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Focus Area 2

Connect and Collaborate

Create structures that foster a trusting, connected, and collaborative community.

“The power of collective capacity is that it enables ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things—for two reasons. One is that knowledge about effective practice becomes more widely available and accessible on a daily basis. The second reason is more powerful still—working together generates commitment.”

Michael Fullan, All Systems Go: The Change Imperative for Whole System Reform

A collaborative community is an essential ingredient in schoolwide SEL. Trust, belonging, and collective efficacy are strong predictors of how well schools can take on a new initiative and impact student achievement (Bryk & Schneider, 2003; Donohoo et al., 2018) and serve as a crucial foundation for SEL implementation. As part of your SEL team’s work to strengthen adult SEL, it is essential to build in time and practices to strengthen relationships and collaboration to carry out and improve SEL implementation.

Relational trust is developed over time through many interactions and is essential for creating buy-in, motivating individuals to take risks and give additional time and effort, and spreading best practices throughout a school and district (Bryk & Schneider, 2003). When school communities are able to pair an environment characterized by trust and belonging with the time and structure that enables collaboration, the stage is set for high-quality SEL implementation and continuous improvement.

As the school community continues to come together to review progress and address challenges collaboratively, collective efficacy grows. Collective efficacy means that stakeholders not only feel connected with one another, but also believe that the efforts of staff as a whole have the capacity to support students’ success and meet their academic, social, and emotional needs (Donohoo, 2017). This section offers ways to strengthen connections among staff and between staff, students, and families, as well as specific practices for bringing these groups together to collaborate on SEL.

If you have already begun developing a plan to foster connection and collaboration, use the rubric or the questions below to identify areas for continuous improvement: 

Do the SEL team and school leadership create opportunities for staff to build connections with one another and develop a sense of shared purpose?

Do the SEL team and school leadership use data on staff stress, well-being, and perceptions of climate to better understand and improve the work environment?

Do staff have sufficient dedicated time to learn from each other, share best practices, and collaboratively problem-solve around SEL implementation challenges?

Do staff norms or shared agreements guide respectful interactions, effective collaboration, and an inclusive staff culture?

Do school leaders and staff engage students as partners in problem-solving and decision-making? Are there structures for students to shape SEL initiatives, instructional practices, and school climate?

Do school leaders and staff engage families as partners, value their expertise about their children and the community, and invite their input to shape goals and strategies?

Based on your responses, use the buttons below to learn more and gain resources to strengthen connections and community and take concrete steps to collaborate among staff and with students and families as you implement systemic, schoolwide SEL.

  • Connect and Collaborate Among Staff
    Guidance and tools to strengthen staff community and structure opportunities for staff to discuss and improve upon SEL implementation
  • Connect and Collaborate With Students
    Guidance and tools to strengthen staff-student connections and partner with students as you develop and improve upon your SEL implementation plan
  • Connect and Collaborate With Families
    Guidance and tools to strengthen school-family relationships and include families as partners in SEL implementation planning and continuous improvement
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