SEL in Secondary

I've had the privilege of leading SEL implementation in Oakland's middle and high schools. A key learning I've had is that while there are a number of research-based strategies and evidence-based programs for implementing SEL in elementary classrooms, there are much fewer  resources and less guidance around how to implement SEL in middle and high school settings. Being a former middle and high school teacher I know that prioritizing SEL can be challenging. Structurally speaking, I had far less interaction and contact time with students compared to my elementary school colleagues. This combined with the pressures of getting through content and preparing students for college and career didn't leave a whole lot of room for SEL instruction. Given the very different context for SEL in middle and high schools it became clear to me that our approach had to really focus on how to support teachers with integrating SEL across academic content and ensure it’s part of their teaching practice. In the past few years there are some key articles and papers that lift up how we can more effectively bring SEL into secondary schools. I'm also including a video I produced with one of Oakland's beloved HS Principals around SEL in Secondary.

Learning by Heart: The Power of SEL in Secondary Schools

Embedding SEL in HS Classrooms

SEL in High Schools: How Three Urban High Schools Engage, Educate and Empower Youth


I was pleased to receive a message from an Assistant Principal I work with that included a report on Bringing Mindfulness into Schools that has my book as one of the readings for a 5 Day Intensive Mindfulness Course for Teachers. The report was from the Talk About Wellness Initiative and it reminded me of the great wellness focused work Oakland is engaged in. I had the privilege of sitting on our district's wellness council last year and learned more about our wellness policy and the many resources from our wellness department

Recently New Teacher Center Co-Founder and Chief SEL Officer, Wendy Baron, led a wonderful webinar on cultivating wellbeing in stressful times. Check in out!

Where should we focus our SEL efforts?

Earlier today a colleague shared with me this SMART Brief pie chart that highlights what could be most effective in increasing SEL implementation. I thought it was interesting that three of the categories were very closely matched (improvement to pre-service teacher training and PD, more research and communication about the effects of SEL on student learning, and state level standards that spell out the SEL skills needed at every grade level). 

A few years ago I was introduced to the amazing work happening in at San Jose State to integrate SEL into teacher training. The Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child developed Social Emotional Dimensions of Teaching and Learning as part of their teacher preparation work and I hope that several other teacher education programs follow in their footsteps. Wouldn't it be amazing if teachers started their careers already having deep knowledge of SEL?

In my previous blog post I shared about the work coming out of the National Commission which focuses on how SEL is interconnected to learning. Research also shows that SEL not only improves achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases prosocial behaviors (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students (Durlak et al., 2011).

Several states are working in partnership with CASEL to develop state-wide SEL standards. Here's a brief that discusses state efforts in promoting SEL

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 5.38.02 PM.png

SEL Frameworks

There are a number of frameworks to help us understand the skills and competencies that comprise SEL. One of the most popular frameworks is from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that we use in Oakland (see below). When adopting a framework to support SEL implementation and engagement it may be helpful to review this brief from the University of Minnesota comparing SEL frameworks.  In addition to the CASEL framework I find the Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework an important resource to review as well.


Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 10.58.47 AM.png

Resources for Discussing & Disrupting Racism

Given our current political climate and the many race related tragedies that have occurred, our Office of Equity recently compiled a great resource list for discussing and disrupting racism

Also, I was honored to contribute to a recent EdWeek Blog post on "Using SEL to Challenge Systems of Oppression." In Oakland we believe the SEL work is ultimately about equity and if we teach SEL but we don't address systems of oppression then we aren't doing justice to the ultimate goal of SEL--creating a more compassionate and equitable world. In fact our definition of SEL includes an equity lens and there is a fundamental belief that through strengthening our own SEL skills we are better able to connect across race, class, gender, learning needs, and age.  Amy Eva at the Greater Good Science Center recently published a beautiful article highlighting Three SEL Skills You Need to Discuss Race in Your Classroom.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.57.39 PM.png

SEL & Academics

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is often viewed as being separate from academics and instruction. As a result, leaders and teachers state that they don’t have time to implement SEL.  SEL is in fact not separate from academics or instruction but rather integral and interdependent to teaching and learning.  The week before last I got to attend a Professional Learning series sponsored by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that focused on SEL and Academic Integration. This experience reinforced how integral SEL is to academics and powerful instruction. 

There are several great resources that highlight the relationship between SEL and Academics:

10 Teaching Practices to Promote SEL: This is a great resource from Nick Yoder at American Institutes for Research that outlines instructional practices that promote SEL.

Integrating Social and Emotional Development in College and Career Readiness Standards: This publication from the Aspen Institute lifts up how Social Emotional Development connects to College & Career Readiness Standards and it name checks the work we are doing in Oakland! 

Embedding SEL in High School Classrooms is an important white paper I had the chance to review that illustrates how to incorporate SEL into instruction at the secondary level. 

When the Common Core State Standards were first rolled out there was a lot of discussion and conversation around how SEL is integral to several Common Core instructional shifts and standards. For example, SEL is deeply embedded in the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards. The Greater Good published a great article on how to integrate SEL into Common Core. Professor Maurice Elias has also written about SEL & Common Core. Here's a link to an article ASCD published on SEL & Common Core. 

If you'd like to see the integration of SEL into academics in action, in 2015 I produced with an amazing Oakland teacher that illustrates Academic SEL in Practice.