Teachers Believe in SEL

Teachers Believe in SEL

By Timothy Dohrer


Leading up to 2020, there was rising momentum for social and emotional learning in our classrooms and schools. Teachers across the world were checking in to SEL frameworks such as CASEL or curricula like Second Step. 

Then the Pandemic hit.

Suddenly, the very area that many teachers saw as critical to student success and well-being, relationships, was ripped away thanks to school closures, social distancing, and remote learning. In 2021, as we began the careful transition back to in-person schooling, social and emotional learning is again at the forefront of teachers’ minds to help students and themselves return to classrooms and learning.

A new study by McGraw Hill, which is a follow up study of SEL in schools done in 2018, shows a huge jump in teacher belief in social and emotional learning. (https://thejournal.com/articles/2021/09/30/sel-gaining-substantial-traction-in-k12.aspx)

More than 90% of teachers surveyed were aware of SEL, up from 77% in 2018. And 56% report a school-wide or district-wide implementation of an SEL program. These numbers reveal schools are doubling down on SEL skill development and teachers are deeply engaged in that work.

Maybe more important, the study found that teachers in 2021 believe that social and emotional learning can make a major difference in student lives and learning. The report says that over 90% of teachers reported believing that SEL will improve grades, reduce emotional stress, and improve relationships and the transition from remote to in-person instruction.

We should pause for a moment with those numbers. Clearly, our educational professionals think there is something important and promising for students by focusing on social and emotional skills such as self-awareness, self-management, relationships, and decision-making. And by the way, the study also reports that 87% of parents say SEL is important, too!

But just because we THINK something is good doesn’t always make it so. The next step is to study those classrooms and schools that are implementing SEL with fidelity to determine exactly how it is impacting student learning, experiences, and perceptions. We need to find clear evidence that SEL skill-building really does lead to all those things. Then we can really invest in something that we not only believe in but something we can prove makes a difference.


Photo: Chicago Public Schools Teacher and Leader Michael Kosko and his students. Michael is a graduate of the School of Education and Social Policy Master's degree program in Teacher Leadership.

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