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Part 2: The CASEL Guide to Schoolwide Social and Emotional Learning

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

By Jennie Liang, CEI Intern

CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, released The CASEL Guide to Schoolwide Social and Emotional Learning in the summer of 2020. Based on 25 years of research, this guide provides a step-by-step process for cultivating a school community that uses social and emotional learning (SEL) in every part of the students’ experience. The guide consists of four “focus areas” that are key to schoolwide SEL. This is part 2 of the blog series, which focuses on SEL implementation among adults in the school. If you are new to the CASEL guide, start with part 1 here.

Step 3: Cultivate SEL Among School Staff

Implementation starts with Focus Area 2: Strengthen Adult SEL. CASEL found that schools are more effective at fostering SEL for students when they have also cultivated SEL among adults.

Adults who are engaged with SEL are able to recognize, understand, label, express, and regulate their emotions. This emotional fluency allows adults to be stronger SEL models for students, create safe learning environments, and have lower rates of burnout.

To help your school create a supportive staff environment and cultivate adult SEL, CASEL suggests a three-pronged approach of learning, collaborating, and modeling.


Specifically, CASEL recommends the following activities to support school staff’s SEL development:

  1. Reflect on Personal SEL Skills: Engage in self-reflection to help staff gain a deeper understanding of the SEL development process and provide them with insight into their own strengths and areas for improvement.

  2. Foster Workplace Collaboration: Strengthen collaboration by using SCARF, a brain-based model that asks participants to read and interpret an article in small groups (Rock, 2008).

  3. Examine Biases for Cultural Competence: Empower staff to uncover and reduce biases, which helps create engaging, cooperative, and culturally responsive school environments.

  4. Develop Growth Mindsets: Commit to believing that one’s abilities can grow through dedication and hard work to help create a culture of improvement throughout the school.

  5. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize activities for self-care to promote health and well-being, prevent burnout, and protect against the negative effects of stress.

  6. Build a Professional Learning Plan: Create continual learning opportunities for staff to further their understanding of SEL.


In order to strengthen SEL among school staff, it is crucial to create structures within the school to foster trust and collaboration. The way the staff interact and work together strongly influences school climate and a collaborative staff community which are crucial to schoolwide SEL.

Below are some ways schools can encourage collaboration among their staff:

  1. Staff Shared Agreements: Develop guidelines with all the staff so everyone is in agreement on how they will interact with each other and their students.

  2. Peer Mentoring and Partnership: Instill mentoring programs to help teachers improve their professional relationships while enhancing their SEL. Mentorships can take on different forms such as a buddy system, experienced teacher-novice, and group mentoring.

  3. SEL Integration: Incorporate SEL practices into staff meetings with opportunities to interact in meaningful ways, share appreciations, or take time for reflection.


Lastly, it is important to model SEL for all staff, families, and community partners. SEL teams and school leadership play a key role in shaping a staff culture where SEL is consistently modeled by adults. Creating a model for social, emotional, and cultural competence helps set the tone for the school community and offers everyone positive examples of how to navigate stress and frustration.

CASEL recommends a few strategies for leadership and staff to model SEL

  1. Model SEL for Students: Set positive examples for students by navigating stress and frustration, building healthy relationships, and taking on different perspectives.

  2. Model for Staff: Foster a schoolwide culture of appreciation and use staff meetings as opportunities to model and practice SEL.

  3. Use Best Practices for Leaders: Become aware of the role principals and school leadership play in creating the culture and climate of their schools. Leaders should strive to embody SEL in their daily interactions.

Successful SEL implementation depends on how well staff work together to facilitate SEL instruction, foster a positive school community, and model social and emotional competence. It is important to make a concerted effort on strengthening adult SEL and continuously monitoring adult SEL needs.


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (n.d.). The CASEL guide to schoolwide social and emotional learning.

Rock, D. (2008). SCARF: A brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others. NeuroLeadership Journal, 1, 1-9.

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