Four years ago we launched our work in social and emotional learning (SEL), seeking to better understand how some of the very best out-of-school time programs work to equip youth with social and emotional skills essential to lifelong success.
We began knowing that to thrive in the 21st century is, more and more, shaped by a skillset beyond academic achievement. Experts across fields and sectors agree that social and emotional skills were critical ingredients for success. We also learned that, demonstrated by countless studies, these skills can be taught and learned. Too many youth weren’t accessing nurturing environments and real-world learning experiences they needed to develop social and emotional skills—especially disadvantaged youth. What was less known was specifically how to support the development of these skills in adolescents.
Our first initiative, the SEL Challenge, set out to uncover promising practices for building social and emotional skills in vulnerable youth, and to decode and systemize these practices in a way that could be applied in any youth-serving program, with the ultimate goal of taking these practices to scale in thousands of OST settings. We shared our findings widely in the Preparing Youth to Thrive suite of resources.
Over the last few years there has been a growing body of evidence that supports the value of incorporating SEL into all learning environments, and we have seen innovative work to this end nationwide.
Most recently, our attention has been focused on realistically assessing the challenges in bringing social and emotional learning into common practice. We have partnered with the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, After-School All-Stars, Character Lab, CASEL, The Aspen Institute, Wyman and others to explore how youth-serving organizations are effectively remixing and embedding SEL practices, curricula and evaluation tools into their strategy and culture.
We are continually asked how – how to select SEL practices, curriculum, measures, and, maybe most importantly, how to build a culture and approach that integrates training, assessment, and support for staff to improve SEL practices and outcomes.
We worked in partnership with top practitioners and researchers to help answer some of these questions, and are excited to announce the launch of a series of case studies that explore how youth-serving organizations are integrating SEL into strategy and programming. By sharing what we’ve learned, we hope to stimulate new conversations on the importance of SEL and to help organizations identify and scale the most effective approaches for youth.
This first case study from the Y-USA highlights the development and launch of the Character Development Learning Institute (CDLI), the Y-USA’s collaborative, program-agnostic, and deliberate process of verifying, adapting, scaling, and sharing best practices that advance youth character development.
Early next fall we will share case studies from the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, School’s Out Washington (Seattle), Sprockets (St. Paul), After-School All-Stars (Los Angeles), Beyond the Bell (Milwaukee) and Wyman that explore how each organization has integrated SEL into their organizations.
We have also learned that there is a need for more tools that specifically deepen our understanding of the development of two skills in particular: empathy and emotion management. What are the best practices for building these two skills? We have partnered with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to create a set of resources that will be released this fall providing research and practices related to these specific domains.
We will continue to share what we learn from our partners and the field and welcome new ideas, comments and feedback. We are grateful to all our partners, and even more grateful that this issue is rapidly becoming a topic of popular conversation.