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Social and Emotional Learning

Save the Date!   Creating Safe and Supportive School Communities Summer Institute: Social and Emotional Learning Conference, June 21, 2018


Social and Emotional Learning in Wisconsin Schools

Making social and emotional learning (SEL) skills part of the learning equation helps children succeed in school and life. With social and emotional skills, children can manage their feelings, build healthy relationships, and navigate social environments. When adults are supported by good policies and training, children develop the skills needed to prepare them for the world.

Why it matters:

  • Students receiving comprehensive social and emotional learning instruction increased their achievement test scores by 11 percentile points.
  • The soft skills developed by social and emotional learning are exactly what 59 percent of hiring managers surveyed look for in new hires.
  • Columbia University found that an $11 return resulted from each $1 invested in SEL.
  • A nationally representative survey of PK-12th grade teachers found that 93 percent believe SEL is very or fairly important for the in-school student experience.

For a print version of this information please download the Social and Emotional Learning in Wisconsin PK-12 Schools infographic.

What is Social and Emotional Learning?

Social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, in partnership with the Safe Schools Healthy Students grant and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is committed to providing resources to schools and families to support comprehensive social and emotional learning opportunities for students.

SEL and Equity: What does this mean?


CASEL's 2018 February 5th webinar with Rob Jagers shares some of the ways in which CASEL is advancing work on equity and social and emotional learning (SEL).

5 Keys to Social and Emotional Learning Success

Social and Emotional Learning and Character Education

These terms are often used interchangeably and while there are some similarities, there are some differences as well. According to Elias, Parker, Kash, Weissberg and O’Brien (2007) "Character education focuses on values and social and emotional learning focuses on skills and attitudes needed to function in relevant social environments."

Both approaches address school climate and both recognize the importance of the adults practicing the values or skills they teach and expect. Character education includes both ethical and performance values and is guided by eleven principles. Social and emotional learning includes teaching skills in self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making (CASEL).

To be sure, there is overlap in these two approaches and schools have found success with both. Local communities are in the best position to decide which approach will work in their schools. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will provide resources and technical assistance for schools and districts to implement Social and Emotional Learning. For those interested in addressing these needs through a values-based approach, resources and supports can be found at and at the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership.

Elias, M.J., Parker, S.J., Kash, M., Weissberg, R.P., & O’Brien, M. (2007). Social and Emotional Learning, Moral Education, and Character Education: A Comparative Analysis and a View Toward Convergence. Retrieved from

Applications for the 2018 Positive Practices can be found at the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership (WCEP) web page.

The application deadline is February 13, 2018.

SEL and Technology

Children and youth spend much of their lives on-line. An outcome of our digital age is that social interactions are often occurring through screens rather than face to face. This can pose challenges to developing student’s social and emotional learning capacities but also opens up opportunities for teaching these skills in new and innovative ways. One intersection of SEL and technology is “Digital Citizenship.”

Random House Dictionary defines a digital citizen as:
A person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the Internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities.

For more information and resources on Digital Citizenship please visit

Additional Resources


DPI provides several resources to help future social and emotional learning in our schools.

Schools and Educators

Evidence-Based Curriculum

For Parents and Families

  • Parent toolkit: (From the website) This toolkit will help you navigate your child’s journey from pre-kindergarten through high school. It is designed to help you track and support progress at each stage.
  • Confident Parents Confident Kids: A site for parents actively supporting kids' social, emotional and ethical development

Out-of-School Time/Afterschool Programs

  • Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices for Social and Emotional Learning
    Scroll to the bottom of the page to download the field guide.
  • A great new resource from the Wallace Foundation: Navigating SEL from the Inside Out. Looking inside and across 25 leading SEL programs: A practical resource for schools and OST providers. Elementary school focus. “The goal of this report is to provide schools and OST organizations with detailed information about the specific curricular content and programmatic features of each program in a way that enables them to look across varying approaches and make informed choices about the type of SEL programming that is best suited to their particular context and needs.”

Adult Social and Emotional Skills

What's your emotional style? Understand how your emotions effect your well-being and relationships with others. A self-assessment from Dr. Richard Davidson, the Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Personal Assessment and Reflection – SEL Competencies for School Leaders, Staff, and Adults
This Personal Assessment and Reflection – SEL Competencies for School Leaders, Staff, and Adults tool, from CASEL, is designed to help schoolwide SEL leaders to assess and understand their own levels of social and emotional competence.

Meyers, D. C., Gil, L., Cross, R., Keister, S., Domitrovich, C. E., & Weissberg, R. P. (2015). CASEL guide for schoolwide social and emotional learning. Chicago, IL: CASEL.

This tool was adapted from Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2013).Primal leadership: Unleashing the power of emotional intelligence(pp. 253-256). Harvard Business Press.

For questions about this information, contact Beth Herman (608) 267-9242