SEL Implementation Guide for School Principals & Administrators


As educators, we understand the importance of teaching to the whole child and must partner with families to help build responsible, emotionally attuned, productive members of society. As defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary 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.

The eight social and emotional competencies are:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Self Management
  3. Social-Awareness
  4. Relationship Skills
  5. Goal-Directed Responsibility
  6. Personal Responsibility 
  7. Decision Making
  8. Optimistic Thinking 

Schools understand the importance of cultivating students’ social and emotional knowledge, attitude, and skills but sometimes lack the knowledge of how to implement SEL effectively. As a leader, you can focus on the following areas to ensure successful implementation of SEL at your school: 

  • Create a Climate Conducive for SEL 
  • Build and Strengthen Adult SEL Knowledge
  • Establish Coaching Structures for Effective SEL Implementation
  • Continuously Evaluate SEL Program Effectiveness

Create a Climate Conducive for SEL

This first stage is where leaders collaboratively create a vision and plan for what social and emotional learning will look like in their school. Administrators start building awareness of SEL for teachers, families, the community, and other stakeholders.

Key Leader Actions:

  • Establishing a Vision
  • Creating a Climate for SEL

Build and Strengthen Adult SEL Knowledge

Key Leader Actions:

  • Norming School-Wide Procedures
    Engaging Families
    Supporting Team with Implementation

Establish Coaching Structures for Effective SEL Implementation

Teachers need exposure to and practice with effective SEL implementation through a variety of training opportunities. Some coaching structures are listed below with best ways to utilize them.

Key Leader Actions:

  • Supporting Team with Implementation
  • Promoting Coaching Structures
  • Creating Peer Collaboration Opportunities

Continuously Evaluate SEL Program Effectiveness

Leaders need to create a data-driven culture by stressing the importance of the following structures and allowing time for each of these to happen consistently and with teacher support in place.

Key Leader Actions During Implementation Stage:

  • Creating Peer Collaboration Opportunities
  • Supporting Team with Implementation
  • Creating Data-Driven Culture