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The Importance of SEL

Research has demonstrated that SEL is key to the prevention of risky behaviors. An analysis by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) demonstrated a positive connection between SEL and a reduction of behavior problems.  Two major meta-analyses (Durlak et al., 2011; Taylor et al., 2017) examined the influence of universal, school-based SEL programs on student outcomes in six domains; social and emotional skills, attitudes towards self and others, positive social behavior, conduct problems, emotional distress, and academic performance.  The meta-analyses evaluated studies from a total of 265 reports, and 222 of these reports differed across the two analyses. Major findings included:

  • Students participating in SEL programs showed significantly more positive outcomes in all six areas compared to control students.

  • SEL programs enhance academic achievement.  The higher academic performance of students who participated in an SEL program translated into a 11 percentile-point gain in achievement.

  • SEL programs that were implemented well and adhered to a combination of recommended practices--sequenced, active, focused, and explicit learning--were particularly likely to promote positive outcomes.

Many of the 2017 studies investigated follow-up effects, years later, of participation in SEL programming.  Major findings include: 

  • At follow-up, students who had participated in SEL programs continued to show significantly more positive outcomes in all six domains. 

  • A small number of studies that included long-term follow-up through adolescence and young adulthood found that SEL program participants continued to show significantly better adjustment.  More had graduated from high school and attended college; fewer had been arrested. 

Research has also demonstrated that SEL programs are most successful when they are implemented in a planned, cohesive manner within a system.