A Roadmap to Building an SEL Program

Posted by Mandy FroehlichO

These six simple steps will help your school district implement an effective Social and Emotional Learning program for students in grades K-12.


The average student spends nearly seven hours per day at school. That means their experiences in the classroom have an enormous impact not only on their academic development but on the kind of person they become.


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs embrace this holistic view of education and empower teachers to help students develop capabilities in key non-academic areas like self-awareness, self-management, decision-making, and relationship skills. With proven records of success, SEL is becoming increasingly popular in districts around the country. In fact, research shows that these programs deliver a 11:1 return on investment, as well as 11 percentile point academic gains.


With clear benefits for both students and educators, now is the time to implement a new SEL program in your district, or revamp an existing one. The following six steps will help you identify your district’s goals for SEL, design a program that will meet those goals, evaluate successes, and identify areas that could use improvement.


Step 1: Assess District Culture and Existing Programs


Before you begin developing a new SEL program, consider whether there are programs already in place that align with SEL standards. You may be able to modify or expand these programs to achieve greater benefits for your district.


It’s also crucial to consider contextual factors at both a district and school level before implementing a new program. What socioeconomic or cultural issues should educators take into account when designing these programs? What competencies should the district prioritize? It’s important to not only evaluate the district as a whole but to consider the needs of different demographics — different genders, racial groups, English language learners, etc. — to find out which programs will best address the needs of the student body.


Step 2: Get Input From Educators & Community Support


As you develop your plan, you’ll need the support of the educators who will be implementing the program in their classrooms. Engage educators during the planning process, and ask for input on key competencies, pedagogy, and the challenges they have experienced or they anticipate may arise. Once the plan is implemented, facilitate a continuous feedback loop for educators to share their experiences.

Bringing in community support is also an important addition when developing an SEL plan. Counselors, medical personnel, social workers, and other professions that work both with students and families will have additional strategies that can be used to enhance the effectiveness and mission of the program.


Step 3: Communicate Your Goals

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) guide to Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs emphasizes the importance of sharing your district’s vision for SEL with educators, counselors, social workers, community representatives, and other diverse stakeholders. Communicate SEL-related goals with community organizations and families and illustrate how you plan to achieve those goals.


Address questions about the relationship between SEL and other key initiatives in your district and community, how you plan to sustain and improve SEL programs over time, and how you hope students will benefit in both the short and long term. CASEL also recommends facilitating family sessions to help parents support new SEL skills and concepts at home.


Step 4: Provide Flexible, Comprehensive Resources for Educators


Support SEL integration into the curriculum by equipping educators with a robust catalog of related PD resources. In addition to face-to-face learning opportunities like workshops and peer coaching, ensure educators have access to digital coursework they can complete at their convenience.


With a platform like Hoonuit, educators can choose from a variety of modules to develop SEL competencies — both in themselves and in their students. Using Hoonuit, teachers have any time access to over 60 online courses aligned to core SEL constructs, including academic behavior, perseverance, learning strategies, and social skills.


Step 5: Implement Your Evidence-Based SEL Program


The best evidence-based SEL programs provide districts with clear, research-based guidance on practices that foster improved social and emotional skills, and help school communities establish a clear framework and coordinated approach for promoting SEL.


SEL is a collaboration between administrators, teachers, parents, and a district’s broader community. Once your district has established clear and measurable goals, communicated those goals to diverse stakeholders, and properly equipped educators to begin incorporating SEL-related exercises, your district will be prepared to implement new and augmented programs.


Step 6: Harness District-Wide Data to Measure Results


SEL programs can be effective over the long-term if your district is consistently evaluating successes and areas that could use improvement. How are students responding to new teaching methods? Where are educators consistently challenged? Where have educators seen positive change?

Hoonuit empowers district leaders to administer their own SEL surveys, integrate SEL data into a single data warehouse, and create a culture that fosters SEL competencies through meaningful PD. With a comprehensive understanding of your program’s strengths and limitations, your district can creatively leverage data-driven insights to evolve best practices and improve student outcomes.


Hoonuit helps school districts gain the critical insights they need to design SEL programs, implement them, and measure their progress. Using convenient and accessible PD resources and intuitive data-measuring tools, Hoonuit can provide the support to make your SEL program succeed — and empower students to excel both in and outside of the classroom.


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