Getting Started with Social Emotional Learning in School Districts

Getting Started with Social Emotional Learning in School Districts

Social emotional learning (SEL) is an approach that school leaders can take to understand emotions, set goals around positive behavior and change the way students engage with each other through empathy and taking responsibility. SEL is the link between behaviors and action present in the classroom and school community. SEL skills include, but are not limited, to self-awareness, relationship skills, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making. All of these skills are important for student development.

An SEL curriculum supplements the academic instruction for students. If you are a school leader and you are interested in shifting instructional strategies to address student behaviors, incorporating an SEL approach would advance those efforts. This is also true for district-wide implementations. Administrative leadership across districts can provide support to individual schools that encourage SEL strategies that positively impact student outcomes.

Each district has varying needs that impact decisions around SEL. Leadership should be prepared to provide direction and support as schools implement SEL plans, as well as provide the time to effectively launch the curriculum. SEL programs are helpful in improving school culture and student achievement.

→ See how we support schoolwide SEL 

Ready to get started? Here are 5 things to consider when implementing SEL in school districts. 


SEL programming involves school staff in many ways. Teachers, counselors and district leadership are responsible for determining which skills to focus on, developing a continuous improvement cycle that gathers data, analyzes and adjusts the SEL programming. It is important to identify what will be measured, how it will be measured and provide support for the individuals who will be implementing the new approach. 


District level administration must provide directions for integrating SEL schoolwide. Effective integration requires teacher training, modeling and feedback that encourage continuous practice. During integration, teachers and school level staff will need time to reflect and review the outcomes from the early integration stages.


With any new skill or strategy, it is important to collect data that informs whether or not it is effective. Considering the select SEL skills being taught, use tools that provide detailed information on how students are responding. Data should be collected often and shared amongst leadership to determine if the approach is effective.


Specifically in the early stages of implementation, acting on the data collected is important. The data may inform decisions on new ways to give instruction, additional support for instruction on a specific skill or needed additional training for staff. No matter the outcome, be proactive in working with the SEL curriculum.


Continuous improvement efforts for SEL curriculums are important for outcomes. It may be that you should consider who in the student population is being served effectively and who is not. Are there highlights across grade levels or schools? If so, what are the skills and in what ways are they being measured? Is the data consistent with the realities of the learning environment? Teachers and school staff should be able to provide details on the experience as they reflect on how to continue to support these efforts and provide direction for future implementation.

Are you considering using the SEL approach in your district?
Here are some potential outcomes:

  • SEL skills directly impact student academic performance. This has the potential to impact math and reading scores for students.
  • Positive student behavior is a huge outcome. SEL skills allow students to incorporate best practices when engaging with each other. This helps students become more aware of their own actions.
  • The school culture shifts as more students are practicing SEL skills. This is true for both students and staff because everyone is engaging in best practices and building relationships.

Implementing SEL curriculum districtwide helps staff and administrators build positive school cultures. Students will benefit from the structure and detailed curriculum used to address their behavior and peer-to-peer interactions.