What Does the Research Say? - CASEL (2024)

Demand for SEL is on the rise, and it is easy to see why: SEL makes a difference.

The benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL) are well-researched, with evidence demonstrating that an education that promotes SEL yields positive results for students, adults, and school communities.

SEL has a powerful combination of evidence and support. The findings below come from multiple fields and sources and include analyses of hundreds of studies that show SEL leads to beneficial outcomes related to: social and emotional skills; attitudes about self, school, and civic engagement; social behaviors; conduct problems; emotional distress; and academic performance.

In addition, the surveys published below by CASEL and partners show teachers, principals, parents, and students agree: SEL is essential.

Download this customizable presentation to make a compelling case for SEL.

The Benefits of SEL

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SEL leads to improved academic outcomes and behaviors

When students have supportive relationships and opportunities to develop and practice social, emotional, and cognitive skills across many different contexts, academic learning accelerates. Hundreds of studies offer consistent evidence that SEL bolsters academic performance.

Results from a landmark meta-analysis that looked across 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students found that:

  • SEL interventions that address the five core competencies increased students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, compared to students who did not participate.
  • Students participating in SEL programs showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school.
  • Additional meta-analyses echoed these findings. Consistency across independent research teams offers strong support that well-implemented SEL programs are beneficial.

What might this mean for the practical benefits of SEL? About 27% more students would improve their academic performance at the end of the program and 24% more would have improved social behaviors and lower levels of distress.

Read the 2011 meta-analysis. (Durlak et al., 2011)

Read a summary of the four major meta-analyses on SEL.

More recently, a 2021 systematic review found that universal SEL interventions enhance young people’s social and emotional skills and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in the short term. In comparison, other approaches have produced inconsistent results (mindfulness interventions) or limited evidence of impact (positive youth development interventions).

Read the 2021 report from the Early Intervention Foundation.

SEL benefits are long-term and global

Subsequent analyses spoke to the long-term effects of SEL implementation as well as SEL’s effectiveness in diverse cultural contexts.

Long-term effects:

  • Measured a positive correlation between strong social emotional assets (measured at the end of intervention) and higher levels of well-being up to 18 years later. (Taylor et al., 2017)

Effectiveness across cultural contexts:

  • An SEL approach was consistently effective with all demographic groups both inside and outside the United States. This supports the idea that social and emotional assets promoted in SEL can support the positive development of students from diverse family backgrounds and geographic contexts. (Taylor et al., 2017)
  • SEL interventions show the largest effect size when the intervention is designed with a specific context or culture in mind. This supports the idea that SEL is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ intervention. (Wiglesworth et al., 2016)

Read the 2017 meta-analysis of 82 research studies involving 100,000 students worldwide.

SEL is a wise financial investment

When it comes to school programming, education leaders are often weighing the benefits of investing in new efforts. Cost-benefit research demonstrates the value of SEL programs. The report found an average return on investment for six evidence-based programs of 11 to 1, meaning for every dollar invested there is an $11 return.

Read the 2015 review from Columbia University.

Social and emotional skills help improve lifetime outcomes

In addition to the long-term outcomes articulated above, there are statistically significant associations between social and emotional skills in kindergarten and key outcomes for young adults years later. Specifically, early social and emotional skills development helped to reduce societal costs required for public assistance, public housing, police involvement, and detention.

Read the 2015 national study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The Support for SEL

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What young people are saying…

High school students and recent high school graduates see the benefits of attending schools that emphasize SEL. But most current and recent high school students believe their schools could have done better.

Download the 2018 report from CASEL and Civic.

A qualitative study of young people who describe their experiences with the integration of social, emotional, and cognitive development in exemplary learning settings shows that supportive learning environments are nurturing young people’s sense of themselves as valued, multi-dimensional community members.

View the 2020 report from America’s Promise Alliance.

What school principals are saying…

School principals agree SEL is essential, with nearly all principals surveyed sharing that developing students’ social and emotional skills is a critical aspect of students’ in-school experience. They also want more guidance, more training for teachers, and greater access to research-based strategies for developing SEL in students.

Read the 2017 report from CASEL and Civic on the survey’s findings (and the 2019 update).

What educators are saying…

Not only do 56% of educators believe resources to support SEL in the classroom will be most critical post-pandemic, but 82% agree that a well-crafted, fully integrated SEL approach makes an impact on outcomes.

Read the 2021 Educator Confidence Report.

Eighty percent of educators from across 15 countries believe positive emotions are critical for academic success, and emotional well-being is crucial for developing foundational literacies and communication skills.

Read the 2019 brief from The Economist Intelligence Unit on the survey’s findings.

What teachers are saying…

Virtually all teachers report that it’s critical to develop key SEL skills in the classroom. According to educators, key SEL skills include:

  • Self-awareness (with 99% of educators rating it as either somewhat or very important)
  • Relationship skills (98% of educators)
  • Self-management (97% of educators)
  • Responsible decision-making (97% of educators)
  • Social awareness (96% of educators)

View the 2021 report from McGraw Hill on the survey’s findings.

Ninety-three percent of teachers want a greater focus on SEL in schools. They agree that social and emotional skills are teachable and are calling for schools to prioritize the integration of SEL practices and strategies.

Download the 2013 report from CASEL and Civic on the survey’s findings.

About 90% of elementary and secondary teachers agreed that promoting SEL would improve students’ academic achievement. It also found that teachers who reported higher levels of well-being reported engaging in SEL practices to a greater extent than those with lower reported well-being.

View the 2020 report from Rand Corporation on survey findings from the American Teacher Panel.

What policymakers are saying…

When we consider what it means for students to be prepared for college, career, and community life, social and emotional competencies are critically important for the long-term success of all students in today’s economy. A bipartisan report addressed SEL as a core component of children’s education, recommending several steps to scale up high-quality, evidence-based SEL programs.

Read the 2015 report from American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution.

What the broader public is saying…

Eighty-two percent said that it is highly important for schools to help students develop interpersonal skills, such as being cooperative, respectful of others, and persistent at solving problems.

Read the 2017 PDK poll results.

What parents are saying…

As of 2021, 62% of parents feel teaching SEL is very important, compared to 55% three years ago. Parents also believe that SEL is not emphasized as much as it should be (81%), that it has become even more important since the beginning of the pandemic (82%), and that it is helpful for children learning online (80%).

View the 2021 report from McGraw Hill on the survey’s findings.

What employers are saying…

Six of the identified top ten skills for the future involve social and emotional competence, including complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.

View the World Economic Forum report.

Thirty-one percent of employers worldwide struggle to find qualified employees. A major reason for the qualified labor shortage is that fewer students are graduating high school with the social and emotional skills required for today’s workplace. In another survey, 92% of surveyed executives say skills such as problem-solving and communicating clearly are equal to or more important than technical skills, yet 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding employees with those skills.

View the report from Association for Career and Technical Education, National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

View the Wall Street Journal article on this data.

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  • The Benefits of SEL
    • SEL leads to improved academic outcomes and behaviors
    • SEL benefits are long-term and global
    • SEL is a wise financial investment
    • Social and emotional skills help improve lifetime outcomes
  • The Support for SEL
    • What young people are saying…
    • What school principals are saying…
    • What educators are saying…
    • What teachers are saying…
    • What policymakers are saying…
    • What the broader public is saying…
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What Does the Research Say? - CASEL (2024)


What does the research say demand for SEL is on the rise and it is easy to see why SEL makes a difference? ›

Demand for SEL is on the rise, and it is easy to see why: SEL makes a difference. The benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL) are well-researched, with evidence demonstrating that an education that promotes SEL yields positive results for students, adults, and school communities.

What is the CASEL theory? ›

This Theory of Action from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is structured around four key elements: 1) building the foundation and plan; 2) strengthening adult competencies and capacity; 3) promoting SEL for students; and 4) using data for continuous improvement.

What are the 5 components of CASEL? ›

The CASEL 5 addresses five broad and interrelated areas of competence and highlights examples for each: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

What is the purpose of CASEL? ›

CASEL's mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school.

Why are parents upset about SEL? ›

But schools have seen a backlash against SEL in recent months. Some experts say the use of jargon and the lack of a specific explanation of SEL's content and purpose is one reason for parent anger and misunderstanding.

What is the problem with SEL? ›

First, claims that SEL is “evidence-based” have been vastly oversold. Second, SEL has become an ideologically charged enterprise. Third, the data collection involved in SEL implementation poses major risks to the privacy of students and families.

Is CASEL evidence-based? ›

CASEL identifies high-quality evidence-based programs as those that are well-designed to systematically promote students' social and emotional competence, provide opportunities for practice, offer multi-year programming, and provide high-quality training and ongoing implementation support.

Is SEL an evidence-based practice? ›

Evidence-based SEL programs are grounded in research and principles of child and adolescent development, and are scientifically evaluated and shown to produce positive student outcomes. Adopting an evidence-based program is one of the key strategies for providing consistent SEL opportunities for all students.

Who is behind CASEL? ›

James Comer and his colleagues at Yale University's Child Study Center began a program to put their ideas about supporting the “whole child” into practice at two schools in New Haven, Connecticut.

What are the 5 SEL standards? ›

The following descriptions of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) are from CASEL. They address five broad, interrelated areas of competence and provide examples for each: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

What are the 5 keys to SEL? ›

The 5 Key Components of Social/Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Self-awareness. Students learn to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as see their behavior's influence on other people. ...
  • Self-management. ...
  • Social awareness. ...
  • Relationship skills. ...
  • Responsible decision-making.
Sep 4, 2020

What are the four 4 common competencies? ›

communication, engagement/charisma, delegation, respect.

What are 3 benefits of practicing SEL? ›

SEL is beneficial to both children and adults, increasing self-awareness, academic achievement, and positive behaviors both in and out of the classroom. From an academic standpoint, students who participated in SEL programs saw an 11 percentile increase in their overall grades and better attendance.

Why is SEL needed in schools? ›

Social-emotional learning (SEL) helps improve kids' academic performance, curtail bullying, reduce dropout rates, and build character. Well-implemented SEL programs positively affect students' success in school.

Why is SEL important CASEL? ›

That is why social and emotional learning (SEL) is important—because it can help create educational opportunities and environments that promote learning and practicing social, emotional, and academic skills, all of which are fundamental to healthy human development.

What is SEL trauma? ›

What is Trauma-Informed SEL? Trauma-informed SEL is an approach to fostering youths' social-emotional development with practices that support all students, but is particularly inclusive and responsive to the needs of children and youth who have experienced trauma.

Does SEL teach gender identity? ›

Through self-reflection and social awareness, SEL helps teach skills needed to connect across race, class, culture, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, learning needs and age.

What is the new name for SEL? ›

But about that name, social-emotional learning. It was ranked second to last out of 12 different terms related to SEL, coming only above soft skills. The favorite term, by a long shot, was life skills.

What is the negative side of SEL? ›

SEL ignores spiritual, physical, and societal well-being. It doesn't encourage students to learn outdoors in nature and become stewards of the environment. It has nothing to say about physical fitness. Nor does it address young people's spiritual hunger to feel part of something greater than themselves.

Is SEL trauma informed? ›

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Is an Integral Part of Creating a Trauma-Informed Learning Environment. As a part of a trauma-informed learning environment, SEL can: Support self-regulation, coping skills, and other protective factors critical to mitigating the negative impacts of trauma. Promote resiliency.

Do parents support SEL? ›

Through supportive relationships and home environments, families model and practice SEL with their children. As experts in their children's development, interests, cultures, and strengths, families are also important advocates for SEL at their child's school.

What is the best SEL program? ›

12 top-rated SEL programs
  • Positive Action. Positive Action is a Pre-K through Grade 12 SEL program that can be added to any curriculum. ...
  • Second Step. Second Step is a Pre-K through grade 8 SEL program that is said to take a more holistic approach to teaching empathy. ...
  • PATHS. ...
  • EduMotion. ...
  • The 4Rs. ...
  • Better Kids. ...
  • Playworks. ...
  • Peekapak.
Mar 25, 2022

How is CASEL funded? ›

CASEL – The Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning leads the Collaborating District Initiative (CDI). The CDI is funded by NoVo Foundation and the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust and involves the American Institutes for Research (AIR) as an external evaluator.

Is CASEL a SEL program? ›

In 2011, CASEL took an unprecedented step: an initiative to study and scale high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) in complex school systems.

Is SEL part of PBIS? ›

Although similar, SEL and PBIS have considerable differences. For starters, SEL focuses more on long-term emotional gains, while PBIS focuses on rewarding behaviors in the moment. SEL focuses on teaching competencies, while PBIS is more about implementing the actual process through systems, data, and processes.

What are the four social teaching practices that promote SEL? ›

To help clarify what integration means, the authors provide a taxonomy of SEL-academic integration that includes four categories: explicit skill alignment, explicit strategy alignment, ways of interacting, and ways of being.

What are the 5 as of Evidence-based practice? ›

What does EBP mean in practice? Evidence-based practice is a process that involves five distinct steps which we call the five 'A's: Ask, Access, Appraise, Apply, Audit.

Why did Florida ban social emotional learning? ›

Florida rejected many of the math textbooks on the grounds that it had social emotional learning or references to critical race theory.

Who is the godfather of SEL? ›

Maurice Elias, the Director of the Social-Emotional & Character Development Lab at Rutgers University and the “Godfather of SEL,” about the importance of sustainability when it comes to social emotional learning.

Who is the CEO of CASEL? ›

Aaliyah A.

Samuel is the President and CEO of CASEL and Senior Fellow, Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child. Dr. Samuel is a bilingual executive leader with expertise from early childhood through higher education. Dr.

What are the 3 pillars of SEL? ›

Three Pillars: Culture, Adult Skills, Curriculum. A culture where social emotional learning can thrive is one that provides a safe and healthy place for children to learn and grow.

What are the 4 key settings of SEL? ›

Where can SEL be taught and practiced? Our framework takes a systemic approach that emphasizes the importance of establishing equitable learning environments and coordinating practices across four key settings: classrooms, schools, homes, and communities.

What are the 7 Mindsets of SEL? ›

7 Mindsets is a web-based program that teaches students the skills needed to master social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies. The 7 Mindsets are Everything Is Possible, Passion First, We Are Connected, 100% Accountable, Attitude of Gratitude, Live to Give, and The Time Is Now.

What is SEL in a nutshell? ›

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. People with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially.

What are the core SEL values? ›

The five SEL competencies (self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness, and relationship skills), are vital to the teaching and understanding of social and emotional learning at school.

What are 3 main aspects of social, emotional development? ›

Social-emotional development consists of three main areas of children's self-regulation:
  • Acting: Behaving in socially appropriate ways and ways that foster learning.
  • Feeling: Understanding others' emotions and regulation of one's own emotions.
  • Thinking: Regulating attention and thoughts.

What are the 3 core leader competencies? ›

On the right are the core leader competencies you'll read about in this section—leading, developing, and achieving.

What are the 3 main core competencies? ›

The 3 Competency Categories

Competencies fall into three main categories: Core, Cross-functional and Functional. All are important, but there is a hierarchy.

What are the four C's of? ›

Do you know what they are? Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are considered the four c's and are all skills that are needed in order to succeed in today's world.

What makes a successful SEL program? ›

Samuel emphasized that effective SEL programs are integrated throughout schools and districts. Key characteristics include explicit SEL instruction as well as SEL integrated into the curriculum, supportive discipline, a focus on adult SEL as well as the students, and partnerships with the family and the community.

How does SEL impact mental health? ›

Social and emotional learning helps to support student mental health needs by fostering a sense of safety and security, building positive relationships with others, and providing equitable support to learning. The combined impact, according to CASEL, is a strengthened school community.

What is the most important aspect of SEL? ›


Self-awareness is sometimes described as the leading skill in social-emotional learning. CASEL defines it as the ability to “understand one's own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.”

How does SEL affect academics? ›

SEL leads to improved academic outcomes and behaviors

When students have supportive relationships and opportunities to develop and practice social, emotional, and cognitive skills across many different contexts, academic learning accelerates.

What are 5 benefits of SEL? ›

6 benefits of social-emotional learning
  • SEL helps you regulate your emotions and manage stress. ...
  • SEL improves academic performance. ...
  • SEL promotes resilience. ...
  • SEL improves mental health. ...
  • SEL increases equity.
Dec 14, 2021

What teachers should know about SEL? ›

What is SEL for Educators?
  • The competencies that adults need in order to manage stress and create a safe and supportive classroom environment.
  • The skills and mindsets that adults need to effectively embody, teach, model and coach SEL for students.
  • The overall well-being and emotional state of adults in school settings.
Jan 23, 2023

Why does SEL matter for teachers? ›

SEL helps students acquire the skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Why is social-emotional learning SEL important? ›

Social-emotional learning (SEL) helps improve kids' academic performance, curtail bullying, reduce dropout rates, and build character. Well-implemented SEL programs positively affect students' success in school.

Why we really need SEL social-emotional learning now? ›

SEL is beneficial to both children and adults, increasing self-awareness, academic achievement, and positive behaviors both in and out of the classroom. From an academic standpoint, students who participated in SEL programs saw an 11 percentile increase in their overall grades and better attendance.

Why is SEL important how does it contribute to address the needs of students and their academic learning growth? ›

SEL can help students better understand and identify their emotions; it can help them develop empathy, increase self-control and manage stress. It also helps them build better relationships and interpersonal skills that will serve them in school and beyond, helping them succeed as adults.

Why is SEL important for social studies? ›

Social Studies is enhanced when it is intentional about developing social and emotional learning (SEL) core competencies. organized to develop community service skills, which give students opportunities to practice communication, assertiveness, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

What are some potential barriers to SEL implementation? ›

A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) identifies five of these barriers: poverty, exclusionary discipline practices and policies in school, lack of trauma-informed practices, implicit bias and educator stress and burnout.

How does SEL impact school climate? ›

Studies in both SEL and school climate show: When students feel a sense of belonging and community, their ability to accept feedback and persevere in the face of challenge improves. A positive school climate is correlated with higher academic achievement, and even better health outcomes for students.

Who should teach SEL to students? ›

Give Teachers the Responsibility to Teach SEL: It is important that teachers, rather than counselors or support staff, take the lead on delivering explicit SEL instruction.

How do schools support SEL? ›

38 Simple Ways To Integrate Social-Emotional Learning Throughout the Day
  • Start each day with an emotions check-in. ...
  • Use story time for teachable moments. ...
  • Use an SEL curriculum. ...
  • Practice role-play. ...
  • Teach decision-making skills. ...
  • Allow for talk time. ...
  • Teach students to monitor their own progress. ...
  • Build community with teams.
Oct 17, 2022

What is the importance of promoting SEL in schools? ›

Social and Emotional Learning—SEL. Emotions can facilitate or impede children's academic engagement, commitment, and ultimate school success since relationships and emotional processes affect how and what we learn.

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