Research and Articles

Ways of Being: A Model for Social & Emotional Learning

At the heart of social and emotional learning there is always a learner—a young person who is figuring out how to live life in a complex world. Young people in the 21st century must learn to balance and navigate multiple social dynamics, societal demands, and a myriad of choices about their futures (Larson & Tran, 2014). While researchers, funders, schools and community leaders work to understand skills, outcomes and assessments to describe social and emotional learning, practitioners who work with and on behalf of youth have a real-time need to understand the social and emotional learner that exists in every single young person they work with. Get your copy

Intentional Practices to Support Social & Emotional Learning

Social and emotional skills are important tools for navigating life (Larson & Tran, 2014). They are also powerful predictors of other important youth outcomes such as academic achievement and work readiness (Durlak et al., 2011). Developing social and emotional competence can have an exponential effect on youth throughout their lives. Therefore, it is critical that youth programs claiming social and emotional outcomes become intentional about the strategies they practice and the growth that youth experience. Get your copy

The Relationship between Youth Program Quality and Social & Emotional Learning

A high-quality youth program provides the setting and experiences conducive to developing many positive outcomes, including positive social and emotional skills and beliefs. Efforts to improve youth program quality are essentially about creating better processes and conditions for learning to occur. The extent to which that learning is intentionally focused on social and emotional skills and beliefs can vary widely. Program staff plays a key role in cultivating the right environment and processes for SEL skills and beliefs to grow. This brief seeks to examine the relationship between quality improvement practices and improved intentionality efforts around program design to support the development of social and emotional skills. Get your copy

Strategies for Social-Emotional Learning in COMPASS Programs

The term “social-emotional learning” (SEL), defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as “a process for helping children develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness,” is a current buzzword in education, highlighting the important role that both practitioners and researchers believe social-emotional skills play in youth development and preparation for success in school and in life. Skills such as managing emotions appropriately, goal-setting, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, and responsible decision-making are important for youth to thrive. High-quality youth development programs, and afterschool programs in particular, have traditionally been an important avenue for teaching youth these skills.

There is still much to learn about local efforts to implement strong programs that build SEL skills in youth. To help build this knowledge, the New York City Department of Community and Youth Development (DYCD) asked Policy Studies Associates (PSA) to conduct a study of promising practices in Comprehensive After School System (COMPASS) programs implementing SEL programming. As a funder of over 340 COMPASS programs serving elementary-grades students throughout New York City, DYCD has great potential to have a big impact on SEL development for the thousands of youth who participate in COMPASS programs each year. The findings from this study are also applicable to other afterschool programs that are interested in strengthening their approach to SEL. Get your copy.

Strategies to Promote Non-Cognitive Skills: A Guide for Educators and Youth Developers

This Guide from Public Profit profiles sixteen options for youth development organizations and schools to promote non-cognitive skills among those they serve. It is designed to help youth developers and educators make comparisons between multiple strategies that exist to foster non-cognitive skills in children and youth. Each strategy is assessed on eight key characteristics: cost, evidence, population, training, duration, frequency, depth, and assessments.


This Guide is adapted from research conducted for the Silicon Valley Out-of-School Time Collaborative, and is therefore rooted in the out-of-school time/expanded learning context. It is our ardent hope that this Guide will be useful to anyone working with youth, regardless of the setting.


The strategies featured in this Guide were identified through a review of recent research on non-cognitive skills, a scan of other guides for youth developers and educators1 and expert recommendation.


Download a copy of the guide or contact Public Profit to help you identify a strategy that fits your needs.


Benefit-cost analysis is a tool for evaluating the economic profitability of an investment. It has been used in education since the 1960’s to determine the rate of return on both individual and social investments in education. Essentially, benefit-cost analysis compares the monetary cost of an investment with the monetary value of its outcomes. For example, by reducing high school dropouts there are costs to the student in foregone income by staying out of the labor market. But there are also gains to the student in terms of higher income, better health, and lower likelihood of involvement in the criminal justice system, all which can be measured, in terms of a monetary return on investment. The taxpayer also makes an investment in education through paying a considerable portion of its direct cost and gets a return through higher tax revenues and lower costs of public services for health, public assistance, and criminal justice. And, society obtains returns by using its resources in its most productive ways, at least partially reflected in economic returns. Read the article.



Understanding the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that ultimately contribute to success in the workplace is a priority for educators and employers. One aspect of employability that has gained attention in recent years is the need for strong social and emotional skills in order to be successful in the workplace.


To understand this better, American Institutes for Research (AIR) has developed two new resources on employability skills and social and emotional learning (SEL) for the afterschool field:


Ready for Work? How Afterschool Programs Can Support Employability Through Social and Emotional Learning, a Research to Action brief summarizing research on SEL and support for the development of employability skills in afterschool programs


How Afterschool Programs Can Support Employability Through Social and Emotional Learning: A Planning Tool, a new resource designed to help afterschool program staff foster employability skill building in their programs. The brief and tool provide an overview of the research as well as tips and information on how to support key employability skills through SEL.


We hope you’ll share these new resources with your colleagues and through social media. Here are a couple of sample tweets to get you started:


How does #afterschool contribute to future #employabilityskills for youth? Find out here:


The research is clear-employers are looking for skills that go beyond content knowledge. Here’s how #afterschool helps:


In this brief we use the CASEL reviews of evidence-based programs to answer the question, “What do teachers and other adults actually need to do in the classroom and school to help students achieve the goals laid out in social and emotional learning (SEL) standards?” Specifically, we identify and describe four approaches that have been success-fully used to promote social and emotional development in students. One approach uses free-standing lessons that provide step-by-step instructions to teach students’ social and emotional competencies. The second approach uses general teaching practices to create classroom and schoolwide conditions that facilitate and support social and emo-tional development in students. A third approach integrates skill instruction or practices that support SEL within the context of an academic curriculum. The fourth approach provides school leaders with guidance on how to facilitate SEL as a schoolwide initiative. The identification of these four approaches and types of strategies that support each one should help school leaders and teachers develop a comprehensive plan for developing students’ social and emo-tional competencies. Read the paper.


Both the formal and informal education communities are increasingly focused on fostering opportunities for social and emotional learning (SEL) and the link between SEL and youth outcomes. There is a growing evidence that the social and emotional competencies youth develop while in afterschool programs can contribute to their success in school and life. As a result, afterschool program staff must understand the most effective strategies to promote the development of social and emotional competencies in youth. They must understand, too, how to build and improve their own social and emotional competencies.


This self-reflection tool focuses on five social and emotional competencies, including self-awareness, self-management/emotion regulation, social awareness, relationship/social skills, and responsible decisionmaking. The tool is designed to help afterschool program staff reflect upon their own social and emotional competencies and their ability to support young people’s SEL through program practices. Read the paper.


Research shows that afterschool and expanded learning programs work best when they are high quality and evidence-based. Beyond the Bell® (4th edition) is a suite of professional development services, products, and practical tools designed to help afterschool program leaders and staff members create and sustain high-quality, effective afterschool and expanded learning programs. AIR takes the guesswork out of designing, implementing, evaluating, and improving afterschool and expanded learning programs by staying abreast of the research on what works and turning that information into accessible improvement tools.


Beyond the Bell®: A Toolkit for Creating Effective Afterschool and Expanded Learning Programs contains practical resources, tips, and tools and substantive information about all aspects of program design, management, partnerships, delivery, evaluation, and improvement, along with 96 ready-to-use tools. Each tool is designed so that program leaders and staff members can take action to improve their programs, taking the book off the shelf and bringing to life the concepts covered within. In the chapter on program delivery, for example, staff may read about how to create a warm and welcoming environment in their program. The related tools then enable staff to think deeply about their practice. A youth development checklist, for example, encourages them to examine current practices that foster positive growth in youth, whereas the activity planner supports staff in integrating best practices into their everyday programming. Additional tools provide concrete activity ideas that foster relationships among young people in the program and between staff and youth. Find out more.


During the past 20 years, the afterschool field has been held accountable in varying ways—first, on the ability to provide safe places for young people to spend time while their parents work; then, on success in helping to improve participants’ academic achievement as a supplement to the school day. Today, measuring success in afterschool programs is more nuanced and has been influenced by an increased recognition that the social and emotional competencies youth develop while in afterschool programs are also critical to their success in school and life.


This is the first brief in our series, Beyond the Bell: Research to Practice in the Afterschool and Expanded Learning Field, and focuses on how afterschool programs contribute to the development of social and emotional competencies in young people. In practice, we see how high-quality programs can help participants learn, grow, and develop. But what does the research say? How can we prove it? We chose to focus our first brief on this important topic because there has been a growing recognition that afterschool programs can and do facilitate the social and emotional development of young people. Despite the recent attention this topic has received, efforts to define and measure social and emotional competencies in afterschool settings are still emerging. Read the paper.


By Jenny Nagaoka, Camille A. Farrington, and Stacy B. Ehrlich with David W. Johnson, Sarah Dickson, Ryan Heath, and Ashley Mayo. In November 2013, the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago CCSR) was awarded a competitive grant from the Wallace Foundation to build a conceptual framework that articulates what is needed to guide children and youth into successful young adults. The framework seeks to identify the broad range of factors critical for young adult success and to consolidate current understanding of how these factors can be fostered in schools, communities, and homes from early childhood to young adulthood. While much is known from research and practice about promoting college and career success, the field would benefit tremendously from a coherent and accessible framework for preparing children and youth for young adulthood, one that could bring together the best research and practice knowledge from multiple fields, clarify how critical factors work together across settings to support children’s development, advance efforts to measure those factors, organize the contributions of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners around a common set of objectives, create a shared understanding of the levers of change associated with achieving those objectives, and provide a common language with which to discuss and evaluate contributions and refine approaches over time. Read the paper.


This paper contends that noncognitive skills should be an explicit pillar of education policy. It contributes to the growing interest in these skills by reviewing what we know about noncognitive skills, including what they are, why they matter, and how they enter into the education process. We then extend the discussion by providing a tentative list of skills that are both important for and can be nurtured by schools. Contrasting what we know about non-cognitive skills with how policy currently treats them, we contend that noncognitive skills deserve more attention in the education policy arena. Toward this end, we propose some guidelines for how to design education policies that better nurture them, and describe the kinds of research needed to inform policy and practice. This paper is composed of two main sections. The first defines noncognitive skills and explores the evidence-based findings on their role in education and adulthood outcomes, and on how they are nurtured. The second section examines how education policy could help schools better nurture noncognitive skills. It includes some suggestions for researchers on how their work can provide new evidence geared toward policymakers, and a discussion of the goals of public education, education reform, and accountability. Read the paper.