Process

Process

This process will support districts in integrating and prioritizing SEL in academic frameworks and professional learning content, establishing restorative and equitable discipline policies  that promote SEL and relationship-building, and embedding SEL into a continuum of academic and behavioral supports for meeting the needs of all students. Use the Rubric to assess your current level of implementation.

The systemic integration of SEL into students’ daily experiences is a vital component of what makes schools and students successful. Below are steps for integrating SEL into several high-priority areas:

Academic Instruction

1. Develop a deep partnership between the SEL team/lead and academic departments.

Strong communication and collaboration between these teams will ensure that SEL is seen as part of effective teaching and learning rather than something that directs time and effort away from acade…More

Strong communication and collaboration between these teams will ensure that SEL is seen as part of effective teaching and learning rather than something that directs time and effort away from academic instruction.

To launch a relationship with academic department leaders, begin with informal discussions, ask to attend their upcoming events or meetings to learn more about their work, or invite them to attend your team meetings to share about their key initiatives.  Then, work together to identify common goals and strategies for integration.  Consider these points for discussion:

  • Can SEL enhance student or adult skill development to better achieve academic objectives?
  • Can SEL build connections among students or adults to improve their ability to work collaboratively to achieve academic goals?
  • Can SEL training increase positive, supportive, and culturally responsive staff engagement with students?

2. Embed SEL into academic priorities and standards.

Rigorous, high-quality learning tasks call on students to use their social and emotional skills as they communicate and collaborate with their peers, manage challenges and frustration, set goals an…More

Rigorous, high-quality learning tasks call on students to use their social and emotional skills as they communicate and collaborate with their peers, manage challenges and frustration, set goals and monitor their progress and explore different perspectives.  By collaborating to embed social and emotional skill building into academic priorities and standards, the district can expand the reach of SEL at the same time as it enhances learning. This may include conceptualizing how SEL standards are linked to the district’s adopted instructional framework and to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or other state- and district-level academic standards.

Dr. Vicki Zakrzewski’s article in UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine is a brief and persuasive dive into the ways social and emotional skills are implicit within the CCSS.  For a more detailed look at the CCSS for math and a full crosswalk with SEL competencies, see this project from the Charles A. Dana Center and CASEL.  This brief from the Aspen Institute describes how College and Career Readiness standards from across the country are dependent on social and emotional skills.  For specific state and district samples of this work, visit CASEL’s Collaborating States Initiative integration resources page.

3. Design and implement a coordinated and scaffolded professional learning plan to support teachers in integrating SEL into instructional practices.

Districts have approached academic integration in various ways.  To read about one district’s journey, see More

Districts have approached academic integration in various ways.  To read about one district’s journey, see Edutopia’s feature on Nashville.  For an illustration of SEL integration at the classroom level, take a few minutes to visit the 5th-grade classroom in Anchorage in this video.  SEL can be integrated into teaching practices and interactions, into learning structures and activities, and into specific academic content.  Consider the learning needs of different school-based staff members as you plan your district’s professional learning approach.

For all school-based staff: Integrate SEL into teaching practices and interactions

A simple but highly effective way that adults teach social and emotional skills is by modeling them and creating space for young people to apply them throughout the day.  This can take place in any setting or subject area, at any grade level, and at any time of day.  CASEL’s sample teaching activities and self-reflection tool provide clear examples of how teachers model and interact with students in ways that strengthen student skills in each SEL domain.

For a broader view, AIR’s self-reflection tool for afterschool staff works well for staff who support young people outside of class time.  A teacher self-assessment from CASEL’s Guide to Schoolwide SEL lists a range of strategies, from the physical arrangement of the classroom to the teacher’s use of student-centered discipline, for teachers to create a supportive classroom environment that fosters SEL.

Ten Teaching Practices that Promote SEL, developed by AIR’s Center on Great Teachers & Leaders, is a useful framework for structuring teacher professional learning on SEL integration. The 10 practices include four social interactions and six instructional interactions that are key for high-quality teaching and learning and also support SEL.  Associated resources include a teacher self-assessment and action planning guide, a crosswalk with three commonly used teacher evaluation frameworks, a facilitator’s guide for leading professional development, a coaching guide, and a comprehensive toolkit produced in partnership with the state of Tennessee that includes videos, look-fors, and discussion prompts for administrators and teams of teachers.

For all school-based staff who design lesson plans: Integrate SEL with learning structures and activities

The next step in academic integration is to select learning structures and activities for an academic lesson that will activate and strengthen students’ social and emotional skills.  A thoughtfully designed learning activity can boost engagement and academic gains while also meeting one or more of these SEL learning objectives:

  • Nurture students’ awareness of their own thinking, feelings, and behavior.
  • Foster students’ ability to manage emotions, control impulses, deal with stress and achieve goals.
  • Cultivate students’ ability to appreciate diversity, take various perspectives, feel empathy, and demonstrate respect.
  • Develop students’ ability to communicate effectively, engage socially, build relationships, work cooperatively, and resolve conflicts.
  • Advance ethical behavior and decision-making.

Familiar learning structures such as cooperative learning, four corners exercises, journaling, Socratic discussions, think-pair-share, student self-assessment, project-based learning, and peer tutoring can promote SEL when planned intentionally and thoughtfully debriefed.   CASEL’s Guide to Schoolwide SEL includes a lesson-planning checklist and self-assessment that can help teachers add SEL elements to existing lessons.  You can see this type of learning in action in these classrooms:

The 3 Signature SEL Practices are a simple and effective framework for integrating SEL into any learning block, or even a professional development session or meeting for adults.  The practices are:

  • A Welcoming Inclusion Activity—This ritual builds community and connects to the work ahead, and supports all students to develop their identity as a valued member of the class.
  • Engaging Strategies—Embed these strategies, including brain breaks to anchor thinking and learning, throughout the learning block.  These offer opportunities to practice social and emotional skills through interaction and reflection.
  • An Optimistic Closure—This provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their learning and progress, identify next steps, and make connections.  It can provide a sense of accomplishment and support forward-thinking

Oakland Unified School District has developed an exemplary set of tools for using the 3 Signature SEL Practices, including a video and overviews adapted for a range of audiences (classroom teachers, summer school staff, and all adults).  CASEL has built on this to produce the 3 Signature Practices Playbook, a full guide that includes a library of example activities, ideas, and templates for adapting the playbook for your district.

Likewise, a classroom circle or class meeting structure can be used in the context of any learning space to process new knowledge, review key points from a unit, or share student work.  It is also an excellent practice for building community and developing communication skills.  Edutopia featured a school in Oakland that uses circles for a variety of purposes.  Cleveland Metropolitan School District has built out a class meeting web page with videos and links to sample meeting agendas and other useful resources.

For all content area teachers: Integrate SEL with academic content

The third way to integrate SEL into academics is to connect SEL themes and competencies with specific content-area learning.  Naturally, it is difficult to supply teachers with ready-to-use resources for this style of integration since an integrated lesson plan will be different for every grade level and content area, but several districts have made strides by providing lesson samples alongside professional development where teachers workshop their own integrated lesson plans.

  • Nashville’s approach has been to provide a scope and sequence to suggest which of the district’s SEL “I Can” statements teachers should focus on each quarter, then train teachers to design their own integration activities.  You can see samples for all core content areas here (5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade).
  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District provided stipends to teachers who applied and were accepted as part of a group that developed sample integrated lesson plans for different grade levels and subjects.  Here is a sample from a 10th-grade history teacher.
  • Washoe County School District shared this lesson plan template to help teachers plan lessons with SEL connections (here is a completed sample).
  • CASEL’s Guide to Schoolwide SEL includes four full lesson plans, each representing a different grade band and content area.

CASEL’s Collaborating States Initiative produced a series of guides that describe content-specific integration activities:

Discipline Policies and Practices

A restorative, student-centered approach to discipline emphasizes communication, problem-solving, accountability, and reconciliation rather than punishment and exclusion.  As many districts shift away from punitive discipline policies in pursuit of more equitable outcomes and stronger school climate, it is natural to integrate social and emotional learning as part of new policies, practices, and professional learning.

1. Examine models for SEL-integrated discipline.

SEL-integrated approaches to discipline are focused on strengthening relationships and effective communication and teaching skills to recognize and repair harm.

  • For a broad view of wha…More

SEL-integrated approaches to discipline are focused on strengthening relationships and effective communication and teaching skills to recognize and repair harm.

2. Analyze your district’s discipline data by subgroups.

To promote an equitable approach to discipline, use disaggregated discipline data to understand the effectiveness of discipline practices, review trends for different student groups, and intervene …More

To promote an equitable approach to discipline, use disaggregated discipline data to understand the effectiveness of discipline practices, review trends for different student groups, and intervene on systemic root causes when student groups are disproportionately represented.  As an example of how to examine discipline data, see this University of Chicago Consortium on School Research report on differences in discipline practices across schools.

A district’s discipline data brings inequitable practices into focus.  Nationally, black students, boys, and students with disabilities are the most disproportionately disciplined, particularly black students who represent 15.5% of public school students but about 39% of suspended students (see the GAO report for more).  The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments provides a toolkit for assessing and addressing disparities in school discipline.  The integration of SEL into discipline policies and practices through school climate improvement, adult anti-bias learning, restorative approaches, and supportive interventions can be the cornerstone of a district’s plan to reduce discipline disparities.

3. Review and update existing discipline policies to emphasize proactive, restorative, and developmentally appropriate approaches that support school climate and address root causes of student behavior.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance…More

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance on policies and practices to improve school climate, discipline, and equity.  The Guiding Principles are organized around concepts of creating positive school climate, providing evidence-based supports, promoting social and emotional learning, providing training on positive engagement with students and equitable practices, and adopting an instructional approach to school discipline.  The since-rescinded letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline lays out the legal framework prohibiting discriminatory discipline and provides a set of recommendations to help schools develop discipline policies and practices that prevent differential treatment and disparate impact on students of different races.

In Chicago, where suspensions were reduced by more than 75% in five years, the Student Code of Conduct was revised to place a greater emphasis on restorative practices, reduce the length of suspensions, eliminate suspension as an option for low-level behaviors and PreK-2 students, and adjust terms to reduce racial bias and subjectivity.  The SEL team has played a primary role in revising discipline policy. They prepared a resource complete with flow charts, scenarios, and recommended interventions to support school administrators with changes, Guidelines for Effective Discipline, and they provide ongoing professional learning for school disciplinarians.

4. Support school staff in implementing the policies and using discipline strategies that promote SEL and relationship-building.

Changing discipline policy is an important step, but school staff can only follow a new policy if they are equipped with alternative strategies for maintaining an environment conducive to learning.…More

Changing discipline policy is an important step, but school staff can only follow a new policy if they are equipped with alternative strategies for maintaining an environment conducive to learning.  Proactive strategies that strengthen relationships, teach and reinforce positive behavior, and train teachers to create clear structures and systems in their classrooms should be combined with restorative responses to conflict and misconduct.

As Chicago Public Schools began to use restorative practices more broadly and proactively, the team developed a Restorative Practices Guide and Toolkit and trains teacher and administrator leaders in a growing cohort of restorative practice leadership schools.  This work was influenced by restorative justice work in the Oakland Unified School District and their Restorative Justice Implementation Guide.  Similarly, Sacramento’s SPARK model (Social Emotional Learning, Positive Relationships, Analysis of Data, Restorative Practices, & Kindness) combines restorative discipline, culturally responsive practices, and proactive school climate work to support district discipline policy and reduce inequity.  You can find one of Sacramento’s Restorative Practices professional development modules here.

 

Student Support Services

Many districts adopt a framework—such as Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), Response to Intervention (RtI), and/or Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports (PBIS) —to guide schools in a systemic, prevention-focused approach to meeting the needs of all students. This typically includes a continuum of academic and/or behavioral supports that provide:

  • Universal strategies for engaging all students in high-quality learning (i.e. “Tier 1”).
  • Increasingly intensive support services for students who have higher levels of need (i.e. “Tier 2 and Tier 3”).
  • A process for determining which students would benefit from additional supports.
  • Progress monitoring and data-driven decision-making processes to ensure interventions meet the needs of students.

When integrating tiered supports with SEL, it’s important to recognize that SEL is neither solely behavior support nor solely academic support, but aligns with and complements both behavioral and academic supports at all tiers.

1. Review your district’s continuum of academic and behavior supports for alignment to SEL.

Begin by reviewing your district’s current continuum of student support, and consider:

  • How do academic supports currently align with and reinforce SEL, and how does SEL reinforce acade…More

Begin by reviewing your district’s current continuum of student support, and consider:

  • How do academic supports currently align with and reinforce SEL, and how does SEL reinforce academic supports?
  • How do behavioral supports currently align with and reinforce SEL, and how does SEL reinforce behavior supports?
  • How are students’ social and emotional learning needs currently considered when implementing supports, reviewing data, and monitoring progress?
  • What organizational structures exist that support the integration of SEL and MTSS or similar frameworks?  (For example, see Austin Independent School District’s organizational chart, which integrates SEL and MTSS within one department that includes support for health, counseling, dropout and truancy prevention, and disability.)
  • What opportunities do you see for deeper integration with SEL in the menu of supports, as well as existing processes for progress monitoring and decision-making?

2. Establish universal supports that ensure all students have access to supportive school climates, evidence-based SEL instruction, and high-quality academic instruction that supports SEL.

Much of the work that your district will do to implement systemic schoolwide SEL will help lay a strong foundation for all students to succeed. This includes establishing a dedicated time for high-…More

Much of the work that your district will do to implement systemic schoolwide SEL will help lay a strong foundation for all students to succeed. This includes establishing a dedicated time for high-quality evidenced-based SEL instruction as well as high-quality academic instruction that integrates SEL principles and practices (See the academic integration section above and Key Activity: Evidence-Based Programs and Practices). In addition to high-quality core instruction, it’s important that all students have supportive school and classroom learning climates and positive relationships with adults and peers.

Some districts have found it helpful to call out SEL and climate strategies in their menu of tiered supports. For example:

  • The Metro Nashville Public Schools’ SEL and MTSS Triangle lists SEL strategies and responsible teams for implementing MTSS for school climate, culture, and student behavior.
  • Boston Public School’s SELWELL Menu of Supports outlines strategies for supporting health, SEL, behavior, and other areas.
  • This MTSS slide from Chicago Public Schools defines how SEL support is woven into each tier.

Districts can ensure these universal supports are provided to all students by ensuring integration of SEL and MTSS processes. For example, schools may have MTSS teams focused on ensuring high-quality academic supports and may have separate SEL teams or behavior teams. By helping schools create alignment between these teams, districts can help ensure that SEL is seen as integral to both academic and behavior Tier 1 supports.

3. Integrate targeted academic and behavioral interventions with SEL—but ensure that SEL is not conflated with mental health services.

By integrating more intensive student support services with SEL, districts are better equipped to ensure that all students have what they need to succeed. Districts can integrate academic and behav…More

By integrating more intensive student support services with SEL, districts are better equipped to ensure that all students have what they need to succeed. Districts can integrate academic and behavioral interventions with SEL by:

  • Ensuring consideration of students’ social and emotional strengths and needs when guiding schools in their processes for identifying interventions, progress monitoring, and problem-solving.
  • Selecting a menu of evidence-based academic and behavioral interventions and providers that most align with and support social and emotional development.
  • Supporting staff in recognizing and highlighting the social and emotional strengths of students who are receiving academic and behavioral interventions.
  • Leveraging SEL practices to strengthen relationships between students and staff members who facilitate interventions.
  • Leveraging SEL practices to support deeper connections with families and community partners.

It’s important, however, not to confuse mental or behavioral health interventions with SEL. Unlike the diagnostic approach used in the mental health field, SEL emphasizes a strengths-based approach to promoting the development of all students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

A key component of many systems of tiered support services is developing processes for identifying students who would benefit from additional interventions. Assessments of students’ SEL competencies should not be used to diagnose or screen for behavioral or emotional problems. Just as measures of problems are not accurate indicators of SEL competencies, the reverse is also true: measures of social and emotional knowledge, skills, attitudes, or mindsets are not a reliable or valid indicator of emotional or behavioral problems.

While it is essential that caring adults in these settings be on the lookout for signs of trouble so that students receive the supports they need, there is an array of behavioral and academic tools available that were designed, tested, and validated to determine when intervention is needed. We encourage that these tools be used when trying to diagnose or screen for problems, as they are better equipped to support educators and students with the purpose for which they were developed. Read more about strengths-based SEL assessments here.

Districts can ensure this distinction is made when selecting diagnostic tools and communicating to schools about aligning academic and behavioral interventions with SEL.

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