Social Emotional Learning at a Glance


Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an approach to education that supports students’ learning skills and strategies to help them be successful in interpersonal relationships, make healthy choices, and prepare for life beyond the classroom. 

It is a prevention-based approach to reducing conflict and violence by teaching skills early on.1

Quick Facts – SEL is:

  • An emphasis on developing socially valued competencies such as creative problem-solving and teamwork.2
  • An approach to improve academic performance by ensuring that social and emotional needs are met.3
  • A way to foster a supportive classroom and school climate.4
  • Relevant throughout developmental stages and across diverse cultural contexts.5

Misunderstandings – SEL is not:

  • Designed to diagnose, treat or provide mental health interventions to students.6
  • A short-term solution.7
  • A replacement to academic learning.8
  • A one-size-fits-all intervention.9
  • Affiliated with critical race theory.10

Did You Know:

  • When done well, social-emotional learning programs can lead to decreases in aggression and increases in social competence and academic engagement for elementary school students.11
  • Research demonstrates that education that promotes SEL has many positive impacts for students, school staff and communities including academic performance, healthy relationships and mental wellness.12
  • SEL supports positive development of students from diverse backgrounds and geography.13
  • Students participating in SEL programs showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school.14


  • Carolyn Seiger (Instructional Designer, National Center for School Safety)
  • Allison Schreiber, MAIR (School Safety Specialist, National Center for School Safety)
  • Heather Murphy, MA, LPC, NCC (School Safety Specialist, National Center for School Safety)
  • Aysha Lonich, MEd, BCBA (School Safety Specialist, National Center for School Safety)
  • Sarah Mason, MPH (Research Assistant, National Center for School Safety)
  • Erin Wyatt (Marketing Communications Specialist, National Center for School Safety)


  1. What is Social and Emotional Learning? (2020). Greater Rochester Afterschool & Summer Alliance.
  2. Allenworth, E., Farrington, C., Gordon, M., Johnson, D., Klein, K., McDaniel, B., & Nagaoka, J.
    (2018). Supporting Social, Emotional, & Academic Development: Research Implications for Educators.
  3. Top 20 Principles From Psychology For PreK-12 Teaching and Learning. (2015). American
    Psychological Association.
  4. Council of Chief State School Officers. (2019). Measuring School Climate and Social and Emotional
    Development: A Navigation Guide for States and Districts. Education Counsel.
  5. Hayashi, A., Liew, J., Aguilar, S. D., Nyanamba, J., & Zhao, Y. (2022). Embodied and Social-Emotional
    Learning (SEL) in Early Childhood: Situating Culturally Relevant SEL in Asian, African, and North
    American Contexts. Early Education and Development, 33(5).
  6. Taylor, J., Buckley, K., Hamilton, L., Stecher, B., Read, L., & Schweig, J. (2018). Choosing and Using
    SEL Competency Assessments: What Schools and Districts Need to Know. Rand Corporation.
  7. McCormick, M., Neuhaus, R., O’Connor, E., White, H., Horn, E. P., Harding, S., Cappella, E., &
    McClowry, S. (2020). Long-Term Effects of Social-Emotional Learning on Academic Skills: Evidence
    from a Randomized Trial of INSIGHTS. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.
  8. National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention. (n.d.). Social and
    Emotional Learning (SEL) and Student Benefits: Implications for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students
    Core Elements. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.
  9. Wigelsworth, M., Lendrum, A., Oldfield, J., Scott, A., ten Bokkel, I., Tate, K., & Emery, C. (2016). The impact of trial stage, developer involvement and international transferability on universal social and emotional learning programme outcomes: A meta-analysis. Cambridge Journal of Education, 46(3), 347–376.
  10. Prothero, A., & Blad, E. (2021). Schools Face Fears of “Critical Race Theory” as They Scale Up SocialEmotional Learning. Education Week.
  11. Bierman, K. L., Coie, J. D., Dodge, K. A., Greenberg, M. T., Lochman, J. E., McMahon, R. J., &
    Pinderhughes, E. (2010). The effect of a multiyear universal social-emotional learning program: The role
    of student and school characteristics. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 156–168.
  12. Jennings, P.A. & Greenberg, M.T. (2009) The Prosocial Classroom: Teacher Social and Emotional
    Competence in Relation to Student and Classroom Outcomes. American Educational Research Association.
  13. Taylor, R. D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2017). Promoting Positive Youth Development
    Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects.
    Child Development, 88(4), 1156–1171.
  14. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact
    of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal
    interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.
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