Foundational Learning

group of teachers

Foundational Learning

From CASEL School Guide 

Commitment to schoolwide SEL is a long-term process in which all members of the school community internalize the critical place of SEL in each student’s education and build a shared understanding of their role in fostering SEL (Hall & Hord, 2015). Once assembled, the SEL team can create opportunities for key stakeholders to gain foundational knowledge of SEL.

It is recommended that foundational learning opportunities take place early in the school year or soon after prioritizing schoolwide SEL. Many schools begin with a one-hour presentation during an all-staff meeting or at department and grade-level team meetings. An SEL 101 sample introductory presentation and a presentation on SEL supporting research have been provided here to help get the team started.

If you have already begun providing foundational learning opportunities, use the rubric or the questions below to identify areas for continuous improvement: 

Are foundational SEL learning opportunities provided for all school staff in the first year of implementation?

After the first year of implementation, are foundational learning opportunities provided at least annually for new school staff, families, community partners, and as part of the onboarding process?

Can all members of the school community discuss SEL’s importance and its impact on student outcomes?

Do all members of the school community understand their own role in helping students develop social and emotional competencies?

Based on your responses, you’ll want to develop a plan to address the foundational learning needs you’ve identified. Below you’ll find additional guidance on creating initial learning opportunities for four key stakeholder groups.

  • The SEL Team will be the school’s source for information about schoolwide SEL. Some team members may be learning about SEL for the first time. The team may choose to seek foundational learning opportunities from the district office, community partners, or outside organizations and conferences. Before the team engages the rest of the school community, it’s necessary for the team to develop a common language and understanding of SEL; be able to communicate how SEL can be helpful for students, staff, and families; and understand how the team will support implementation.
  • School Staff – The introduction of schoolwide SEL is an opportunity to energize staff, demonstrate the power of SEL, and begin establishing a common language. Staff may be concerned about adding “one more thing” to their plates. To allay this concern, introduce schoolwide SEL as a lever for achieving many of the school’s existing priorities and connect it to goals in the school’s continuous improvement plan.
  • Families – Families are a child’s first teacher and an essential factor in the cultivation of social and emotional competencies throughout a child’s life. When families and schools work together, they can build strong connections that reinforce social and emotional skill development. Cultural awareness and responsiveness are critical to successful family partnerships. Awareness and celebration of the strengths and cultures represented in the school and styles of communication within those cultures help schools to effectively engage families and all members of the school community.
  • Community Partners, such as out-of-school time providers and other community organizations, are also key partners in shaping the social and emotional development of students and play an important role in ensuring that SEL becomes interwoven into the fabric of students’ lives both during and after school. Schools may choose to include community partners and out-of-school time providers in a presentation alongside the school staff or hold a separate session for partners.

For all of the groups above, consider hosting an informational presentation that includes these topics and activities:

This information may need to be presented multiple times to reach broad segments of your school community and can be customized for specific stakeholder groups. These foundational learning opportunities will serve as a basis for deeper learning about SEL. In Focus Area 2, school teams will engage in further planning for ongoing professional learning.