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Consumer-Oriented Guide Allows Educators to ‘Look Inside’ Top Research-Based Programs on Social and Emotional Learning

Top Research-Based Programs on Social and Emotional Learning
May 2, 2017



Melissa Connerton
The Wallace Foundation

Casey Bayer
Harvard Graduate School of Education


Consumer-Oriented Guide Allows Educators to ‘Look Inside’ 
Top Research-Based Programs on Social and Emotional Learning

New York -- As interest in social and emotional learning (SEL) continues to grow, a new guide to 25 evidence-based programs offers detailed information about curricular content and programmatic features that practitioners can use to make informed choices about what to use to develop key skills and competencies such as self-control, attention and goal-setting; empathy; relationship building and conflict resolution; flexible mindsets; and character.

Aimed at elementary schools and out-of-school-time (OST) providers, the unique guide provides practitioners with the breadth and depth that enables them to compare what is taught, and how, across programs. Importantly, it also explains how the SEL programs can be adapted to out-of-school-time settings, such as afterschool and summer programs.

Emerging best practices in OST settings are well aligned with the goals of SEL, the guide notes, but few programs are designed for such environments.

Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 25 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers was written by Stephanie Jones, an associate professor in human development and urban education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a team of Harvard researchers. Jones is a recognized expert and frequent speaker on social and emotional learning.

“We know social and emotional skills matter. There is a robust evidence base linking social and emotional competencies to a range of outcomes from positive behavior and academic success in the short run to physical and mental health as well as job and financial security in the long run,” Jones said.

“What this resource provides is a window into what different programs focus on and how they do it. This type of information is critical for those who want to cultivate and foster these essential skills within and across different contexts,” she added. 

Edward Pauly, director of research and evaluation at of The Wallace Foundation, which commissioned the research, said it makes a valuable contribution to the field.

“This guide offers actionable information about research-based programs that will be very helpful to a wide range of stakeholders, from classroom teachers to administrators making decisions about programs across multiple sites. We’re particularly pleased with the focus on out-of-school-time programs, which Wallace has long supported and increasingly have a role to play in helping students reach their full potential.”

The guide, which builds upon and complements other existing tools in the field, is a practical, consumer-oriented resource that provides profiles of each program, including the specific skills it targets and instructional methods used. Some programs, for example, are designed to help students regulate their behavior, while others are aimed at developing certain mindsets or character traits.

In addition to using the guide to select new programs, educators can use it to evaluate the fit and effectiveness of their existing SEL approach. It can also be used to bridge what is taught during the school day for elementary students and what is then continued in the OST programs they attend. The guide offers:

  • Background information on SEL and its benefits, including key features of effective programs and common implementation challenges
  • A summary of the evidence base for each of the 25 programs
  • Recommendations for adapting the programs for OST settings
  • Summary tables that allow consumers to look across the features of the programs and compare them
  • Detailed, individual profiles for each of the programs
  • Tools for practitioners to use, including a set of worksheets and planning supports to help stakeholders make decisions based on the program profiles and summary tables

Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 25 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers, is available at

About The Wallace Foundation
The Wallace Foundation seeks to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children and foster the vitality of arts for everyone. The foundation has an unusual approach: funding efforts to test innovative ideas for solving important public problems, conducting research to find out what works and what doesn’t and to fill key knowledge gaps – and then communicating the results to help others. Wallace, which works nationally, has five major initiatives under way:

  • School leadership: Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
  • Afterschool: Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.
  • Building audiences for the arts: Enabling arts organizations to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.
  • Arts education: Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
  • Summer and expanded learning: Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children, and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students.

Find out more at


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