Podcast Transcript: Selecting an SEL Program (S1E4)

Welcome to the EXPLORING THE CORE PODCAST, where we delve into the elements that make up our education system and learn more about how that system can improve for the benefit of all students in schools today.

I'm Greg Mullen, and in this episode... I look at a study that identifies the elements and competencies of different SEL programs currently available to schools.

I'll also be talking to Jennifer Rogers out of Wisconsin, a leader in Social and Emotional Learning, about her thoughts on SEL Frameworks, competencies, and some of the challenges we are facing as we continue exploring this world of social-emotional learning in schools.

Thank you for listening, I hope you enjoy the show.


In a previous episode, I spoke to the development of SEL and the competencies created by CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. In this episode, I’d like to build on what we know and dive into SEL programs available to schools today.

I’ve known and spoken with a number of teachers about their thoughts on SEL programs and the consensus seems to be that whether an SEL program is in a school or not, teachers feel they are often addressing student SEL competencies - every day. Part of that consensus is the need for schools to adopt some kind of program that provides an education in things we never received in our own education when we were growing up in the 20th century. Things like self-regulation of emotions and how to address social skills and strategies for de-escalation to resolve various conflicts, in school, at home, and in the community. Actually, at my last school, they chose to adopt a particular framework for character development, but the challenge wasn’t whether the framework was any good or whether the staff recognized the value of that framework, but that the ongoing administrative and staffing transitions made it difficult for the framework’s oversight and accountability to be implemented with fidelity. This is really important because I’m finding stories like my own being told by teachers in schools across the country. It’s not the research or the frameworks - it’s what these programs are intending to teach that we have not been trained to instruct.

One thing I see as a common obstacle is the sheer expanse of numerous social skills, concepts of emotional intelligence, and philosophies embedded in the societal awareness of all the different programs that are available. It can quickly become overwhelming for a school staff to internalize a program well enough to feel confident with instruction and assessment of those SEL competencies. I speak in a prior episode to the generational development of social and emotional skills and I think that plays a role in how schools are adopting SEL programs. It feels as if selecting an SEL curriculum is as much about defining the identity of a school (and its leaders!) as it is about teaching students the specific SEL skills embedded in a particular SEL program. I’ll actually be speaking to one expert later in this episode about the benefits of building a clear foundation for seeking an SEL program.

But I think the question today is, how do I figure out which SEL program will meet the specific needs of my students and community? More importantly, how will I know which SEL competencies my students need to be developing?