The State of Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

What’s Important to Teachers and Parents, and What’s Next for SEL?

In a recent report, we interviewed over 1,000 teachers, administrators and parents to better understand the present state of social and emotional learning U.S. PreK-12 schools. We wanted to know: is social and emotional learning a priority for these stakeholders? If so, why is it important to them, and what tools do they use to make it a reality? Importantly — what resources are they lacking to achieve their SEL goals, and what might be on the horizon for SEL in the classroom?

The data from the survey reveals a few things — first, that SEL is important to three stakeholder groups, and they know it’s critical for their students and children to have access to SEL supports. It also revealed that educators and administrators are searching for new ways to improve SEL instruction, and many parents could benefit from additional resources to understand the nuances of SEL. Here’s a deeper dive into the data:

The Current State of Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

SEL is a focus in classrooms.

74% of teachers report that they are spending more time teaching SEL skills today compared to five years ago — but 65% say they still need more time than they currently have to teach SEL skills. The 5 Guiding Principles of Social and Emotional Learning, developed by our Applied Learning Scientists, can help guide teachers in understanding how to spend designated SEL instructional time, including specific examples of interactions between students and teachers.

Teachers use a variety of tools to support SEL.

In the survey, teachers reported that they most often use audio resources, free online resources, and adaptive technology for SEL instruction. Our Social and Emotional Learning Pinterest board has a variety of SEL instructional tools and resources. Also check out our Kindness in the Classroom board for ideas to spread kindness and empathy, and watch this video from Carol’s Classroom for modeled strategies to teach speaking and listening.

Educators are making an effort to measure SEL skill development.

Survey participants report that they measure SEL skills most through classroom observations, student outcomes, and school climate surveys. School climate is an important measurement when understanding how your students interact with their school as a whole. The Great Kindness Challenge, a free PreK-12 program, is an accessible resource to boost your school climate and supplement your SEL program.

What’s Needed to Improve Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

Teachers Need More Professional Development.

According to survey data, over half of teachers say the amount of SEL professional development offered in their school is not sufficient. Teachers report preferring modes of professional development through in-school training or in-person conferences, workshops, and seminars. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) offers extensive resources to design and implement SEL professional development, and ASCD offers routes to find online courses, readings, and conferences on SEL.

Parents Need Support in Understanding SEL.

In the survey, stakeholders were asked to report their familiarity with social and emotional learning. According to the results, administrators and teachers are very familiar with SEL, but parents are less familiar with it. It’s important to ensure parents have the resources to understand what SEL is and how their student might be receiving SEL supports in the classroom. CASEL has created this guide for parents to help.

Parent Engagement is Key.

Teachers view parental support and engagement as the top factor that would help them be more effective in teaching SEL, above more instructional resources or curriculum and more professional development opportunities. Edutopia has this fantastic roundup of parental engagement resources, focusing on new teachers, varying student populations, and using technology, among other key topics that can be employed in an SEL parent engagement strategy. To adopt a different perspective, check out what resources the National PTA offers to help parents and teachers collaborate.


To learn more about the current state of social and emotional learning in schools and what’s needed to make SEL instruction meaningful for all students, read the full report: