Report offers lessons from social-emotional learning initiative

Report offers lessons from social-emotional learning initiative

Collaborative efforts to integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs require a shared understanding of terminology and a mutual commitment of time for in-person meetings, an evaluation of a Wallace Foundation initiative by the RAND Corporation finds.

The report, Early Lessons From Schools and Out-of-School Time Programs Implementing Social and Emotional Learning (156 pages, PDF), evaluates the first two years of the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI), a multiyear effort to explore whether and how children benefit from partnerships between schools and out-of-school-time (OST) programs focused on building social and emotional skills. Based on surveys, interviews, and observations of activities across thirty-eight partnerships in Boston, Dallas, Denver, Tacoma, Tulsa, and Palm Beach County, Florida, the evaluation found that between 2017 and 2019 all sites focused on four activities: creating a positive environment, which includes culture, norms, goals, values, practices, and the physical space; offering SEL-specific instruction; integrating SEL into academic instruction and enrichment activities; and creating mutually reinforcing SEL practices across the school and OST program day.

Lessons learned to date include the need to focus on developing a set of social-emotional skills for adults to provide a foundation for students' SEL skill building; definitions of those skills and plans for the supports needed from school districts and intermediary organizations; developing a common language for SEL with which to build a shared understanding of the terminology among school and OST staffers; setting aside staff time for clear and frequent communication; and documenting and formalizing SEL routines and practices so they can be maintained regardless of staff turnover. Barriers to such partnerships included lack of time and structural differences between schools and OST programs.

"As more schools recognize the importance of social and emotional learning, it's critical that we gain a better understanding of what it takes to do this work effectively, when schools and out-of-school time programs work independently or in partnership," said Wallace Foundation director of learning and enrichment Gigi Antoni. "The insights are especially relevant now that COVID-19 has disrupted school and OST programming on an unprecedented scale. The pandemic has also amplified the urgency of addressing students' social and emotional well-being along with their academic learning."

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