Design and Implement an SEL Professional Learning Program for Schools

Design and Implement an SEL Professional Learning Program for Schools

Effective professional learning ensures that school staff understand SEL and how to support systemic implementation.

Below you’ll find an overview of: WHAT high-quality implementation looks like, WHY it’s important, WHEN to engage in this key activity, and WHO to involve. Also see the PROCESS page for step-by-step guidance on how to engage in the work, and the RESOURCES page for additional tools to support your efforts.

What is an effective SEL professional learning program?


An effective SEL professional learning program provides ongoing, scaffolded, and comprehensive support to help staff understand their role in SEL and develop the skills, mindsets, and capacity necessary for implementation. This goes beyond teachers accessing SEL strategies in the classroom to ensuring staff at all levels across all schools have access to high-quality professional learning on SEL targeted to their roles and skill level.

A strong SEL professional learning program for school staff:

Provides ongoing, scaffolded and comprehensive sessions, including regular opportunities for school leaders and teams to learn from each other.

Ensures dedicated district staff members who plan, facilitate, and coordinate SEL professional learning sessions, and facilitators who represent the diverse backgrounds in the district.

Embeds SEL practices and content throughout other professional learning programs in the district (e.g., core content).

Ensures regular collection of data on the quality of SEL sessions and uses this data for continuous improvement.

Use the Rubric to assess your SEL professional learning program for school staff.

A robust program includes both professional learning that focuses primarily on SEL and professional learning in other areas that embed SEL practices and concepts. These engagements may be delivered through a range of experiences including workshops, conferences, online courses, webinars, professional learning communities, and coaching support. Regardless of the method for delivering professional learning, it’s important that these opportunities are connected so that participants build on their learning throughout the year and receive ongoing, timely support during implementation.

Why does my district need to offer comprehensive SEL professional learning?


Professional learning is critical to the implementation of districtwide SEL. Through effective professional learning, you can ensure that educators and staff in your district understand what SEL is, how building adult and student SEL competence supports critical long-term outcomes for students, and what strategies they can implement in their work toward this goal.

By including professional learning opportunities for a variety of staff, you foster a widespread understanding of your SEL initiative and empower people to support the mission.

When should my district provide comprehensive SEL professional learning?


It’s important to offer ongoing SEL professional learning throughout all of the implementation. At the beginning of implementation, initial professional learning will help build awareness and foundational knowledge so all stakeholders understand what SEL is, why it’s important to the district’s goals, and what their role in SEL is.

Beyond the introduction to SEL, offer ongoing, scaffolded SEL professional learning to help ensure SEL remains central to both district operations and school and classroom practice. Additionally, those who will be leading implementation or working closely with students will likely need additional coaching, professional learning communities, and technical assistance that provides deep, real-time implementation support.

Who needs to be involved?


The district SEL lead and members of the SEL team, in partnership with any department responsible for districtwide professional learning, will likely oversee the design and delivery of SEL professional learning. It’s critically important to engage principals and their supervisors as collaborators to ensure that SEL professional learning is prioritized and scheduled.

The SEL team will also need to work closely with curriculum and instruction staff to inform and participate in the integration of SEL into academic practice.  Your district may also want to include the human resources department so they can help coordinate SEL professional learning during the onboarding of new staff.

Finally, you may wish to engage external consultants, such as evidence-based SEL providers, to assist with the design and delivery of these sessions. (See Focus Area 3, Key Activity: Evidence-Based Programs and Practices)

Your district’s professional learning plan will specify audiences to engage and will likely include varying degrees of professional learning to the following staff:

  • Principals
  • Teachers and classroom support staff
  • Deans/disciplinarians
  • MTSS, restorative practices, and behavior coaches
  • Counselors
  • Social workers
  • Front office staff
  • Cafeteria workers
  • Safety officers
  • Bus drivers
  • Recess supervisors
  • Out-of-school time providers and other community partners
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