Using Social Emotional Learning Programs to Improve School Culture

Why is school culture important?

School culture encompasses all of the attitudes , relationships, and perceptions that affect and shape the ability for a school to function. School culture is important because it impacts student achievement and teacher effectiveness. When school culture is positive, students tend to put in more effort, teachers’ productivity increases, and staff are more likely to successfully collaborate in meaningful ways. Overall, both teachers and students are more energized and motivated.

How can social emotional learning help?

Implementing a social emotional learning program is a major milestone in improving school culture. Social emotional learning programs teach students the foundational skills they need to identify and express emotions, manage stressors, build empathy and improve communication skills. These skills allow students to better resolve conflicts, decrease behavior incidents, and communicate with teachers and peers more appropriately; all of which contribute to a positive school culture. A positive culture in our schools will lead to a positive culture in broader society.

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What should you look for in a social emotional learning program?

Standardized & school wide

For social emotional learning programs to be successful they should be implemented on a school wide scale. In order to impact school culture, all stakeholders must actively participate and “buy in,” including: teachers, staff, students and parents. School wide implementation also helps schools form a common language regarding emotional wellbeing and mental health, which further contributes to school culture. Program expectations, implementation, feedback, and data collection should be clear to all stakeholders and members should be held accountable for their specific roles and responsibilities.

Explicit implementation

Once a social emotional learning program has been selected, implementation is essential. First, teachers should receive information regarding how social emotional learning will help their students as well as why a particular program was selected. This will help teachers fully “buy in” to the program. They should receive any necessary information regarding how the program works and what is needed from them to ensure success. Finally, expectations should be explained.

Developmentally appropriate

A developmentally appropriate classroom allows students to feel comfortable and safe. Children and adolescents feel in control of their own learning while still being challenged and engaged. Studies show that developmentally appropriate materials cause students to feel less stressed, be more creative, and improve communication. A social emotional learning program will often ask students to process feelings and emotions, share this information with classmates and work together to solve challenging problems. It’s important that social emotional learning programs are developmentally appropriate because it will allow students to participate easily and fully benefit from the skills and exercises practiced.  


Schools are required to use curricula that are evidence based. This means that the curriculum is grounded in scientific research and based on high quality data. Social emotional learning programs should be no different. The program selected should be grounded in research to ensure that students are experiencing a curriculum that has proven effective and can be applied across a number of school settings.


This​ ​article​ ​was​ ​contributed​ ​by​ ​​Move This World.​​ ​Move​ ​This​ ​World​ ​provides​ ​PreK-12 schools​ ​with​ ​a​ ​comprehensive​ ​social-emotional​ ​learning​ ​program.​ ​Through evidence-based,​ ​developmentally​ ​aligned​ ​digital​ ​tools,​ ​Move​ ​This​ ​World​ ​ritualizes​ ​a daily​ ​practice​ ​of​ ​identifying,​ ​expressing​ ​and​ ​managing​ ​emotions.​ ​Educators​ ​and students​ ​strengthen​ ​their​ ​social​ ​skills​ ​and​ ​improve​ ​emotional​ ​health​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​create environments​ ​where​ ​effective​ ​teaching​ ​and​ ​learning​ ​can​ ​occur.​ ​​Click​ ​here​​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​more about​ ​their​ ​social​ ​and​ ​emotional​ ​learning​ ​program.

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