Giving Compass' Take:

• Here are some lessons on SEL from dialogues between school leaders at RAND's nationally representative American School Leader Panel and the virtual community at the #PrincipalProject's national Principal Panel.

• How can SEL help the most vulnerable students right now? In what ways can educators best support them? 

• Read more about promoting students' social-emotional learning after COVID-19. 

“We have to take care of our kids for sure, but we also need to take care of our staff so we can take care of our kids.”—assistant principal in a U.S. urban school district.

The quote above is only one of many school leader voices we collected in late spring and early summer 2020 through RAND's nationally representative American School Leader Panel and in virtual community dialogues with the #PrincipalProject's national Principal Panel. As this assistant principal reminds us, uncertainty and disruption can take a toll on students and staff, and school leaders understand the value of social and emotional learning (SEL) to ensure the well-being of everyone in their schools, regardless of what form schooling takes. Effective SEL involves promoting competencies such as self-awareness and teamwork, creating supportive school and classroom climates, prioritizing relationships, and providing culturally relevant, equitable learning opportunities (PDF). Educators across the country believe, and research confirms, that SEL supports rather than detracts from academic learning.

By synthesizing the perspectives of principals who participated in our research, we identified how they feel SEL needs to change to meet the needs of the current moment and what they need to facilitate it in their schools.

Roughly a quarter of school leaders in the RAND surveys expressed a “major” or “very major” need for high-quality materials to support SEL during building closures, especially those in urban communities and in schools serving high proportions of low-income students and students of color. School leaders in the community dialogues (PDF) also wanted policymakers and funders to be aware of the need for immediate as well as longer-term, recovery-focused SEL support for school communities.

Schools can integrate SEL into instruction through approaches like exploring emotions of characters in novels or using break-out rooms in video apps to encourage small-group discussion, but they need tools and guidance to facilitate this. In the community dialogues (PDF), school leaders also saw the current moment as an opportunity to re-examine the extent to which traditional classroom instruction is effectively serving students: “Maybe we need to be asking ourselves if what we were doing is still what we need? Is it even effective?”

Read the full article about social emotional learning by Laura S. Hamilton at RAND.