Current Research and Future Directions in Social Emotional Learning

New report offers key recommendations for supporting principals and creating caring schools

Based on decades of evidence, report calls for action at every level

Principals are more ready than ever to lead but personal and professional development are essential. A new report from Penn State’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center offers principals and their school districts guidance and recommendations on ways to handle principals’ job-related stress and increase the well-being of school districts and their communities. 

Principals experience substantial job-related stress, yet often lack the guidance and resources necessary to develop their own social and emotional competencies (SECs). A large proportion of principals feel that they lack the requisite skills to effectively lead their schools; high turnover rates create a significant financial and operational burden for school districts.

According to co-authors Julia Mahfouz, Mark Greenberg, and Amanda Rodriguez, the personal and professional development of principals is a key element in creating a caring school in which adults and children feel welcomed, cared for, and challenged. School principals have substantial impacts on many aspects of their schools, including school climate and culture, teacher well-being and retention, and students’ school success. 

This issue brief outlines the concept of the Prosocial School Leader, whose mission is to ensure that all staff, students, parents, and community members feel safe, cared for, respected, and valued in the school climate. 

Mahfouz and her co-authors recommend taking several steps to advance principals’ own social emotional learning and leadership in creating caring schools. These include: 

  • extending research and SEL programs focused on principals, and testing their effectiveness and outcomes;
  • offering professional development programs and courses that focus on principals’ own SEL and school leadership as part of principal preparation programs; and
  • developing policies and guidelines that ensure principals have the necessary support to effectively implement SEL programs and policies in their schools. 

Read the full brief: Principals’ Social and Emotional Competence: A Key Factor for Creating Caring Schools 

This new brief follows the publication of a series of previous issue briefs examining how social emotional learning helps students do better in school and lead healthier lives. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported this work. 

People Mentioned in this Article

Meg Small Damon Jones Mark T. Greenberg