Social-Emotional Learning in Practice: What really works?

August 17, 2020 Sarah Williamson By Sarah Williamson
Social Emotional Learning

It’s abundantly clear that districts across the country are facing real challenges—how to reengage their students in learning, address learning loss, and place students on a path for learning growth. Couple these concerns with the social-emotional needs of students and educators, and administrators undoubtedly are dealing with more pressure than ever before.

But there is hope! Understanding how to support the health and well-being of students through social-emotional learning (SEL) can lay the groundwork for success in all of these areas.

In our 15th episode of Opportunity Thrives, a podcast where we are committed to better supporting the needs of today’s secondary students, we speak with two guests who share their insights on why an SEL program can be beneficial and how it can be implemented within your district. Listen to the full episode at

We dive deep into the details about how this can make a difference in the emotional well-being and academic success of your students. From research-backed evidence to practical experience, the episode shares advice and guidance for how to develop a program for the start of school year this fall. It’s not too late to get planning!

We know that student emotions, and their ability to cope with challenges, is directly tied to their ability to learn. According to Tim Shriver, the co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), there is a groundswell of recognition that the academic, social, and emotional development of children is intertwined with their ability to learn. Given the uncertainties of the past year, including school closures, COVID-19, and civil unrest, addressing these concerns is more important than ever.

Students and educators alike have dealt with massive upheaval in education and in their daily lives. Recognizing that educators and school staff are also experiencing similar stressors, it’s important to consider how we support their social-emotional needs as well. CASEL and Yale University recently conducted a survey of teachers who reported feeling anxious, fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad.

In this episode, we ask our two guests their suggestions for developing effective SEL programs, how this looks in practice, and their recommendations for others who are looking to implement similar programs.  

Debra Giacolone, the Supervisor for Mental Behavioral Health Services for the Sarasota County School District in Sarasota, Florida, joined us for this episode to share her insights on the SEL program they recently implemented throughout their district. Debra has been a passionate educator for over 20 years. Working in both the public and private sectors of education, she has served students and families from pre-k and beyond. Debra works tirelessly to promote the social-emotional well-being of all students while supporting the academic success and growth for every student, every day.

And Dr. Crystal Ladwig, the director of research for Suite360, a social-emotional learning provider that partners with districts across the country, also shared her perspective with us on this episode. As a researcher, teacher and a professor, Dr. Ladwig has a unique understanding of the issues facing teachers and families today. She has coordinated several research projects at the University of Florida, focusing on children with Autism and young children at-risk for the development of emotional and behavioral disorders.

We know this episode is going to be helpful to district leaders who are looking for research-backed practices and practical advice on how to kickstart an SEL program. Check out the full episode to take the first step in developing a new SEL initiative or to refine an existing program. There are nuggets of advice that will benefit nearly everyone – wherever you are in your SEL journey:

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