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Focus Area 1A

Build Foundational Support

Build foundational support by establishing an SEL team, fostering commitment to SEL, and developing a communications strategy.


Schoolwide SEL has the potential to create profound change within your school. This change is a long-term process and is most effective when all members of your school community are aware of, committed to, and take ownership of SEL.

A schoolwide approach to SEL relies on the ongoing, collaborative effort of all staff, teachers, students, families, out-of-school time partners, and other community partners. This collaboration begins with establishing a strong foundation of support among all stakeholders.

This focus area will help your school build the foundational support needed to launch, sustain, and continually improve high-quality SEL implementation through the following key activities:


SEL TEAM: Establish a diverse and representative SEL team that leads a coordinated approach, ensuring schoolwide SEL implementation does not become fragmented and stays on the radar of all stakeholders. This section includes:
— Assemble an SEL Team

— Define Team Roles and Responsibilities

— Build a Strong Team Dynamic


FOUNDATIONAL LEARNING: Engage all stakeholders in an introduction to SEL that fosters awareness and helps define what SEL means for their school community.


TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION: Establish structures to support consistent two-way SEL communication between the SEL team and all stakeholders.

After completing these key activities, you’ll move on to Focus Area 1B to create a plan for implementation. Together, Focus Areas 1A and 1B will help you create the foundational support and plan needed to begin quality and systemic implementation.

Focus Area 1A

Administrator Action

Research on successful whole-school improvement has identified school leader support as the single biggest predictor of whether change takes hold and is beneficial (Fullan, 2011). For example, staf…More

Research on successful whole-school improvement has identified school leader support as the single biggest predictor of whether change takes hold and is beneficial (Fullan, 2011). For example, staff perceptions of a supportive leader are associated with student attendance, positive behavior, academic achievement, and overall school climate (Berends & Kirby, 2002). This type of perceived support can also contribute to teachers’ levels of commitment to their profession and their school (Collie et al., 2011).

School leaders play an important role in shaping the academic, social, and emotional lives of their students. Administrators who internalize this goal are deeply invested in making positive, ongoing improvements. These dedicated leaders understand that positive changes are more likely to occur when there is a strong team working alongside them, sharing the work, and contributing expertise. That’s why it’s crucial to identify and engage a core group of stakeholders to lead schoolwide SEL in tandem with the principal.

Becoming this kind of leader requires one to “lead from the center rather than the top” and take responsibility for the learning of colleagues (DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Lambert, 2003). One of the most effective ways a principal can “lead from the center” is to cultivate shared ownership by modeling collaboration and SEL competencies, and by sharing authority and leadership responsibilities with influential, respected members of the school community.

Administrator Actions:

  • Establish a team that shares leadership responsibility for SEL, including empowering at least one individual on the team to follow through on final decisions. Without this, even small decisions may stall waiting for administrator approval.
  • Ensure that the SEL team represents the school community in expertise, role, experience, gender, race, culture, and background.
  • Before the team begins working together, collaboratively establish clear goals, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Create time and space for all staff to engage in foundational learning on SEL.
  • Engage all stakeholders in setting a vision for SEL that reflects the school community’s collective values.


Administrators Resources:

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