CEC Conference Proposal

INED 8306

Topic: An Examination of Current Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiatives and Suggestions for Future Policy, Practice, and Research

Personal Information

Osman Khan, M.Ed. in Special Education

Doctoral Student of Special Education
Kennesaw State University

Single presenter

Part A: Rationale for the Presentation

What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which individuals acquire social skills while practicing how to recognize their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, demonstrate empathy, establish and maintain relationships, make well-planned decisions, and effectively handle interpersonal situations (Cohen, 2006, p. 206).

The Collaborative for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning (CASEL) advises SEL programs should address the following five groups of social and emotional competencies:

(1) self-awareness, (2) self-management, (3) social awareness, (4) relationship skills, (5) responsible decision-making.

Why is this topic important to the field?

This topic is important to the field because at-risk students in low-income schools are prone to engaging in high risk behaviors such as substance use, sexual activity, violence, depression, and attempted suicide; therefore, teachers and school systems must find effective ways to develop balanced social skills (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011, p. 405).

Close to 55-71% of young American students report not having social competencies such as empathy, decision making, and conflict resolution skills, and about 70% of all students surveyed reveal that their schools do not cater to their social and emotional needs (p. 405).

The problem of the current curriculum models that are currently in accordance with federal, state, and local policies is that they follow the strict use of content-based standards that disregard pre-requisite social and emotional learning skills and objectives that students require to complete simple to complex learning tasks (Elias, 2014, p. 58).

In a 2004 study, researchers reported that around 50% of all students in urban, rural, and suburban students become disengaged from school because current instructional practices disregard their social and emotional needs (Klem & Connell, 2004, p. 4). Rivers, Tominey, O’Bryon, and Brackett (2013) report that students who are exposed to risk factors such as parental stress, chronic illness, and family turmoil tend to enter school with underdeveloped social and emotional skills (p. 955).

Essentially, SEL initiatives that not only focus on accelerating social and emotional competencies, but also study skills related to academic learning, allow students to develop meta-cognitive skills required to apply strategic and critical thinking to complete academic-based tasks (Cohen, 2006, p. 206; Elias, 2014, p. 58).

Arguably, SEL skills are prerequisite and essential for students’ to have before they can fully conceptualize the academic-based, Common Core standards which strangely assumes students low-income and/or diverse learners are armed with the social and emotional abilities to master academic challenges and content in relation to unrealistic expectations (Elias, 2014, p. 62; Rimm-Kauffman, Pianta, & Cox, 2000).

What is the conceptual orientation for the presentation?

The conceptual orientation for this presentation is one that utilizes critical and practical perspectives. For instance, not only is it paramount that teachers focus on academic teaching, but it is also equally important that teachers, especially those working in low socioeconomic environments, place emphasis on social justice and social change.

More specifically, teachers who cater to a diverse population of students must recognize the social and emotional needs of their students, and they must modify their instructional practices to ensure students have the skills required to meet the demands of our current academic-based standard system.

Part B: Usefulness to Practitioners

How does the information presented in the session translate to improved practice?

Teachers, administrators, parents, advocates in the field of special education, and stakeholders can benefit from this presentation because it provides a thorough examination of SEL programming which will allow them to reflect on their current practice.

After this session, teachers can choose to make appropriate changes. It is strongly encouraged that they introduce SEL programming to their administration and seek to implement such initiatives on a collaborative level with their community as it has as proven to benefit students develop social, emotional, behavioral, and academic skills.

What practices are being targeted and how can recommendations improve student performance?

Not only will this session assist teachers amplify heir practice to meet the needs of at-risk students, but it also provides administration with insights on the effects of social skill deficits and disciplinary exclusion (suspension and expulsion) rates as well as how diverse student characteristics are mediator of unfavorable outcomes such as higher drop-out rates that often leads to incarceration (Kazdin & Wasell, 2000; Rones & Hogwood, 2000).

The presenter will discuss current and expansive review of research findings in SEL programming and the benefits derived from such intervention efforts that include increased academic performance, gains in metacognitive processing as well as improvement of social, emotional, and behavioral competencies (Cohen, 2006, p. 206; Elias, 2014, p. 58).

Part C: Participant Outcomes

Provide 2 to 3 participant outcomes that are:

a. Appropriate for the intended audience and focus of your proposal.

Granted that the audience will be those affiliated with the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), an organization focused on promoting policy and practice for children with exceptionalities through advocacy, the intended outcomes of this presentation is to spark interest and discussion as well as gain supporters for the promotion of SEL programming initiatives in public k-12 institutions.

b. Describe the skills, knowledge, and/or behaviors participants will know or be able to demonstrate after the session.

Teachers, administrators, CEC members, practitioners, researchers, and all who are interested in student learning will benefit from this session because they will have a full understanding of current SEL initiatives that includes methods for measuring SEL programming outcomes as well as future policy recommendations to practice and research.

The presentation will cover the following domains of SEL programming:

1. The benefits of SEL programming on student academic achievement

2. The positive effects of SEL on combating disciplinary exclusion for at-risk students including SWDs.

3. A review of current evidence-based, SEL curriculums

4. The benefits of combining SEL and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) as multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS).

5. Confirmed methods used for universal screening that includes student externalizing behavioral screening (SEBS) and student internalizing behavior screener (SIBS) that can be used for evaluating outcomes of SEL programming.

In addition, the presenter will challenge the current educational status quo by discussing his original and recent literature review on SEL programming which presents to answer the following questions:

1. How can policy makers and school boards expect students with diverse cultural and socioeconomically backgrounds to learn and perform well on academic assessments when many of them lack the foundational study skills and do not possess the dispositions and skills that enables them to manage their emotions?

2. How can teachers expect to teach such skills in their classrooms when emphasis is constantly being placed on testing and academic-based instruction?

The presenter will end the session with relevant, unanswered questions that directly relate to SEL initiatives that can help direct future SEL policy and practice. Examples of such questions include the following:

1. To what effect does SEL programming have on the interpersonal relationships between teacher-student, student-student, and parent-student?

2. What pre-service programs are provided by university education departments for the preparation of providing students with SEL services?

3. Are there more effective methods for evaluating SEL outcomes aside from SEBs and SIBs (methods for measuring SEL)?

4. What prominent and current research that suggests stronger links between SEL programming and higher standardized test scores?

5. What is the process for creating a hybrid SEL curriculum that integrates cross-curricular study skills and promotes social and emotional competencies?

6. What is being done in relation to Federal policy and legislation to fund and promote professional development in the field of SEL?

7. What are teaching practices accompany orderly and productive learning environments?

8. How to efficiently integrate SEL curriculums in schools with existing behavior intervention systems?

C. Considerate of medium, time, and number of presenters

This hour long presentation will be more effective if the single presenter is provided with the ability to connect a laptop to a projector.

Part D: Relevance to Learners, Families, and/or Educators of Diverse Groups

This presentation is relevant for all learners, families, and educators, especially those of diverse groups who have or teach students with exceptionalities, mental health issues as well as those who live or teach in lower-income areas.

Part E: Evidence of the Effectiveness of the Practice or Content to be Presented

SEL curriculums and initiatives have proven to assist students gain self-control when angry, resolve conflicts in an appropriate manner, make smart choices, and become active contributors to their community (Cohen, 2006, p. 4).

Findings in SEL implementation and practice reveal that well-designed initiatives in SEL can positively influence many social and academic outcomes (Greenberg, Weissberg, O’Brien, Zins, and Fredericks, Resnnik, et al., 2003). Weissberg and O’Brien (2004) affirm that SEL initiatives directly contribute to significantly reducing negative behaviors, such as violence and acting out, which helps schools reduce time spent addressing disciplinary issues further creating safe and positive school climates.

Moreover, a 2011 meta-analysis in SEL initiatives of 213 schools involving k-12 students reveals that students in the SEL programs significantly increase social behaviors, emotional skills, attitudes, and academic performance as compared to the control group (Durlak et al., 2011, p. 405). Most importantly, their findings conceptualize the benefits of SEL programs and initiatives under specific criteria referred to as moderators of program outcomes. Ultimately, their study suggests the need for policy makers, school systems, teachers, and parents to push for SEL programs for assisting social, emotional, and academic development of children on local, state, and national levels (p. 405).

Additional studies in SEL have shown positive outcomes of in academic and school performance with direct links to SEL programming. According to Weissberg and O’Brien (2004) school-based SEL interventions improve academic performance while reducing substance use, aggression, and other antisocial behaviors. Moreover, Schmidt, Shumow, and Kackar (2006) reveal that SEL learning increases in attendance, academic interest, school engagement, and stronger classroom task-engagement.

According to Zins, Weissberg, Wang, and Walberg (2004) SEL is a driving force for acceleration social, emotional, and behavioral competencies and it improves school attitudes that encourage higher levels of academic performance. More recent studies suggest that SEL programs can accelerate executive cognitive functioning development which directly students’ inhibitory control and ability to plan, thus suggesting that SEL programming may be able to assist students with disabilities (SWDs) and learners with prefrontal lobe and cortex irregularities develop social and emotional competencies that lead to increasing academic performance (Greenberg, 2006).

Additionally, teaching explicit social and emotional competencies that include as self-regulation, responsible decision-making, and goal-setting enhance educational efforts (Lawrence, Grannis, Owen, & Sawhill, 2013). Durlak et al. (2011) confirm that it is vital for school systems to promote social-emotional competence for students who lack empathy, decision making ability, and conflict resolution skills (p. 405). Their study aims to strongly suggest an increase in positive behaviors through SEL programming, which assists students develop a sense of engagement while increasing their social and emotional abilities by fostering positive attitudes toward self and others (p. 405).

In addition, they found that SEL programming promotes positive social behavior, and assists students to conduct and handle difficult problems as well as improve academic performance (p. 405).

Further exploration of SEL initiatives reveals that students in Illinois are expected to develop self-awareness and self-management skills, use social awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships, and demonstrate sound decision making skills and responsible behaviors (p. 420). The State of Illinois is fully justified in providing their students with exposure to and expectations for SEL programming because the implementation of such a program improves students’ attitudes, social and emotional competencies, and it has proven to produce 11% gains in academic achievement (p. 405). Durlak et al. (2011) establish gaps between research and practice to promote prevention and social and emotional promotion interventions for students (p. 420).

Cook, Frye, Slemrod, Lyon, Renshaw, and Zhang (2015) found that the combining SEL curriculums with existing behavior intervention systems such as PBIS proves to be effective models contribute to increased academic achievement due to improvement in behavioral, social, and emotional skills.

Chung & McBride (2015) suggest that teachers need to undergo professional development in the realms of SEL and school-based service learning and such information for implementing such programs should be provided to teachers and school systems in abundance (p. 199).

Ultimately, this presentation on SEL programming and initiatives greatly benefits the educational community and will serve to be the catalyst to influence policy makers, classroom teachers, parents, and school systems to adopt SEL initiatives by informing them about evidence-based SEL curriculum models, SEL implementation processes, integration of SEL with existing behavior intervention frameworks, and effective methods to monitor program progress towards desired goals (p. 1028).


Cohen, J. (2006). Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education: Creating a Climate for Learning, Participation in Democracy, and Well-Being. Harvard Educational Review, 76(2), 201-237.

Cook, C. R., Frye, M., Slemrod, T., Lyon, A. R., Renshaw, T. L., & Zhang, Y. (2015). An integrated approach to universal prevention: Independent and combined effects of PBIS and SEL on youths’ mental health. School Psychology Quarterly, 30(2), 166-183. doi:10.1037/spq0000102

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students' social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x

Elias, M. J. (2014). Social-emotional skills can boost common core implementation. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 58-62.

Greenberg, M.T. (2006). Promoting resilience in children and youth: Preventive interventions and their interface with neuroscience. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1094, 139-150.

Greenberg, M.T., Weissberg, R.P., O'Brien, M.U., Zins, J.E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., et al. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58(6–7), 466–474http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.58.6-7.466.

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Zins, J.E., Weissberg, R.P., Wang, M.C., & Walberg, H. J. (Eds). (2004). Building academic success on social and emotional learning: What does research say? New York: Teachers College Press.