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Practice Profile

School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which students acquire and apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills associated with five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies: (1) self-awareness, (2) self-management, (3) social awareness, (4) relationship skills, and (5) responsible decision-making.  Universal, school-based SEL programs are designed to foster the development of these core competencies, and teach students to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain relationships, and make responsible decisions (CASEL 2014). These competencies provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress (Durlak et al. 2011).
 
Target Population
Universal, school-based SEL programs target all students in the school, and not only those exhibiting problem behaviors. SEL programs have been implemented in elementary, middle, and high schools.
 
Practice Components
In a school-based setting, SEL programs incorporate two educational strategies that help to enhance school performance and youth development. The first strategy teaches students about processing, integrating, and selectively applying social and emotional skills. Social and emotional skills include identifying emotions from social cues, goal-setting, conflict resolution, and decision-making. Students are taught to apply these skills in developmentally, contextually, and culturally appropriate ways. Some programs teach students to apply SEL skills to prevent the occurrence of specific problem behaviors, such as substance use, interpersonal violence, bullying, and school failure.
 
The second strategy of school-based SEL programs involves fostering students’ social–emotional development by creating safe and caring learning environments that incorporate peer and family initiatives, improved classroom management and teaching practices, and whole-school community-building activities. This approach allows students to feel valued, experience a greater motivation to achieve, and develop a set of social–emotional competencies that can lead to positive outcomes.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Durlak and colleagues (2011) looked at the impact of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs on conduct problems (which included measures of problem behaviors such as disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, bullying, school suspensions, and delinquent acts). Looking at the results from 112 studies, the review found a significant impact on conduct disorder (effect size=0.22). This means that students who participated in SEL programs demonstrated significantly fewer conduct problems compared with students in the control groups.
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior
Durlak and colleagues (2011) also looked at the impact of SEL programs on emotional distress (which included measures of internalized mental health issues, such as reports of depression, anxiety, stress, or social withdrawal). The results from 49 studies showed a significant impact on emotional distress (effect size=0.24). This means that students who participated in SEL programs had significantly lower levels of emotional distress compared with students in the control groups.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11970 - 2007213270034

Meta-Analysis 1
Durlak and colleagues (2011) conducted a meta-analysis to examine the impacts of school-based programs to promote students’ social and emotional development. A comprehensive search of databases, reference lists, journals, and Web sites promoting youth development and social–emotional learning (SEL) was conducted to identify eligible studies. Studies were eligible for review if they were written in English, appeared in published or unpublished form by December 21, 2007, emphasized the development of one or more SEL skills, targeted students between the ages of 5 and 18, included a control group, and reported sufficient information to calculate effect sizes at posttest and follow-up.
 
A total of 213 studies that involved 270,034 students were included in the review. The majority of the studies were published in journals or books (81 percent), and most (75 percent) were published between 1990 and 2007. Almost half of the studies (47 percent) used randomization designs. The education level of the participants in the studies varied. Over half (56 percent) were in elementary school (K–5), 31 percent were in middle school (grades 6–8), and 13 percent were in high school (grades 9–12). The majority of the studies took place in the United States (87 percent). Almost half of the studies (47 percent) took place in an urban setting, with 16 percent taking place in a suburban setting, 15 percent taking place in a rural setting, 14 percent taking place in a combination of settings, and 8 percent not reporting the setting.
 
The outcomes of interest included conduct problems and emotional distress. Conduct problems included measures of different types of behavior problems, such as disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, bullying, school suspensions, and delinquent acts. The measures of conduct problems could come from student self-reports, teacher or parent ratings, independent observers, or school records. Emotional distress included measures of internalized mental health issues, such as reports of depression, anxiety, stress, or social withdrawal. The measures of emotional distress could come from students, teachers, or parents.
 
Hedge’s g was the index of effect, adjusted whenever possible for preintervention differences between the treatment and control groups. The method used for all analyses was based on a random effects model, using maximum likelihood estimation procedure.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Durlak, Joseph A., Roger P. Weissberg, Allison B. Dymnicki, Rebecca D. Taylor, and Kriston B. Schellinger. 2011. “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions.” Child Development 82(1):405–32.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). 2014. “What is Social and Emotional Learning?” Chicago, Ill.: CASEL.
http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/
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Related Programs

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated programs that are related to this practice:

Positive Action Effective - More than one study
The program is designed to improve youth academics, behavior, and character, and can be used by schools, families, or communities. The program is rated Effective. Treatment students reported less substance use, problem behaviors, and violent behavior than the control group. There was a 41 percent reduction in bullying behaviors. Findings regarding sexual activity and disruptive behaviors were not statistically significant.

Fast Track Promising - One study
A comprehensive, long-term prevention program that aims to prevent chronic and severe conduct problems in high-risk children from 1st through 10th grades. The program is rated Promising. Participants in the treatment group were significantly less likely than control group participants to exhibit evidence of serious conduct problems and had higher social cognition. While parenting behaviors improved there were no differences between the groups in academic progress and child social competence.

Aban Aya Youth Project Promising - One study
A school- and community-based program developed specifically for African American youth to avoid conflict and reduce drug/alcohol use. The program is rated Promising. Boys receiving one of the treatment conditions showed less of an increase in provoking behavior, school delinquency, substance use, and early sexual activity/risky sexual activity than those receiving the control condition. There were significant program effects for all problem behaviors for boys receiving community intervention.

Safe Dates Effective - One study
This is a school-based prevention program for middle and high school students designed to stop or prevent the initiation of dating violence victimization and perpetration. The program is rated Effective. Adolescents in the program reported perpetrating less psychological and sexual abuse at all four follow-up periods, compared with youths in the control group. There was a moderate effect of treatment on physical violence victimization.

Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RIPP) Promising - One study
A school-based program designed to provide conflict-resolution strategies and skills to prevent violence to students in middle and junior high schools. The program is rated Promising. The experiment group had less disciplinary code violations related to violence in the 8th grade, showed significantly higher approval of nonviolence, and lower aggression at the 9-month follow-up.

LifeSkills® Training Effective - More than one study
A classroom-based tobacco-, alcohol-, and drug abuse-prevention program for upper elementary and junior high school students. The program is rated Effective. The training had positive effects on the treatment groups showing reduced growth of substance initiation, lowered cigarette and alcohol use, and some differences for self-reported marijuana and polydrug use.

Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT) Effective - More than one study
The program is designed to prevent the development of aggressive and antisocial behaviors in elementary children. The program is rated Effective. The intervention group showed less child physical aggression, a reduction in substance use initiation; and although the entire sample showed significant mean increases in substance use growth over time, the intervention slowed down the rate.

Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS®) Effective - More than one study
A prevention program that promotes emotional and social competencies and reduces aggression and behavior problems in elementary school-aged children. The program is rated Effective. Children in the intervention group had less peer-rated aggression and more social competence. Intervention classrooms had a more positive atmosphere, a higher level of interest and enthusiasm, and a greater ability to stay focused than comparison group classrooms.

Second Step®: A Violence Prevention Curriculum for Elementary School (2002 Edition) Effective - More than one study
A prevention program designed to reduce impulsive and aggressive behavior in children and adolescents by increasing their social competency skills. The program is rated Effective. The intervention group showed significant gains in social competence at varying times. There were improvements among students in measures of anxiety. Girls appeared to have higher scores for some behavioral measures and sixth grade boys had a decrease in externalizing problem behaviors.

Al’s Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices Promising - One study
An early childhood curriculum designed to increase the protective factor of social and emotional competence in young children and to decrease the risk factor of early and persistent aggression or antisocial behavior.

Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) Promising - More than one study
This is a school-based program to prevent school failure and teen pregnancy by engaging teens for at least 9 months in curriculum-guided discussion and community service learning. The program is rated Promising. Participants experienced significantly lower levels of teenage pregnancy, course failure, and school suspension than students in the control group.

Steps to Respect® Effective - More than one study
A school-based antibullying program that teaches social and emotional management skills to elementary school students. The goal is to help improve relationships and buffer the detrimental effects of bullying. The program is rated Effective. There were lower levels of bullying outcomes in the intervention group relative to the control group (e.g., observed bullying behavior, nonbullying aggression, destructive bystander behavior and students involved in malicious gossip).

SMART Team No Effects - One study
A multimedia software program that engages young teenagers in learning new skills to resolve conflicts and avoid violence. The program is rated No Effects. There were no significant differences in aggressive behavior between the treatment and control group.

Positive Youth Development Program (Connecticut) Promising - One study
A school-based prevention program that taught students cognitive, behavioral and affective skills, and encouraged them to apply these skills when dealing with daily challenges, problems, and decisions. The program is rated Promising. Compared with control students, program participants improved in coping skills, social and emotional adjustment.

Caring School Community Promising - One study
An elementary school program that seeks to strengthen students’ connectedness to school. The program is rated Promising. The evaluation found mixed results of the overall effectiveness of the program. One study found significant differences between the intervention and comparison classrooms on some measures of behavior. The other study found few significant differences when examining the high-change schools and no significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups.

Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (New York City) Promising - One study
A universal, school-based intervention for elementary students that promotes violence prevention as well as positive social and emotional learning. The program is rated Promising. The evaluation found higher levels of classroom instruction improved children's social-cognitive processes, reduced behavioral issues and decreased teacher's perceptions of youth problem behavior.

Across Ages Promising - One study
A mentoring initiative designed to delay or reduce substance use of at-risk middle school youth through a comprehensive intergenerational approach. This program is rated Promising. The program significantly reduced school absences and had a positive effect on measures of youths’ reactions to situations involving drug use and attitudes toward school, the future, and elders. However, the program did not impact youths’ frequency of substance use or well-being.

Success in Stages® Program Promising - More than one study
An anti-bullying program that incorporated all students’ involved—victims, passive bystanders, and bullies. The program is rated Promising. One study found the treatment groups’ results diminished over time for bullying and victimization; but a treatment showed the effect of no longer being a passive bystander. A second study found that middle and high school student treatment groups reported becoming non-bullies, no longer being victims or bystanders.

All Stars™ No Effects - One study
All Stars™ is a character-based approach to preventing high-risk behaviors such as substance use, violence, and premature sexual activity in teens ages 11 to 15. The program is rated No Effects. The program evaluation found no statistical significance between the control and experiment group for violence, substance abuse or sexual activity.

The Peacemakers Program Promising - One study
A school-based violence reduction intervention for grades 4 through 8. The program’s primary objectives were to prevent violence and improve interpersonal behavior among youth. The program is rated Promising. There was a significant decrease in self-reported measures of aggression; an increase in psychosocial skills; a decrease in disciplinary incidents; less involvement in conflict mediation; and fewer suspensions for violent behavior compared with the control group.

Social Decision Making/Problem Solving Program Promising - One study
This is a prevention program targeted at violence, substance abuse, and related problem behaviors through developing an individual's social and decision-making skills. The program is rated Promising. The program was found to significantly reduce the stressors associated with a student’s transition into middle school.

Comer’s School Development Program No Effects - More than one study
A school-based intervention that focuses on improving school climate and student achievement. The program is rated No Effects. The evidence base shows that the program had significant impacts on student reports of lack of anger and acting out. However, there were mixed results on disapproval of misbehavior and substance use, and no significant differences found for petty misbehaviors or friends’ problem behaviors.

WITS Primary Program Promising - More than one study
A community-based, schoolwide intervention aimed at children in grades 1 through 3 that targets socially competent behaviors and risks for peer victimization. The program was rated Promising. The program was shown to have significant positive effects on physical and relational victimization and social competence, but not on social responsibility or physical aggression.

Peer Group Connection (PGC) Program No Effects - One study
A high school transition program that targets 9th-grade students in urban high schools who are at risk of dropping out. The goal is to improve high school graduation rates among participating youths by having junior and senior high school students serve as peer mentors. This program is rated No Effects since the program did not improve students’ high school graduation rates overall. However, a significant positive effect on the graduation rate among male students only was detected.

The RULER Approach Promising - One study
The program is a multiyear classroom curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade incorporating professional development for teachers, school staff, and leaders with literacy-based, skill-building, social–emotional learning programs. This program is rated Promising. The program had significant effects on emotional support, positive classroom climate, and emotion-focused interactions. However, there were no significant effects on negative classroom climate and classroom supportiveness.

MindUp Promising - More than one study
This classroom-based intervention is geared toward the development of social–emotional competence among youth using “mindful attention” training which refers to bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience. This program is rated Promising. Results suggest that pre- and early adolescent participants showed significant increases in social–emotional competence, empathy, and perspective-taking; and decreases in aggressive and oppositional behaviors, fight starting, and rule breaking.

Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention Middle School Program (2008 Edition) No Effects - One study
This is a universal, school-based social-emotional learning program aimed at reducing violence and encouraging academic success among middle school students. The program is rated No Effects. While the program had a statistically significant impact on reducing physical aggression, there was no statistically significant impact on sexual-violence victimization and perpetration, peer victimization, bullying victimization and perpetration, cyberbullying, or homophobic name calling.

Second Step for Elementary School (2011 Edition) No Effects - One study
This is a school-based, social–emotional learning program for elementary school students. Teachers incorporate 25-40-minute lessons within the usual classroom curriculum. The program is rated No Effects. The treatment group displayed a statistically significant reduction in hyperactivity; however, there were no statistically significant differences between the treatment and control groups on measures of conduct problems, peer problems, social–emotional competence, or disruptive behaviors.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 5 - 18

Gender: Both

Settings: School

Practice Type: Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, School/Classroom Environment

Unit of Analysis: Persons

Researcher:
Joseph A. Durlak
Department of Psychology, Loyola University–Chicago
1032 West Sheridan Road
Chicago IL 60660
Email