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).

Why is SEL Important?

A growing body of research supports the idea that developing social and emotional competence is essential to being a good student, citizen, and worker.  Instruction in this area can prevent or reduce many risky behaviors (e.g. drug use, violence, bullying and dropping out).  It is most effective when direct instruction is provided from preschool through high school. 

Is SEL Required?

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. ( )

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 the 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


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.  It is expected that these meetings will take several times during the school year.  This will provide a forum to share examples of what various schools are doing in SEL and how they make it happen, and the impact on their school.  

Click here to for details and registration information.


To join the Rhode Island Social and Emotional Learning electronic mailing list, send an e-mail to SEL-L-REQUEST@LISTSERV.RI.NET 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

You will receive an e-mail that requests you to confirm that you sent the e-mail, and you need to follow the directions in the confirmation e-mail to be added.

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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