Current Research and Future Directions in Social Emotional Learning

Promoting wellness within the school community during and after the pandemic

Teacher talking with child, masked

Supporting school community wellness with social and emotional learning 

When the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon the nation in March 2020, schools across the country quickly turned to social and emotional learning (SEL) to guide school community members’ efforts to support student engagement, social and emotional health, and academic achievement, in addition to increasing engagement and well-being among educators, school leaders, and families. A new report from Penn State’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center offers a foundation for resilience that benefits all members of the school community—students, educators, school administrators, and families.

In this brief, Supporting School Community Wellness with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) During and After a Pandemic, co-authors Christina Cipriano of the Yale School of Medicine, Gabrielle Rappolt-Schlichtmann of EdTogether, and Marc Brackett of the Yale School of Medicine, explore the role of social and emotional learning in promoting wellness during the compounding traumas of a pandemic. The challenge is how to systematically build SEL as a critical component of “preparedness”.

According to the brief’s co-authors, fostering strong relationships and supporting children and adults in building core SEL skills can promote well-being and mitigate negative effects of trauma in both the short and long term. This is especially important for those on whom the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact: Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), persons with disabilities, and the elderly, and its interface with income, education, and health infrastructures. 

The brief includes descriptions of Bright Spots—examples of how SEL research and practice are being applied to support wellness during this crisis and that may be used in related crises moving forward, and Ripe Spots—opportunities for SEL to support the anticipated needs of schools toward the promotion of school community wellness.

 Cipriano and her co-authors recommend taking several steps to advance SEL in creating caring, responsive schools. These include:

  • Unprecedented and evolving challenges to wellness should be informed by attention to the research, and systematic high quality implementation of SEL.
  • Educators are applying SEL strategies to address the pandemic’s disproportionate impact and support students and teachers during distanced educational experiences.
  • SEL can contribute to the system of support for a school community to acknowledge the compounding traumas of the pandemic and navigate the anticipated needs of school communities in the current school year.

This new brief is the latest in a new series of issue briefs on future directions in social and emotional learning. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting this work. 

The issue brief co-authors: Christina Cipriano, Ph.D., is assistant professor, Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, and Director of Research, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI). Gabrielle Rappolt-Schlichtmann, Ed.D., is Executive Director and Chief Scientist, EdTogether, and adjunct lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education. Marc Brackett, Ph.D., is the founding director, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and professor, Child Study Center, Yale University.