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New Guide Supports Educators in Selecting and Implementing SEL Interventions

Diana Wogan

Diana Wogan
Ask A REL Manager, REL Northeast & Islands

Thu Oct 01 2020

With the anxiety and uncertainty students are facing during a global pandemic, it is more important than ever to support their social and emotional learning (SEL). As educators look for ways to support SEL in the classroom, it is imperative that they can identify programs or practices that have shown evidence of effectiveness. REL Northeast & Islands has a new tool that can help teachers do just that.

The Social and Emotional Learning Coaching Series Guide condenses content from a series of five coaching sessions with school and district teams across 11 months into a tool that can help practitioners understand and interpret SEL terminology, identify evidence-based programs and the SEL outcomes they target, and unpack research summaries about SEL programs and practices.

The new guide begins by helping users make sense of SEL terminology so they can interpret publications about SEL interventions. SEL publications and intervention reports, such as RAND’s Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: Evidence Review, often use varying terms to describe SEL skills, making it difficult for educators to identify which programs address the SEL skills they want to cultivate in students.

For example, some schools may have a goal of helping their middle school students work well in teams. Could these teachers just look for SEL programs that support teamwork? Not necessarily. Some SEL intervention reports may refer to these skills as relationship skills, while others may classify them as social skills, and still other reports may call them interpersonal skills. Our guide helps school leaders identify possible terms associated with skills such as teamwork, to be able to identify programs to use with their students.

Once users better understand SEL terminology, the guide assists users in comparing SEL intervention reports to identify programs that meet their needs. Intervention reports provide information to help users understand not only whether a program is evidence-based, but also the outcomes of a particular program and what resources are needed to implement that program.

Next, the guide offers teachers evidence-based strategies to incorporate SEL into their instruction. For example, the way teachers model emotions and social exchanges with each other can help build students’ SEL competence.

Once educators identify an evidence-based SEL intervention, the guide explores helpful tips on how to support implementation. For example, using the SEL intervention in a small setting to start—such as in 1 or 2 classrooms—can help work out initial challenges, identify what kinds of support will be needed, and ensure that capacity is in place before expanding. It is also important to keep track of how an intervention is implemented to understand whether it was delivered to students as intended or designed. Finally, being able identify and measure SEL outcomes will help determine if the intervention is building the SEL skills in students that were identified at the start of the toolkit.

We hope you find the Social and Emotional Learning Coaching Series Guide a useful tool for understanding existing research on SEL interventions. One participant in the original coaching sessions said, “Rather than having SEL remain a current educational ‘catch phrase,’ the training sessions . . . helped participating districts connect research with district initiatives and priorities in ways that would be impactful in classrooms.”

Contact us to learn more about REL Northeast & Islands’ training, coaching, and technical support for your state, district, or school.