What We’re Learning in Social and Emotional Learning
The Latest Evidence and Resources
The “What We’re Learning” blog series through USAID’s Center for Education explores Agency learning priorities and showcases the latest evidence and resources in USAID’s education sector. These blogs highlight what we’re learning, why this learning is important, what ideas we are testing, and what results we are seeing. This series is intended for Education Officers in USAID partner countries and implementing partners who are designing and managing new activities, evaluations, and/or research efforts.
This blog discusses what we are learning in social and emotional learning. USAID’s Social and Emotional Learning and Soft Skills Resource Page can be used as a guiding resource.
How Do I Get Started with Social and Emotional Learning?
Recent feedback from Education Officers shows that many are interested in implementing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) components into their work but aren’t sure where to start.
For those looking for introductory information on SEL, USAID’s Center for Education recommends that you visit the SEL Toolkit – and, more specifically, read the USAID Center for Education’s How to Integrate Social and Emotional Learning in USAID Basic Education Programs. The How-to-Note is comprehensive at 57 pages, but it’s a good “one-stop” resource on how to integrate SEL at every step of the project cycle. The How-to-Note begins with clarifying USAID’s definition of SEL and outlining USAID’s core principles of SEL, and then moves on to discuss integration into program design, implementation, and MEL plans.
What Resources Can Help with My Work?
USAID Education Policy Brief on Social and Emotional Learning and Soft Skills is a helpful document if you need convincing language that will help you persuade mission colleagues to include SEL into a new activity. At only 15 pages, this Policy Brief focuses on the importance of SEL programming, outcomes often associated with SEL programs, and the best available evidence on the benefits of SEL programming. This document is currently available in English and Arabic.
Where Can I Look for Even More Detailed Information?
1. For Basic Education and Foundational Skills: The Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Systematic Review provides an overview of the existing evidence on the effects of soft skills interventions in development and humanitarian contexts. This report catalogs what we know to inform research, policy, and practice around academic success, wellbeing, health, and resilience.
The Integration of Social and Emotional Learning into Basic Education Programming, published in 2021, is a 69-page report based on collective lessons-learned from eight case studies. This report is very practical, focusing on concrete examples of SEL programming. The report outlines twelve findings (pages 10-41) and seven recommendations (pages 42-43) for integrating SEL into basic education programs. In addition to the report, eight individual case studies were written – one for each project participating in this report. To help Education Officers quickly access the most relevant case studies for their own work, a summary table is provided at the end of this blog.
2. For Youth: Please note that in the youth space, the term SEL is not typically used; instead, USAID refers to “soft skills.” If you are looking for definitions of “soft-skills” that resonate with many actors, the Soft Skills and Youth Workforce Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Study Brief might offer some helpful language. The Study Brief also offers a simplified literature review of how SEL is used in work-readiness programs. Also, note that the last two case studies in the table below (Honduras and Philippines) include Youth components.
What Is Coming Next?
USAID’s Center for Education is aware that although SEL skills and theory is well defined and widely understood by mission staff, it can be hard to translate theory into programs and projects. For this reason, the Contextually Relevant Emotional and Social Wellbeing Tools (CREST) Study was created. Moving beyond lesson plan content, CREST acknowledges the necessity of an approach that includes teachers, peers, and administrators – and the need to develop evaluation tools, especially in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. CREST was just launched in 2021, focusing on the educational ecosystems of Haiti, Honduras, Colombia, and Liberia. This blog will be updated to include CREST publications and tools as they become available.
Quick Reference - Key Project Themes by Basic Education Case Study
Honduras: School-Based Violence Prevention (Asegurando la Educación)
Key Project Themes: School-based violence prevention; Teachers as both vehicles to advance goals AND key beneficiaries; Flexibility and adaptation amidst social, political, and economic challenges; Inclusion/LGBTQ+ communities; School-wide approach.
Nigeria: Education Crisis Response (ECR)
Key Project Themes: Stand-alone SEL components and integrated components in curriculum; Literacy and Numeracy; Coping with adversity and recovering from trauma; Use of International Rescue Committee’s SEL Framework; Play-based pedagogy; Focus on marginalized populations – including displaced children, girls, and children with disabilities; Strong government partnerships; Crisis-affected communities; Focus on conflict resolution; Culturally appropriate use of songs, dance and storytelling; Sensitization of family and community.
Uganda: Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity (LARA)
Key Project Themes: Focused on reading and retention; Focus on teachers delivering quality instructions; Positive school environment through reduction of SRGBV and zero-tolerance SRGBV policy; Used CASEL framework; Created Journeys Handbook for Pupils to promote student agency; Addresses bullying and corporal punishment which is counter to local culture; Robust MEL plan; Strong government/community support; School Day and extra-curricular programming.
Pakistan: Pakistan Reading Project (PRP)
Key Project Themes: Focus on Literacy in grades 1 and 2; Focus on classroom learning environment; SEL had a support role, not a main focus; Close government collaboration; Integration through family and community; Focus on gender and literacy with a focus on representation of women and girls; Sensitization towards children with a disability; Teacher training interventions; adaptive contexts due to COVID-19 pandemic; Parents and caregivers involved through storytelling activities.
Lebanon: Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvements (QITABI and QITABI2)
Key Project Themes: Assisted with influx of Syrian refugee learners; QITABI used an implicit SEL approach, which paved the way for QITABI2’s use of a Holistic Learning Approach; Focus on child-friendly classrooms and teacher-student relationships; Partnership with National Education System for sustainability; SEL integrated into Arabic, English, French, and Math curriculum; Use of EASEL framework; Embraced local ethical and spiritual values.
Bangladesh: Early Childhood Development Mass Media Activity (SISIMPUR)
Key Project Themes: Provided education and entertainment based on Sesame Street television series; Used a Holistic Learning Approach that included Literacy, math, science, and life-skills which includes health, safety, hygiene, etc; Rigorous research and pilot-testing; Used supplemental learning material for parents and teachers; High stakeholder engagement; Addresses risk of child trafficking and child labor; Addresses equity and inclusion of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
Honduras: Workforce Development Activity (Empleando Furturos)
Key Project Themes: Preparing youth for labor market; Incorporating market needs; Relies on expertise of local implementing network; Grassroots recruiting of facilitators; Incorporates sessions into the “living space” of youth; Community sensitization and empowerment; Focus on vulnerable populations such as LGBTQ+, youth with disabilities, ethnic minorities and high-crime communities.
Philippines: Mindanao Youth for Development Program (MYDEV)
Key Project Themes: Focus on peace and stability; Use of life-skills curriculum for out of school youth and technical skills training; Strong civic-engagement component; Alternative Learning System (ALS); Resilience and recovery focus in areas with history of violence and displacement; Rigorous measurement and data collection; Strong stakeholder buy-in.