resources available on related competencies
Adverse childhood experiences
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Center for Youth Wellness
- Washington State Department of Health
- CASEL resources on mental health, trauma, and well-being
- Stop bullying.gov
- Bullying prevention and intervention: information for educators
- A framework for school-wide bullying prevention and safety
- Bullying prevention and intervention in schools
Culturally sustaining practices
Mental health literacy
- Mental health resources from the Centers for Diseas Control and Prevention