5 Takeaways from MDR’s New Study on Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

If you are talking or thinking about the topic of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and how it relates to students, read this preview of our latest educator research study.

SEL is a growing movement in K-12 education, even though some organizations, like Committee for Children, have been thinking about it for 40 or more years. As schools and districts look for ways to reduce discipline problems, build a positive school climate, and boost academic success, they are now turning to SEL programs.

This report offers SEL resource providers and K-12 academic curriculum providers a look at the SEL market and the opportunities it presents.


Here is an overview of our 5 key takeaways:

1. SEL initiatives are in their infancy in many schools

Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents whose schools are implementing SEL reported that the program has been in place for two years or less, and only 11 percent report implementations in place longer than five years.

In terms of the “Why?” behind the implementations, improving student discipline tops the list, with sixty-six percent of educators reporting discipline problems as a factor in the decision to implement SEL.

2. Educators need help with SEL

Only 26 percent of educators feel “very prepared” to implement their school’s SEL curriculum, even though 55 percent report having participated in SEL-related professional development in the past four years.

With new Tier 1 implementations in particular, educators need time to understand how to work these programs into their days. “Finding teachable moments” for SEL an educator from a school outside of St. Louis recently shared with me, is a helpful way to work it into the day. She told me a story about a boy who said he was “triggered” by the vending machine being out of his favorite chips and used that moment to talk about veterans and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In schools where an SEL program has been in place for two years or less, only 20% reported feeling “very prepared” to implement it. The number just more than doubled in schools where SEL has been in place for more than five years.

Providers have an opportunity to provide thought leadership and professional development (PD) to arm educators with the confidence they need for implementing SEL.

3. Barriers were identified

Educators identified numerous barriers to supporting students’ social and emotional development, including lack of training/professional development, lack of student family support, lack of curriculum, cultural/language barriers, and time constraints.

Barriers are especially prevalent with newer implementations and less tenured educators, as well as in large districts or in schools with high Title I enrollment.

4. SEL initiatives impact academic curriculum

SEL doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, a majority (66 percent) of survey respondents say their SEL program is a flexible curriculum that is used to weave SEL into everyday learning opportunities.

Publishers of core curricula have an opportunity to facilitate this integration and promote alignment with SEL-related objectives.

5. SEL assessment is an open frontier

The topic of SEL assessment is a complex one, and many schools currently lack evaluations to measure the effectiveness of their SEL programs. Providers may find potential here as interest and exploration around this area continue to expand.

The report also looks at SEL purchase decision makers as well as the sources educators turn to for information about SEL materials and trends.

The full report, Social and Emotional Learning in Schools, is available for here. It will help you gain additional insights into this important trend, inform business decisions centered around the whole student, and use the research to make sound choices for your products and services.

Gain more insight about the data in this report in our recorded webinar: Social Emotional Learning in K-12 Schools.

Questions? You can reach us directly by calling 800-333-8802 or emailing us at mdrinfo@dnb.com.