Research tells us that when students receive social and emotional learning (SEL), entire school communities benefit. SEL can give students confidence in their own abilities, ownership of their own learning, purpose and safety, and an overall sense of belonging. An effective approach can also lead to equitable student outcomes.
The resources in this Spotlight help educators and policymakers understand what SEL is and isn’t, how one district enhanced SEL through continuous improvement, and how mindfulness practices contribute to two key SEL skills.
Equity in Education: Unpacking Key Terms
Ensuring equity in education, whereby all student groups attain comparable positive outcomes, is an ongoing challenge for policymakers and practitioners. While there is no single strategy for meeting this challenge, two broad approaches have gained traction among those committed to equity: SEL and culturally responsive and sustaining education (CRSE).
Both approaches have recently been called into question in some states and districts for their perceived connections to critical race theory, which is itself the subject of contentious political debate. Written by WestEd’s Saroja Warner and Andrea Bowman, this popular resource explains SEL, CRSE, and critical race theory (CRT) and explores how each relates to equity issues and how SEL and CRSE are distinct from the academic framework of CRT.
Advancing Social and Emotional Learning Through Improvement Science
At the end of 2019, Atlanta Public Schools began using improvement science to support SEL in their schools. A pandemic with no predictable playbook soon tested their approach.
The SEL-focused improvement science work germinated from the district’s interest in evaluating schools’ success in improving SEL implementation, says Corey Donahue, Improvement Specialist at WestEd. “It then blossomed into figuring out which practices supported SEL in schools and learning how to ensure that staff-driven efforts could address particular problems.”
Aided by WestEd research, evaluation, and facilitation, the SEL initiative was part of a larger Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The SEL component of this work supported a handful of Atlanta schools in focusing on a SEL-related challenge of their choice, learning what was contributing to the challenge, and testing and scaling successful strategies for addressing it.
Mindfulness-Based Practices to Support SEL
Mindfulness practices essentially cultivate attention, including self-awareness and self-knowledge of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and how they affect one’s actions. Such practices are a promising approach to helping educators and students develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills that are associated with success in school and through adulthood.
Additionally, mindfulness skills are complementary to SEL, as self-awareness and self-management are among the five core skills of SEL identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.
This WestEd brief, written by WestEd’s Andrea Browning and Natalie Romer and developed for the California Department of Education, describes what administrators and teachers can do now to promote the benefits of mindfulness and stress management.
Read and Subscribe to the WestEd E-Bulletin to Access More SEL Resources
- Enhancing SEL Through Improvement Science
- Equity in Education: Unpacking Key Terms
- Mindfulness-Based Practices to Support SEL
- Success Beyond the Classroom Through SEL
- Integrating SEL: A Webinar for District Leaders
- Beyond SEL: Advancing Well-Being, Connection, and Equity
- Linking Teacher Practice with SEL