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Ask A REL Response

December 2021


What research has been conducted on teacher perceptions of social emotional learning?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on class size reduction at the middle school level and benefits for minority students. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed class size reduction at the middle school level and benefits for minority students. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Barnes, T. N.,& McCallops, K. (2019). Perceptions of culturally responsive pedagogy in teaching SEL. Journal for Multicultural Education, 13(1), 70–81.
    From the abstract: “Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine educators' beliefs, perceptions and use of culturally responsive practices in implementing a social-emotional learning (SEL) intervention. Design/methodology/approach: Focus groups with school personnel in a school with a diverse student population that had sustained success with an SEL intervention were conducted. Grounded theory was used to analyze data. Findings: The analyses produced 11 interrelated themes. Practical implications: School personnel noted that instruction in culturally responsive practices was foundational and should occur before SEL intervention implementation commences to ensure the use of culturally responsive practices as part of SEL implementation. Moreover, they noted the importance of school community buy-in (administrator, faculty, staff, parent and student) in supporting school-based SEL intervention sustainability. Social implications: Within the USA, continued diversification of the student population is predicted, while the teaching force is projected to remain primarily White, middle class and female. Consequently, educators often differ in cultural background from their students, which has implications for SEL instruction. Incorporating the use of culturally responsive pedagogy in teaching SEL skills is one approach to addressing this cultural mismatch. Originality/value: There are currently few studies that explore educator perceptions of SEL and no studies that examine the use of culturally responsive pedagogy in teaching SEL.”
  2. Brackett, M. A., Reyes, M. R., Rivers, S. E., Elbertson, N. A., & Salovey, P. (2012). Assessing teachers' beliefs about social and emotional learning. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 30(3), 219–236.
    From the abstract: “Teachers are the primary implementers of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. Their beliefs about SEL likely influence program delivery, evaluation, and outcomes. A simple tool for measuring these beliefs could be used by school administrators to determine school readiness for SEL programming and by researchers to better understand teacher variables that impact implementation fidelity and program outcomes. In a two-phase study, we developed and then validated a parsimonious measure of teachers' beliefs about SEL. In Phase 1, survey items were administered to 935 teachers and subjected to both exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, resulting in three reliable scales pertaining to teachers' "comfort" with teaching SEL, "commitment" to learning about SEL, and perceptions about whether their school "culture" supports SEL. Phase 2 provided evidence for the concurrent and predictive validity of the scales with a subsample of teachers implementing an SEL program as part of a randomized controlled trial. The discussion focuses on the value of measuring teachers' beliefs about SEL from both researcher and practitioner perspectives. (Contains 1 note, 3 tables, and 1 figure.)”
  3. Buchanan, R., Gueldner, B. A., Tran, O. K., & Merrell, K. W. (2009). Social and emotional learning in classrooms: A survey of teachers' knowledge, perceptions, and practices. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 25(2).
    From the abstract: “A survey study was conducted to examine teachers' knowledge, perceptions, and practices regarding social and emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. Teachers from two states (N = 263) provided a range of responses regarding how to promote SEL in their classrooms, increase the effectiveness of SEL, and reduce barriers to implementation. Results indicated that many teachers believe that SEL is important, schools should take an active role, receiving training/support from a variety of professionals would be helpful, and current academic demands decrease the opportunity for SEL. In addition to broadening the very limited research in this area, this study provides important new information regarding teachers' knowledge and practices of SEL in classrooms. This information is useful to school psychologists, other specialists, and administrators in helping set the stage for establishing social-emotional learning practices in schools. (Contains 6 tables.)”
  4. Dobia, B., Parada, R. H., Roffey, S., & Smith, M. (2019). Social and emotional learning: From individual skills to class cohesion. Educational & Child Psychology, 36(2), 78–90.
    From the abstract: “Aim: To evaluate the impact and process of introducing Circle Solutions (Circles) in six primary schools. Rationale: Many frameworks for social and emotional learning (SEL) aim to develop individual skills. Circle Solutions is based on a collective approach with a specific pedagogy. This paper explores the impact that Circle Solutions have on belonging and inclusion. Method: Teachers in six primary schools were trained in Circle Solutions and asked to run the intervention once a week for up to six months, with three additional schools providing a waitlist control condition. A mixed-method approach was used to evaluate changes in pupils social-emotional skills, behaviour and connectedness. Five teachers completed the Teacher Attitudes to Social Emotional Learning survey (TASEL) prior to and following the intervention. 157 pupils completed a modified version of the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) plus two open-ended questions. Findings: Although quantitative findings did not indicate statistically significant differences, qualitative responses suggested that the introduction of Circle Solutions increased inclusiveness and valuing of others, developed students' emotional awareness, enhanced a positive sense of self and stimulated student engagement. Teachers increased their sense of efficacy for teaching social emotional skills and identified improvements in teacher-student relationships as well as in student confidence, peer relationships, empathy, kindness, and student engagement. Limitations: Issues with systemic implementation were identified. Conclusion: Circle Solutions appears to have the potential to improve relationships, contributing to more connected and inclusive classrooms where children feel valued and appreciate others. Consideration needs to be given to sustainability and methodology in the evaluation of such programmes. There is a role for educational psychologists in establishing and supporting this intervention as happened throughout this study.”
  5. Poulou, M. S., Bassett, H. H., & Denham, S. A. (2018). Teachers' perceptions of emotional intelligence and social-emotional learning: students' emotional and behavioral difficulties in U.S. and Greek preschool classrooms. Journal of Research in Childhood education, 32(3), 363–377.
    From the abstract: “Teachers are important socializers and provide students with experiences to further promote their social-emotional competences or shift their pathways towards emotional and behavioral difficulties. These experiences may vary depending on teachers' perceptions of their own emotional intelligence (EI) and beliefs about social and emotional learning (SEL) implementation. However, teachers' perceptions of EI and SEL cannot be meaningfully understood without consideration of their cultural values. The present study examined differences in U.S. and Greek preschool teachers' perceptions of their own EI and SEL beliefs, and used these teacher perceptions and beliefs to predict preschool students' emotional and behavioral difficulties, for each cultural group. Goals were to examine whether: (1) U.S. and Greek preschool teachers' perceptions of EI and SEL vary by cultural group, and (2) teachers' perceptions of EI and SEL relate to students' emotional and behavioral difficulties, and these relations vary by cultural group. Participants were 80 preschool teachers from the United States and 92 preschool teachers from Greece. The study provided evidence for the cultural-relativity of EI and SEL dimensions, and indicated that teachers' perceptions of EI and SEL selectively predict students' difficulties in either population. Discussion focuses on cultural considerations in shaping teachers' perceptions of EI and SEL beliefs.”
  6. Schultz, D., Ambike, A., Stapleton, L. M., Domitrovich, C. E., Schaeffer, C. M., & Bartels, B. (2010). Development of a questionnaire assessing teacher perceived support for and attitudes about social and emotional learning. Early Education and Development, 21(6), 865–885.
    From the abstract: “Research Findings: In the past 20 years school districts have increasingly adopted classroom-based social and emotional development programs. The dissemination of these programs, however, has surpassed our understanding of and ability to assess factors that influence program implementation. The present study responded to this gap by developing a questionnaire that focuses on teacher perceptions of implementation support and teacher attitudes about social-emotional learning and by assessing its psychometric properties. One hundred forty-five Baltimore City Head Start preschool teachers completed the questionnaire. Factor analyses suggested 6 underlying constructs, which we termed administrative support, training, competence, program effectiveness, time constraints, and academic priority. Several of these scales predicted teacher reports of program implementation. Practice or Policy: The questionnaire holds significant promise as a tool for assessing readiness and barriers to social and emotional program implementation. (Contains 2 tables and 1 footnote.)”
  7. Van Huynh, S., Tran-Chi, V-L., & Nguyen, T. T (2018). Vietnamese teachers' perceptions of social-emotional learning education in primary schools. European Journal of Contemporary Education, 7(4), 874–881.
    From the abstract: “Teachers are the primary deliverers of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) program, and therefore their beliefs, attitudes, and support towards SEL influence the adoption, sustainability, and impacts of this program. The aim of the present research is to measure the perception of social emotional learning education among Vietnamese primary school teachers. A group of 250 Vietnamese primary school teachers (142 males and 108 females) participated in the survey. They completed the Teachers' Perceptions of Social Emotional Learning scale (TPSEL). The scale included four subscales which are the Teachers' perceived level of the necessity of SEL education in primary schools (TPN), the Teachers' perceived level of the importance of SEL education in primary schools (TPI), the Teachers' perceived level of concern about SEL education in primary schools (TPC), and the Barriers to the Implementation of SEL Programs (BISEL). Results showed significant differences in BISEL among the teachers with different years of teaching experience. Moreover, various educational backgrounds affected TPN and BISEL considerably. The interaction effect on TPN and BISEL was found. The results suggested that regardless of the differences in educational backgrounds and years of experience, the teachers were all aware of the necessity as well as the challenges when implementing SEL in classrooms in primary schools.”


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • teacher perceptions, role of social emotional learning, academic performance
  • teacher attitudes, social-emotional learning
  • social and emotional learning, teachers’ perceptions

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.