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Engaging Your Community Around Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

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Why Early Communication around SEL Matters

Panorama's Social-Emotional Learning Survey offers an easy and scalable way to learn about students’ self-perceptions about their SEL skills, how supported they feel, and how empowered teachers feel to implement SEL programs and support their students' SEL growth. Schools and districts across the country use the data from their SEL surveys to informs their educational practices, and continue to identify opportunities for growth and development with our students. Teachers and families need to understand what Panorama for SEL is so they can help students build understanding about the SEL so that students offer honest feedback about their experiences.

General Strategies for Building Buy-In to SEL

  1. Be transparent about the purpose of the SEL survey and communicate about the results afterwards. This is a good way to share the benefits of the survey while also explaining the commitment required from specific individuals. 
    1. Emphasize in specific terms how much will be learned from the survey about individual students and the school environment, and how the results will be used. For example, “You might wonder if socialization and culture factors might discourage girls from believing their talent can be changed in the same way that boys do." Measuring growth mindset will help us answer that question. In turn, we can use this to develop targeted supports, for example promoting girls' interest and confidence in STEM subjects.
    2. If you have conducted a survey in the past, you can also share how the data was used and why it was important. In general, the more your community can see that the data matters, the more high-quality responses and buy-in you will get.
    3. Also highlight how vast the potential for improvement is while underscoring how minimal the costs are. For instance, “It will take under ten minutes for students to complete the SEL survey and we will learn significantly more about how to target interventions with those students.”
  2. Engage community members at every level by communicating early and often.
    1. It is important to ensure that educators in your school or district have a clear understanding of the importance of social-emotional learning and how they can support students' growth. Share the resources and research below as a first step, but you may also want to provide more of a structured introduction at a staff meeting by outlining the school or district’s strategy for the year, such as with this customizable presentation
    2. Engage students in their own SEL growth. One way to do this is by using Playbook moves with them throughout the school year to increase their awareness of their own SEL skills and growth. You can also build buy-in with students by designating people who are close to them, such as counselors or classroom teachers, to communicate about, administer, and proctor the survey.
    3. Families are also key community members who should have a clear understanding of your school or district's approach to SEL. Because the survey directly affects their students, it's essential to ensure they understand what their students are learning and being asked, just as they would in any academic subject. Communications to families should be shared before, during, and after SEL surveys, and will be more effective if accompanied with educational materials about social-emotional learning.

How to Communicate with Families About SEL

  • Share this one-pager to ensure students' families understand what SEL is, who Panorama is, and why you are working with Panorama to run SEL surveys. It covers frequently asked questions and contains links to additional supportive resources.
  • Notify families about upcoming SEL surveys and programs by sending a letter or email to your students' families (customizable toolkit with sample letters), by sending emails to families, and by making phone calls home.


What is SEL?

"Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is 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.

SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities." (CASEL, 2020) 

Educators use many names for these skills, such as “non-cognitive skills,” “soft skills,” “21st century skills,” “character strengths,” and “whole child.” 

What Research Tells Us about SEL and Student Success

Social-emotional learning is an important part of a well-rounded education. Research shows that SEL is an important lever for boosting academic achievement, including 11% gains in academics. Positive social-emotional skills are also correlated with improved attendance, reduced disciplinary incidents, and an 11:1 return on investment for SEL programs.  

To learn more about the relationship between SEL and improved academic outcomes, please explore our research on the connections between social-emotional learning and the traditional metrics of student success, including attendance, behavior, and course performance.

Watch the videos below to hear our research team share some exclusive findings from our national dataset that show how district administrators can better support students through SEL.

Are Stronger SEL Skills Linked to Better Attendance, Behavior & Grades? (3:39 min)

SEL as a Remedy for Course Failures? What You Need to Know (2:55 min)
Reducing Behavior Incidents in Schools: What Can SEL Tell Us? (3:31 min)

Additional Resources

Read this blog post to find out how Mesa Valley (CO) "learned education isn’t black and white. [Mesa believes] a student is most successful when their social, emotional, and academic skills are all working in harmony."

Want to share your district's approach to SEL with your leadership team? Use our Resource Kit: Sharing SEL Priorities with Your Team.

Social Emotional Learning

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