Latest Research, Trends and Tools in Social Emotional Learning

The SEL Impact

An extensive body of rigorous research demonstrates that education that promotes social and emotional learning (SEL) gets results and that teachers in all academic areas can effectively teach it.   SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” At The Meeting House, the beneficial social and emotional outcomes that we provide to children are informed by the four core aspects that guide our program— Vision, Mission, Values, and Drivers.  This is what makes up the DNA at the Meeting House.

Research in the field:

A 2017 Metanalysis Study from the Child Development Journal demonstrated numerous positive impacts of social and emotional learning and remains a landmark for the field.   The study showed that SEL programs immediately improve mental health, social skills, and academic achievement.  The current study shows that school-based SEL interventions continue to benefit students for months and even years to come.  For example, in follow-up assessments, an average of 3.5 years after the last intervention, the academic performance of students exposed to SEL programs was an average 13 percentile points higher than their non-SEL peers, based on the eight studies that measured academics.


 A few major points from the study include:

<1> SEL continued to boost student well-being in the form of greater social and emotional competencies, prosocial behavior, and prosocial attitudes.

<2> Furthermore, SEL students showed lasting decreases in negative outcomes such as conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use compared to control groups.

<3> In other cases, SEL participants were less likely to have a clinical mental health disorder, ever be arrested or become involved with the juvenile justice system, and had lower rates of sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancies.


Research from Second Step SEL Program for Early Learning:

The Second step Program provides a “fully integrated framework for protecting children and promoting social, emotional, and academic success.” They have combined Social Emotional Learning, bullying prevention, and child protection to form a cohesive foundation for safe, supportive schools.  Designed for Early Learning–Grade 8, the evidence-based Second Step SEL Program features tools, teaching aids, activity guides, and resources for classroom teachers to ensure successful social-emotional skills instruction.  For tools and resources provided by the Second Step Program click here.


A classroom randomized trial compared the Second Step Early Learning curriculum with the most commonly used curricula in Head Start and community preschools.  Children receiving the Second Step curriculum had significantly better end-of-preschool executive function skills than students who did not receive the program.  Controlling for baseline skills and cognitive ability, demographics, and accounting for nesting within classrooms, the study found a significant impact for the intervention condition (SSEL delivered by the classroom teacher) on end of preschool executive functioning skills above and beyond baseline skills.  This effect held even when the model was tested with the addition of child age, sex, ethnicity, and family income, although Hispanic children seemed to have fewer gains in executive functioning over the school year than did White children.  To read the full study click here. 

 A few major points from this study:

<1> Development of both social-emotional (SE) and executive functioning (EF) skills in the preschool period is important to early school success, as well as positive elementary school, adolescent, and adult functioning

<2> Early childhood social and emotional skills (SE) and executive functioning (EF) influence the longitudinal outcomes of child development, including social adjustment and academic performance in kindergarten and elementary school, and even longer-term school attainment and adult functioning.

<3> Self-regulation skills involve aspects of social behavior and neurocognitive regulation that include attention, regulating emotion/ arousal, processing information, and the ability to engage positively with peers and teachers.


Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Creating emotionally intelligent schools with RULER: RULER, an evidence-based approach to teaching EI, provides an educational framework that encompasses a set of practices for comprehensive SEL integration across a school or district. 


In this article, the researchers describe RULER, explain how it teaches EI, and summarize evidence of its effectiveness.   Decades of research show that these skills are essential to effective teaching and learning, sound decision making, physical and mental health, and success in school and beyond.


Other resources for further research on Social Emotional Learning:

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Six Seconds



Kids Matter

Susan Crown Exchange

David P.  Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality


Wyman Center


Preparing Youth to Thrive