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Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social and Emotional Learning "is a process for helping children and adults develop the fundamental skills for success in life".

These skills include "recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically" according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

What is SEL?

Social and Emotional Learning is a process for helping children and adults develop the fundamental skills for success in life.  These skills include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. (CASEL.org)

Why is SEL Important?

Each school and district must follow the Rhode Island Basic Education Plan (BEP). This plan requires that schools create a climate of safety, security and belonging for all students and adults, thereby establishing an environment that builds respectful relationships, enhances productive learning and teaching, promotes school engagement, and promotes academic success.  

"Each LEA shall ensure that schools promote a positive climate with emphasis on mutual respect, self‐control, good attendance, order and organization, and proper security.  Each LEA shall develop protocols that … ensure that students and adults make positive behavioral choices and that are conducive to a safe and nurturing environment that promotes academic success.” (RI Basic Education Plan)

The importance of Social and Emotional Learning is reflected in the Teacher Evaluation system. Teachers are required to create a classroom environment of respect and rapport that promotes a positive culture for learning and results in students actively engaged and taking pride in their work.

The Early Learning Standards include a domain, or area, focused on Social and Emotional Development which addresses children’s relationships with others- adults and other children- their sense of personal identity and self-confidence, and their ability to regulate emotions and behavior.


What is the Connection Between SEL and Academics

Research shows that Social and Emotional Learning can have a positive impact on school climate and promote a host of academic, social, and emotional benefits for students.  Durlak, Weissberg et al.'s recent meta-analysis of 213 rigorous studies of SEL in schools indicates that students receiving quality SEL instruction demonstrated:

  • Better academic performance: Achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction;
  • Improved attitudes and behaviors: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior;
  • Fewer negative behaviors: increase on task behaviors, decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; and
  • Reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal. (CASEL.org)

Social and Emotional skills are implicitly embedded in the Common Core State Standards. If our students are to successfully access the standards, they must learn many social and emotional competencies. Many students coming to school have not yet learned the specific skills and so the direct and deliberate teaching of these skills is necessary.

Click here for examples of how Social and Emotional Learning skills are critical for success in meeting Common Core State Standards. 


How can SEL Skills be Taught?

Research also indicates that SEL programs with the best outcomes are:  multi-year in duration, use interactive instructional methods, and are integrated into the life of the school rather than being implemented as marginal add-ons. 

There are various commercially-produced curriculum materials available.  CASEL has produced an elementary and secondary Guide to Effective Social and Emotional Programs, which is available on their website.  This provides an independent and objective review and rating of evidence-based programs in social and emotional learning.  The guide is intended to help schools and teachers identify programs that will best meet their needs.


Core SEL Competencies

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified five core groups of social and emotional competencies:

  • Self-awareness—being able to understand one’s feelings and beliefs, as well as developing self-confidence
  • Self-management—learning to manage and express emotions appropriately, controlling impulses, overcoming challenges, setting goals, and persevering
  • Social awareness—seeing other points of view and empathizing with others, and learning to accepti differences
  • Relationship skills—developing healthy and respectful relationships; managing  peer pressure; and handling conflict appropriately
  • Responsible decision-making—considering a variety of factors when making decisions and being aware of consequences


SEL and IEP Goals

Social and Emotional skills are often a part of a student's IEP.  Click here for Sample SEL Goals and Objectives.

RI SEL Standards

On October 24, 2017, the Council for Elementary and Secondary Education endorsed RI SEL Standards: Competencies for School and Life Success (English and Spanish).  Districts are encouraged to follow these standards and implement them in classrooms at all levels, for all students.  SEL is NOT "one more thing", but connects to all instruction and supports academic rigor.  SEL skills are important for ALL!

Incorporating SEL into Current Teaching 

There are a number of way Social and Emotional Skills can be taught.  These include direct and explicit instruction in specific skills, school-wide culture and climate strategies, embedding SEL into teacher instructional practices, and integrating with academic curriculum areas. 

The following resources from CASEL can be helpful to school staff:

Mental Health Resources for New England Educators

The Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health and the Center for Educational Improvement have partnered together to form the Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative as part of the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network (MHTTC).  There are various ways to participate:

For more information, please contact cmason@edimprovement.org

Join Our Community of Practice in SEL

In an effort to share information and improve practice, we are excited to establish a Community of Practice for Social and Emotional Learning.  The goal is to bring educators and practitioners into a working relationship around common interests in Social and Emotional Learning.  These meetings are open to all and people can attend one or all meetings.   

April Community of Practice Meeting

Our NEXT Community of Practice meeting will be April 4, 2019 from 4:00-6:00 at Save the Bay, 100 Save the Bay Drive, Providence, RI.

Join your colleagues to learn how several districts are leading the work in Social and Emotional Learning. See the flyer for more information. 

Attendance is free, but registration is required.


Amy Lopes, 5th grade teacher at William D'Abate School in Providence, began working with the Center for Resilience to implement a mindfulness program.  Read Amy's story to learn about her experience and thoughts about the work.  

Stay Informed! Join the RIDE SEL Listserv

To join the Rhode Island Social and Emotional Learning electronic mailing list, send an e-mail to alice.woods@ride.ri.gov and, in the subject line, write: SUBSCRIBE SEL-L. Please include the following information in the text of your email:

  • First and Last Name
  • School District
  • School (if working)
  • Position

NOTE: This list is solely for the purpose of sharing information from the RI Department of Education regarding Social and Emotional Learning. The list will not be shared with others. It is expected that the number of messages will be minimal over the course of a year.

"A comprehensive mission for schools is to educate students to be knowledgeable, responsible, socially-skilled, healthy, caring, and contributing citizens." - Greenberg, et al (2003)

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