Social Emotional Learning in Elementary School

Students enjoy game time at school.

Social emotional learning (SEL) programs can promote academic achievement and positive social behavior, and reduce conduct problems, substance abuse, and emotional distress.

The Issue

There is widespread evidence of successful, universal SEL programs and practices that can support social and emotional development in students during the elementary school years. Based on decades of research and evaluation in rigorous field trials, these approaches are now widely available to schools, along with teacher training and ongoing coaching to support high quality implementation.

Key Findings

  • SEL programs can promote academic achievement and healthy, positive behaviors.

  • SEL is critical to students success and shows a positive return on investment.

  • Effective programs address everything from individual student instruction to overall school climate.

  • They are also evidence-based, are improved by partnering with families, are culturally and linguistically sensitive, and include teacher training.


Schools should adopt effective SEL programs to ensure student success, and policymakers should create policies and guidelines that support SEL goals.

About The Pennsylvania State University

Founded in 1855, The Pennsylvania State University is a renowned public research university that educates students from around the world and collaborates with partners to share valuable knowledge that improves the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. For more information, visit To learn more about the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, go to

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increase in academic performance for students who get SEL support