Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
Virginia’s Vision for Social Emotional Learning
The Virginia Department of Education’s social emotional learning (SEL) efforts are driven by our commitment to ensure that every student in Virginia attends a school that maximizes their potential and prepares them for the future: academically, socially, and emotionally. Virginia’s vision for SEL is intended to center equity in this work, which is key to VDOE’s vision and mission.
“The vision of social emotional learning in Virginia is to maximize the potential of all students and staff to become responsible, caring and reflective members of our diverse society by advancing equity, uplifting student voice, and infusing SEL into every part of the school experience.”
Virginia's Definition of Social Emotional Learning
To meet this vision, the VDOE established a uniform definition of social emotional learning based on the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) definition. Virginia defines social emotional learning as:
“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
Social emotional learning begins at home and continues through adulthood. Embedding SEL intentionally in school culture advances the work that begins and continues at home.
Virginia Guidance SEL Standards
In accordance with HB 753, passed during the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) established a uniform definition of social-emotional learning and developed the Virginia Guidance SEL Standards for all public students in grades Kindergarten through 12 in the Commonwealth.
Core SEL Competencies
There are five core social emotional learning competencies that address broad and interrelated areas of competence. These SEL competencies can be taught and applied at various developmental stages from childhood to adulthood and across diverse cultural contexts.
A Systemic Approach to SEL Implementation
A wheel of six concentric circles. The words Social Emotional Learning are at the core. The five core SEL competencies are in the next concentric circle: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; relationship skills; and decision-making. The top of the next four concentric circles represent the key settings in which SEL is implemented: classroom, schools, families, and communities. Finally, the bottom of the four outer circles highlight the how of SEL implementation: Instruction and classroom climate; schoolwide culture, practices and policies; authentic partnerships; and aligned learning opportunities.
As exemplified by CASEL’s infographic (© CASEL, All Rights Reserved), SEL implementation requires a systemic approach that emphasizes the importance of establishing equitable learning environments and coordinating practices across key settings of classroom, schools, families, and communities to enhance all students’ social, emotional, and academic learning. Effective implementation integrates SEL throughout the school’s academic curricula and culture, across the broader contexts of schoolwide practices and policies, and through ongoing collaboration with families and community organizations. These coordinated efforts should foster youth voice, agency, and engagement; establish supportive classroom and school climates and approaches to discipline; enhance adult SEL competence; and establish authentic family and community partnerships.
Positive Impact of SEL
The research on the impact of social emotional learning demonstrates that SEL programming has a positive impact on academic performance, school attendance, disciplinary outcomes, and mental wellness. SEL lays the groundwork to create a safe and positive learning environment for students and adults, which allows for relationship building, collaboration, cultural competency, and critical decision-making. Research has shown that students participating in evidence-based SEL programs have:
- Improved classroom attitudes and behavior:
- Better sense of community
- More class participation
- Stronger pro-social skills
- Improved attendance
- Better understanding of consequences
- Better coping skills
- Increased attitude toward school and learning
- Improved school performance:
- Higher achievement test scores (+14%) and higher grades (+11%)
- Improved metacognition skills
- Improved problem-solving, planning, and reasoning skills
- Improvements in reading comprehension
- SEL can be an effective tool for creating caring, just, inclusive, and healthy communities that support all individuals in reaching their fullest potential:
Trauma Informed Practices
- SEL and trauma informed practices share the goal of helping students develop social and emotional competencies so they may respond successfully to the challenges of the world they live in.
Supporting English Language Learners
- Social Emotional Learning and Support for English Learners (recorded webinar) - The VDOE created a video to explore the ways that SEL can support the needs of English Language learners in Virginia.
- Indicators of Schoolwide SEL
- Virginia Career and Learning Center for School Mental Health Professionals - The VDOE is creating a module series, The Fundamentals of SEL, which will introduce SEL and highlight several components of schoolwide SEL.
The VDOE recognizes that in order to implement SEL, preparation and planning is required. There are a number of guides and toolkits available to assist educators in planning for, and implementing social emotional learning at the division and school level:
- CASEL Guide to Schoolwide Social Emotional Learning (CASEL)
- SEL for Educators Toolkit (Transforming Education)
- Three Signature Practices Playbook: A Tool that Supports Systemic SEL (CASEL)
- SEL Integration Approach for Classroom Educators-This is a PDF document. (Transforming Education)
- Strategies for Establishing School Family Partnerships (CASEL)
- SEL and Family Partnerships (CASEL)
SEL State Examples
- Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Social-Emotional Learning
- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Social and Emotional Learning in Massachusetts
- South Carolina Department of Education Social Emotional Learning
SEL in Action
The VDOE has a number of efforts that support social emotional learning.
- The VDOE Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS) offers school divisions the opportunity to build their capacity to utilize a multi-tiered framework (or “way of work”) to improve school climate and create effective and supportive learning environment for all students. This framework works through a lens of the whole child concept that aligns academics, behavioral, social and emotional wellness into a single databased decision-making framework.
- The Profile of a Virginia Graduate establishes a new set of expectations – known as the 5 C's : critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship skills.
- Early Learning and Development Standards-This is a PDF document. include personal and social development standards aligned with social emotional learning.
- The 2020 Health Education Standards of Learning (SOL) intentionally include social emotional skills to build K-12 student’s mental wellness skills - emotional development, self-concept and social competence.
- The revised Model Guidance for Positive and Preventive Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension integrates SEL practices into prevention and intervention as a means of reducing exclusionary discipline practices and removing disparity in the use of suspension and expulsion.
- The purpose of Kindness Week is to recognize that simple day-to-day acts of kindness enable our schools, communities, and state to be a kinder, safer, healthier, and more inclusive place to live, work, learn, and play. By promoting kindness, we are promoting inclusivity by extending an opportunity for grace, empathy, dignity, and acceptance across Virginia.
Learning during Uncertain Times
During the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, the effects of COVID-19 created prolonged disruption to the school and home routines.
The Virginia LEARNS initiative is about to take you on a journey to successful educational outcomes during uncertain times. The Student and Staff Wellbeing Checkpoint is the essential first-step consideration before embarking on the trip. The focus is on the social emotional wellness and physical health needs of our students, families, and staff. It will be critical to re-engage students in learning, rebuild relationships and school communities, and create equitable learning environments for all students.
The CASEL CARES Initiative connects each of you in our global community with experts to address how SEL can be most helpful in response to today’s circumstances. This site contains a variety of free resources as well as access to free weekly webinars to support educators. The site also features the Reunite, Renew, Thrive: SEL Roadmap to Reopening School (July 2020). The guide was developed as schools began to re-open and to illuminate a way forward with social and emotional learning that is centered on relationships and built on the existing strengths of a school community.
The VDOE Social Emotional Wellness Quick Guides include important information and resources for school communities.