Research has shown that social and emotional development can be fostered, and social and emotional skills, attitudes, and behaviors can be taught using a variety of approaches:

  • Free-standing lessons designed to enhance students’ social and emotional competence explicitly.
  • Teaching practices such as cooperative learning and project-based learning, which promote SEL.
  • Integration of SEL and academic curriculum such as language arts, math, social studies, or health.
  • Organizational strategies that promote SEL as a schoolwide initiative that creates a climate and culture conducive to learning.
  • SEL Approaches

    • Explicit SEL Skills Instruction
    • Teacher Instructional Practices
    • Integration with Academic Curriculum Areas
    • Organizational, Culture, and Climate Strategies
  • Short-Term Outcomes

    SEL Skill Acquisition:
    Five Competence Areas

    Improved Attitudes:
    Self, Others, Learning, and Schools

    Enhanced Learning Environment: Supportive, Engaging, and Participatory

  • Behavioral/Academic Outcomes

    Positive Social Behavior

    Fewer Conduct Problems

    Less Emotional Distress

    Improved Academic Performance

  • Effective SEL approaches often incorporate four elements represented by the acronym SAFE:

    • Sequenced: Connected and coordinated activities to foster skills development.
    • Active: Active forms of learning to help students master new skills and attitudes.
    • Focused: A component that emphasizes developing personal and social skills.
    • Explicit: Targeting specific social and emotional skills.


    Ideally schools will use SAFE approaches to support the social and emotional development of their students. For example:

    • Children can to be taught through modeling and coaching to recognize how they feel or how someone else might be feeling.
    • Prompting the use of a conflict-resolution skill and using dialoguing to guide students through the steps can be an effective approach to helping them apply a skill in a new situation.
    • Through class meetings students can practice group decision-making and setting classroom rules.
    • Students can learn cooperation and teamwork through participation in team sports and games.
    • Students can deepen their understanding of a current or historical event by analyzing it through a set of questions based on a problem-solving model.
    • Cross-age mentoring, in which a younger student is paired with an older one, can be effective in building self-confidence, a sense of belonging, and enhancing academic skills.
    • Having one member of a pair describe a situation to his partner and having the partner repeat what he or she heard is an effective tool in teaching reflective listening.
  • Multiple Approaches Across Multiple Settings

    The educational goals of SEL are more likely to be achieved when evidence-based approaches are used to reach students in all settings where they spend their time — in classrooms, throughout the school, in the home, and in the community. See what SEL looks like in these settings.