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The 2023 SEL Exchange: What Were Your Highlights?

November 17, 2023

So opened the 2023 SEL Exchange, Leaders as Learners: Building the Village our Children Need. From November 7-9, educators, parents, leaders, and SEL champions from around the world gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to learn together. Here’s an overview of what we learned, what we experienced, and what we’re talking about:

WHAT WE LEARNED: Adult SEL helps build the context for both educator well-being and young people’s healthy development

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From supporting teacher well-being and thriving, to creating supportive learning environments for students, to cultivating social and emotional competencies in all individuals in our communities, we explored the many aspects of adult SEL. 

In addition to insights from practitioners, policy leaders, and other experts, field-leading researchers shared the latest on The Science of Adult Transformation to Create Caring Schools

  • Dr. Rebecca Collie described the gains in teacher well-being, supportive teaching practices, and student achievement that result in supportive schools vs. unsupportive schools. 
  • Dr. Robert Roeser identified the “fourth domain of knowledge” that should be part of ongoing professional development: “knowledge about how to be ourselves as teachers.” 
  • Dr. Jason Okonofua explored how growth mindset and empathy—which play a key role in teachers’ attitudes toward students—could also be applied for more successful outcomes in addressing implicit bias. 

WHAT WE EXPERIENCED: The power and reach of our global community

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We felt the power of our SEL community as nearly 2,000 people came together to share learning, grapple with ideas, and build relationships. But the reach and impact of the 2023 SEL Exchange extends far beyond those who attended. Altogether, our learning and work will reach: 

  • 17.8 million students 
  • More than 270 schools and districts
  • 47 U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico)
  • 36 countries 

From Zuni Public Schools sharing their A:Shiwi Core Values to an exploration of SEL in Schools for Marginalized Adolescents of Rural India, the SEL Exchange brought together cultures and communities from around the globe. We saw the diversity in our experiences and contexts, as well as the unity in our shared goals around building our villages for every child to thrive. 

“A lot of you are tied to the roots of your culture. As adults, we ask you to tap into that.” — Dawn Eriacho, Zuni Public Schools

WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT: Youth, arts, innovation, and the future of SEL

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Youth Voice

Young people made their presence heard, including the students of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) who demonstrated the power of the drumline and showcased their SEL-inspired art. Our CASEL Youth Ambassadors also modeled SEL three signature practices as they stopped attendees for interviews and warm exchanges. 

Arts + SEL

Creative expression took center stage at the SEL Exchange with our celebration of hip-hop featuring Darryl (DMC) McDaniels, Dr. Roberto Rivera, and Dee-1, and Jewel’s story about the role music and SEL have played in her life. Their work and insights highlighted the powerful way the arts can strengthen SEL!

“I think break dancing might be the best social and emotional learning experience the world has ever seen.” — Dr. Roberto Rivera, Co-founder Alliance for the 7th Generation

“We have to stay curious. When I have people who are so vehemently arguing with me, I really want to understand it—not to change their mind—but I know I’m going to benefit as a human if I can understand why they think that way.” — Jewel

Innovation & the Future of SEL

Technological innovation also came to the fore, especially in sessions that explored the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in educationboth the opportunities it offers and the challenges it presents, as well as how AI can be used to create more space for teachers to focus on human connections with students. 

“We ask teachers, ‘If you could have one superpower, what would it be?’ Teachers say, ‘I wish I could clone myself.’ Dr. Thomas Breideband, University of Colorado 

Our “Toast to Innovation” poster reception also displayed cutting edge work from researchers and practitioners, such as a deep dive into efforts to use STEAM to foster SEL presented by The Possible Zone.


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Did you attend the 2023 SEL Exchange? Add your memories in the comments below, or share this blog on social media and with your most memorable moments. 

Miss the SEL Exchange this year? Sign up here to receive alerts so you don’t miss out next year!  

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