SEL Intro #2: What’s the Science Behind Social Emotional Learning?

SEL at Camp EDMO

This is the second in a series of informational blog posts: SEL Intro #2. Check back weekly or search our archive for more!


Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is big news lately! It’s also almost certainly coming to a school, camp or after school program near you, if it isn’t there already. One of the reasons that SEL is so popular is the research and testing that supports its efficacy. As you might expect, the consensus is this: SEL works.

There are many universities and organizations working to design, implement and test SEL. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is one organization that conducts its own research. U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) is another that collects, interprets, synthesizes and supports research conducted by others. There is also the George Lucas Educational Foundation. It shares the outcomes of its collaborative research on a website called Edutopia, as best practices that work in education. Even the Rand Corporation is interested in SEL.


A theme running through much of this analysis of SEL is that in order to be effective, SEL programs must be evidence based and properly implemented. Most importantly, training educators to teach SEL is a crucial part of successful SEL. The attitudes and understanding of the instructor are just as impactful, if not more so, than the curriculum itself. Secondly, continual assessments of what works and what doesn’t provide the evidence. Beneficial methods of SEL are continued and distributed based on this evidence, while ineffective practices are redesigned, retooled or retired.


SEL has been around since the last century. But when compared with education as a whole, it is a relatively recent development. In 1997, CASEL partnered with another organization to produce the first book that addressed this “missing piece” in education, called Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators. Since that time they have continued to fine-tune their recommendations based on continued research and assessments. In 2017 Edutopia updated a Social and Emotional Learning Research Review that was originally conduced in 2012. Just this month, the Rand Corporation published study results in a research brief called Support for Social and Emotional Learning Is Widespread.

More Info, Please?

You can learn more about why SEL is important and the research behind by following any of the links above. Here are a few more:

Still not sure about what SEL is? Check our previous post in this series: SEL Intro #1: What is Social Emotional Learning? Plus, be on the lookout for the next in this series of posts: SEL Intro #3: How Do We Teach Social Emotional Learning?