FAQs on Schoolwide Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

About the Guide

Is the School Guide a curriculum/program? Can it be used if I’m already implementing a curriculum/program?

The Guide to Schoolwide SEL is not a curriculum or program. Rather, it is a free online resource that helps school teams coordinate and build on their evidence-based practices and programs to imple…More

The Guide to Schoolwide SEL is not a curriculum or program. Rather, it is a free online resource that helps school teams coordinate and build on their evidence-based practices and programs to implement SEL systemically. You can use the School Guide with any programs you’re already implementing, and also use resources in the School Guide to help you adopt evidence-based SEL programs and practices.

Schools often have multiple initiatives and programs aimed at promoting student achievement and well-being, but they are frequently fragmented or seen as competing priorities. Schoolwide SEL provides a framework to help create common language and goals between programs, such as:

  • Service learning
  • Family programs
  • Character development
  • PBIS and other behavior support programs
  • Restorative Practices
  • Student support services
  • School safety programs
  • Substance-use prevention
  • Anti-bullying efforts
  • Mentoring or tutoring programs
  • Out-of-school time programs
  • Mindfulness
  • Community partnerships
  • Mental health supports
  • Other related initiatives

 

Does the School Guide support early education/elementary school/middle school/high school?

The process of systemic schoolwide SEL—build foundational support and plan, strengthen adult SEL, promote SEL for students, and practice continuous improvement—is relevant for PreK–12th-grade schoo…More

The process of systemic schoolwide SEL—build foundational support and plan, strengthen adult SEL, promote SEL for students, and practice continuous improvement—is relevant for PreK–12th-grade schools. That said, SEL is a developmental process, and it is important for educators to adapt the resources, tools, and content to meet the specific needs of their learners and unique contexts of their schools. Look for additional callouts of material by age groups in future updates to the School Guide.

How does a school that’s been implementing SEL use the School Guide?

Systemic SEL implementation is an ongoing, long-term process that involves a coordinated approach to reach students in all settings where they spend their time—in classrooms, throughout the school,…More

Systemic SEL implementation is an ongoing, long-term process that involves a coordinated approach to reach students in all settings where they spend their time—in classrooms, throughout the school, in the home, and in the community. No matter how much has been done to implement SEL, there are always opportunities to deepen, coordinate, and expand the work. We recommend schools that have already been implementing SEL begin with the rubric to reflect on their current implementation, resources, and needs. They can use this information to set priorities and goals, and find customized resources that will best support them in advancing their work.

About Schoolwide SEL Implementation

How can community partners and/or out-of-school time partners work more closely with schools to support SEL?

Schools can leverage strategic and aligned community partnerships to help ensure students receive consistent SEL supports, increase access to a broad range of community services, and expand the pro…More

Schools can leverage strategic and aligned community partnerships to help ensure students receive consistent SEL supports, increase access to a broad range of community services, and expand the professional learning opportunities for SEL. Community organizations, in partnership with the principal and the SEL team, can align on common language, strategies, and communication around SEL-related efforts for seamless student support.

Many school communities choose to include community and out-of-school time voices on their SEL teams to ensure the SEL work reaches beyond the school day. The Assembling an SEL Team tool includes considerations for selecting community partners and out-of-school time partners on an SEL team. For communities that are seeking to go further and align SEL between in-school and out-of-school team, see this out-of-school time version of the Assembling an SEL Team tool.

Similar to the two offerings above, CASEL has adapted many of the School Guide tools to reach a broader audience. These resources have all been specifically developed for teams that wish to bring together school, out-of-school time, and community partners to align their SEL efforts and support youth through the full day. These resources can all be found on the Out-of-School Time Tools page of the School Guide.

For more information on building effective community partnerships, visit: https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-3/community-partnerships/

How can schools develop family partnerships around SEL?

Schools can develop family partnerships around SEL by providing opportunities for two-way communication that invites families to understand, experience, inform, and support the social and emotional…More

Schools can develop family partnerships around SEL by providing opportunities for two-way communication that invites families to understand, experience, inform, and support the social and emotional development of their students. There are many opportunities to build positive relationships with families including: asking families about their student’s strengths; gathering information about family preferences, talents, and availability; and having a translator available for face-to-face meetings. Schools may also want to have family representation on their SEL team.

The School Guide provides a variety of tools to help schools build partnerships with families, including Strategies for Establishing School-Family Partnerships in Support of SEL, and the SEL Discussion Series for Parents and Caregivers in English and Spanish.

For more information about how building family partnerships, visit: https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-3/family-partnerships/

How does schoolwide SEL align with Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)?

SEL offers an opportunity to enhance existing systems of support, including MTSS. Organized into three tiers, the MTSS framework provides general guidelines for structuring academic and behavioral …More

SEL offers an opportunity to enhance existing systems of support, including MTSS. Organized into three tiers, the MTSS framework provides general guidelines for structuring academic and behavioral tiers of support to meet the needs of all students:

  • Tier 1: Universal supports for all students
  • Tier 2: More intensive, targeted supports
  • Tier 3: Highly intensive and individualized academic and behavioral supports

When integrating tiered supports with SEL, it’s important to recognize that SEL is neither solely behavior support nor solely academic support, but aligns with and complements both at all tiers.

Much of the work that your school will do to implement SEL will help lay a strong Tier 1 foundation for all students to succeed. This includes:

  • Dedicated time for high-quality evidenced-based SEL instruction
  • High-quality academic instruction that integrates SEL principles and practices
  • Supportive school and classroom learning climates
  • Opportunities for positive relationships between students, their peers, and adults

At Tier 2 and Tier 3, schools can integrate academic and behavioral interventions with SEL by considering students’ social and emotional strengths, needs, and development when selecting evidence-based interventions; supporting staff in recognizing students’ social and emotional strengths; and leveraging SEL practices with students, staff, families, and community partners.

When integrating SEL with MTSS supports, it’s important to maintain a distinction between mental/behavioral health interventions and SEL. Assessments of students’ SEL competencies should not be used to diagnose or screen for behavioral or emotional problems. There are many behavioral and academic tools that are designed, tested, and validated to determine when intervention is needed. We encourage using these tools when trying to diagnose or screen for problems, as they are better equipped to support these needs. Read more about assessments here.

For more information, visit: https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-3/school/integrate-sel-into-a-multi-tiered-system-of-support/

How does schoolwide SEL align with PBIS?

PBIS and SEL have many similar features but are not the same. Both schoolwide SEL and PBIS focus on creating safe and supportive environments, teaching students new skills, and using data to make i…More

PBIS and SEL have many similar features but are not the same. Both schoolwide SEL and PBIS focus on creating safe and supportive environments, teaching students new skills, and using data to make informed decisions. Their explicit goals, however, differ in that PBIS seeks to ultimately increase positive behavior, while schoolwide SEL seeks to help students build competencies (e.g., understand themselves and others while forming strong relationships and building decision-making skills) that help students learn and navigate the world more effectively.

Schools who are already deeply invested in PBIS can leverage their existing PBIS team to lead schoolwide SEL integration efforts. While continuing to use Tier 1 PBIS strategies (e.g., teaching, modeling, and acknowledging schoolwide expectations, data practices, etc.), schools can use Focus Areas 2 and 3 in the School Guide to begin integrating schoolwide SEL.

The School Guide can strengthen any Tier 1 PBIS system by helping adults cultivate skills to effectively interact with students and create a positive school climate while simultaneously helping students build the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to be able to carry out schoolwide expectations and excel academically.

For more information, visit: https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-3/school/integrate-sel-into-a-multi-tiered-system-of-support/

How does SEL relate to equity, cultural competency, etc.?

SEL can be a powerful lever for creating caring, just, inclusive, and healthy communities that support all individuals in reaching their fullest potential. Systemic implementation of SEL both foste…More

SEL can be a powerful lever for creating caring, just, inclusive, and healthy communities that support all individuals in reaching their fullest potential. Systemic implementation of SEL both fosters and depends upon an equitable learning environment, where all students and adults feel respected, valued, and affirmed in their individual interests, talents, social identities, cultural values, and backgrounds.

The Schoolwide Guide to SEL provides guidance around the relationship between SEL and equity, as well as a variety of resources schools can draw upon to create equitable environments. These resources address issues such as establishing discipline policies that promote SEL and equity and examining biases for cultural competence.

While SEL alone will not solve long-standing and deep-seated inequities in the education system, it can help schools promote understanding, examine biases, reflect on and address the impact of racism, build cross-cultural relationships, and cultivate adult and student practices that close opportunity gaps and create a more inclusive school community. In doing so, schools can promote high-quality educational opportunities and outcomes for all students, irrespective of race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, and other differences. This requires that SEL is implemented with an explicit goal of promoting educational equity.

For more information, visit: https://schoolguide.casel.org/what-is-sel/equity-and-sel/

How does a school get started with SEL? What are first-year goals?

The School Guide provides step-by-step guidance for schools that are just getting started with SEL. The first step in SEL implementation is building foundational support by More

The School Guide provides step-by-step guidance for schools that are just getting started with SEL. The first step in SEL implementation is building foundational support by establishing a team, developing foundational knowledge, and creating a school vision that aligns to SEL. Using the online interactive planner, schools can reflect on their current practices and create first-year goals using the interactive planner’s integrated guidance.

For more information, see a sample implementation timeline.

How do I assess SEL?

To assess implementation quality, the School Guide offers multiple resources and tools, including a rubric that he…More

To assess implementation quality, the School Guide offers multiple resources and tools, including a rubric that helps teams engage in a full review of their efforts toward systemic SEL; a walkthrough protocol to support observations of high-quality schoolwide SEL indicators; and a staff, family, and community partner survey to gather stakeholder perceptions on SEL. These tools can be found on the Track Progress page.

To assess SEL outcomes, the School Guide provides support for continuous improvement practices in Focus Area 4. These practices include identifying your current needs and goals around SEL, collecting implementation and outcome data, reflecting on what the data tells you about implementation successes and challenges, and then acting on what you learned to continue to improve your efforts.

You’ll find a list of resources for assessing student SEL competence and school climate here: https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-4/continuously-improve-schoolwide-sel-implementation.

For more on student SEL assessment, you can also explore CASEL’s new Assessment Guide.

How do I build stakeholder buy-in for SEL?

The School Guide includes many tools to help build foundational support for SEL, including videos for parents in More

The School Guide includes many tools to help build foundational support for SEL, including videos for parents in English and Spanish and presentations to introduce and make the case for SEL.  Stakeholder awareness, commitment, and ownership are also developed by collaboratively developing an SEL vision and including parents, out-of-school time providers, and other community members on the SEL team. By building an SEL team that reflects the school community and incorporates many points of view, the school will be better able to meet its needs and build commitment to SEL.

For more information, visit: https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-1a/overview/

What does good professional learning look like for SEL?

Professional learning is critical to effective implementation of SEL in schools. Effective professional learning empowers teachers with knowledge about the theory—or “why”—behind a program or pract…More

Professional learning is critical to effective implementation of SEL in schools. Effective professional learning empowers teachers with knowledge about the theory—or “why”—behind a program or practice.  It is also active, providing teachers with opportunities to try out new strategies and reflect on their experiences. When professional learning is followed by coaching or professional learning communities, teachers have support to work through challenges that emerge during implementation, such as difficulties with time management and working with challenging student behavior. Most of all, professional learning should allow for adults themselves to develop the skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to deal effectively with the challenges of teaching and to model social-emotional competencies for their students.

The Schoolwide Guide to SEL provides guidance on how to create a personalized professional learning plan for SEL, as well as professional learning activities for cultivating growth mindset, reflecting on personal SEL skills, and practicing self-care.

To learn more about the CASEL Guide to Schoolwide SEL, view this one-hour webinar. Also, be sure to sign up for notifications of new professional learning opportunities offered by CASEL.

download Back to Top