An extensive body of rigorous research (including randomized control trials, longitudinal follow-ups, and multiple replications) demonstrates that education that promotes social and emotional learning (SEL) gets results, and that teachers in all academic areas can effectively teach SEL.
The findings come from multiple fields and sources that include student achievement, neuroscience, health, employment, psychology, classroom management, learning theory, economics, and the prevention of youth problem behaviors.
Key studies include:
SEL Impact is Long-Term and Global
Social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, which previously have shown immediate improvements in mental health, social skills, and academic achievement, continue to benefit students for months and even years to come, according to a 2017 meta-analysis from CASEL, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, and the University of British Columbia.
Up to 18 years later, students exposed to SEL in school continue to do better than their peers on a number of indicators: positive social behaviors and attitudes, skills such as empathy and teamwork, and academics. And they have fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress, and lower drug use, among many other benefits. The analysis looked at 82 research studies involving about 100,000 students here and abroad. Learn more.
SEL Impact on Academic Outcomes
According to a 2011 meta-analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students, those who participated in evidence-based SEL programs showed an 11 percentile-point gain in academic achievement compared to students who did not participate in SEL programs. Compared to students who did not participate in SEL programs, students participating in SEL programs also showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school.
SEL Impact on Equity and Poverty
According to a 2015 report by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, SEL competencies are critically important for the long-term success of all students in today’s economy. This report was developed by a group of bipartisan experts who agreed to set aside their differences and create a detailed plan for reducing poverty and increasing economic mobility.
The authors noted that major educational and school reforms over the past few decades have not sufficiently focused on the SEL factors that are necessary to education, employment, and family life.
The report also recommends an effort to scale up high-quality, evidence-based SEL programs as a core component of education for children. It made three recommendations to the federal and state governments: (1) scale evidence-based SEL practices and policies; (2) implement high-quality state SEL standards, preschool through high school; and (3) establish SEL centers of excellence.
SEL Impact on Lifetime Outcomes
A 2015 national study published in the American Journal of Public Health found statistically significant associations between SEL skills in kindergarten and key outcomes for young adults years later in education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.
The study concluded that early prosocial skills decreased the likelihood of living in or being on a waiting list for public housing, receiving public assistance, having any involvement with police before adulthood, and ever spending time in a detention facility.
SEL Benefit-Cost Analysis
A 2015 study by researchers at Columbia University found that the measurable benefits of SEL exceed the costs, often by considerable amounts.
The aggregate result of the analysis showed an average benefit-cost ratio of about 11 to 1 among the six evidence-based SEL interventions studied. This means that, on average, for every $1 invested in SEL programming, there is a return of $11.
Our online Resources Library features multiple studies from CASEL and other researchers.
Strong Support for SEL
Principals Value SEL
School principals say SEL is essential, but want more guidance, training, and support to teach these skills effectively. Virtually all principals believe a stepped-up focus on SEL would: positively impact school climate, build citizenship, improve relationships between students and teachers, and decrease bullying. Top priorities: more training for teachers and greater access to research-based strategies for successfully developing SEL in students.
Read the 2017 report from Civic Enterprises.
Read the executive summary.
Check out the infographic.
Scientists Value SEL
A 2017 consensus brief from the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development shows a wide range of scientists agree: SEL matters, is doable, and has an impact.
Read the brief.
Teachers Value SEL
The 2013 survey of teachers commissioned by CASEL found 93% of teachers want a greater focus on SEL in schools. These educators know that social and emotional skills are teachable and are calling for schools to prioritize integrating SEL learning practices and strategies into the curriculum as well as school culture.
Employers Value SEL
According to a 2013 survey of 704 employers conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, half of those surveyed said they had trouble finding recent graduates to fill vacancies in their companies. Even though applicants had the technical prowess, they lacked the communication, adaptability, decision-making, and problem-solving skills needed to do the job.
Read more from a 2016 CASEL and Committee for Children Congressional briefing on the connection between SEL and employability skills.