Transformative SEL

CASEL is committed to advancing equity and excellence in education through social and emotional learning (SEL).

CASEL’s definition and framework for SEL provides a foundation for all communities to use evidence-based SEL strategies to advance the goals of equity and excellence in ways that are most meaningful to their local context.

View our framework (“the wheel”)

Developing and Refining Transformative SEL toward Equity

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CASEL is refining a specific form of SEL implementation that concentrates SEL practice on transforming inequitable settings and systems, and promoting justice-oriented civic engagement–which we are calling “Transformative SEL.” Through our long-term learning agenda and ongoing collaboration with practitioners, policymakers, and researchers, CASEL continues deepening what we know about how to implement Transformative SEL toward equitable learning opportunities and developmental outcomes. Together, we will continue learning through our collective commitment to continuous improvement.

An infographic describing the transformative SEL process. There are three steps: the first reads "Define Transformative SEL," then "Identify practical strategies and policies," and lastly "share our learnings broadly."

Defining Transformative SEL

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“Transformative SEL” is a process whereby young people and adults build strong, respectful, and lasting, relationships that facilitate co-learning to critically examine root causes of inequity, and to develop collaborative solutions that lead to personal, community, and societal well-being.

This form of SEL is aimed at redistributing power to more fully engage young people and adults in working toward just and equitable schools and communities. It emphasizes the development of identity, agency, belonging, curiosity, and collaborative problem-solving within the CASEL framework.

Core features of Transformative SEL include:

  • Authentic partnering among students and adults with a deep focus on sharing power and decision-making between young people, educators, families, and communities.
  • Academic content that integrates issues of race, class and culture.
  • Instruction that honors and makes connections to students’ lived experiences and identities, and scaffolds learning to build an understanding of others’ lived experiences.
  • Enhancing and foregrounding social and emotional competencies needed for civic engagement and social change, such as reflecting on personal and social identities, examining prejudices and biases, interrogating social norms, disrupting and resisting inequities, and co-constructing equitable and just solutions.
  • Prioritizing students’ individual and collective agency to take action for more just schools and communities.
  • Focus on creating belonging and engagement for all individuals.

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Identifying Effective Programs, Practices, and Strategies for Implementing Transformative SEL

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While our research and learning agenda informed our definition of Transformative SEL based on current science and developmental principles, in practice, there are currently limited options for evidence-based programs and implementation models for Transformative SEL.

To address this need, CASEL is leading collaborative efforts with partner organizations to develop a more robust foundation for Transformative SEL that supports researchers and practitioners in identifying and refining evidence-based programs, professional learning, and assessments. Through our research-practice partnerships, we are also learning alongside schools and districts how specific practices, policies, and processes can best be implemented to achieve the goals of Transformative SEL.

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Sharing Practical Insights and Expertise

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As Transformative SEL is being tested and refined, we will continue sharing practical insights as we learn them and lifting up expert voices with the broader field.

Learn more:

Watch the CASEL CARES Webinar Series: SEL as a Lever for Equity and Social Justice (2020).

Our 5-part webinar series discusses equity and racial injustice through the lens of social and emotional learning.

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