SEL ToolKit

Recognizing the crucial role social and emotional learning (SEL) plays in ensuring the overall health and academic and future success of students, the Afterschool Alliance is committed to creating and sharing widely SEL tools, research, and resources that allow out-of-school time providers to better serve their youth. This toolkit helps explain what SEL is, how SEL connects to the afterschool field, and how to make the case to support SEL, as well as includes webinars, issue briefs, program spotlights, blogs, and more to highlight promising practices and strategies.


What is Social and Emotional Learning?

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), an organization dedicated to advancing the evidence base, practical strategies, and implementation of SEL, defines it as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

CASEL’s framework classifies SEL competencies into five areas: self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision-making, self-management, and relationship skills.


How Do Afterschool Programs Support Social and Emotional Skill Development?

Afterschool and summer learning programs are already doing a lot to help students develop social and emotional skills. Many afterschool and summer learning programs have broad learning objectives for youth that include social, emotional, and character development. Afterschool and summer learning programs are a unique setting where youth can connect to positive adult mentors, feel safe to try new things, and have the opportunity to acquire new skills and develop mastery in an area.

There are multiple points of view on the skills and competencies that fit underneath social and emotional learning, but significant overlap can be found across the different frameworks that exist, like “21st century skills,” “mindsets,” and “non-cognitive factors,” to name a few!

Why Is It Important?

Available evidence suggests that academic learning is inextricably connected to social and emotional development. It’s critical that both in-school and out-of-school educators ensure that youth are developing the social and emotional skills that they need to succeed in school and in life. Evidence shows that youth in high-quality, evidence-based afterschool programs targeting SEL outcomes see a wide range of positive effects in the short term:

  • improved self-confidence and grades
  • increased positive attitudes toward school, positive social behavior, standardized test scores, and attendance rates
  • reduced aggression and drug use rates

And even more positive effects in the long term:

  • increased rates of high school graduation, college enrollment, college completion, and employment
  • higher average wages
  • decreased rates of teen pregnancy and criminal behavior

Research even indicates that quality, SEL-focused afterschool programs can have an even larger impact on standardized test scores than programs that have a heavy academic focus! Afterschool and summer programs are key partners in young people’s learning. They help to develop the critical social and emotional skills that help create happier, more engaged, and more productive citizens.

Together with families and schools, afterschool and summer learning programs can work to ensure that all children and youth are given the supports they need to build their social and emotional skills and competencies, paving a clear pathway to a healthy and fulfilling future.


National Commission for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

In January 2019, the Aspen Institute's National Commission for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development released its final report. "From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope" details a vision for how social and emotional development can be integrated into the American education system, including the vital role that afterschool, summer, and other youth development programs can and should play in the education ecosystem.

By prioritizing equitable distribution of resources and access to high-quality learning environments both during and beyond the school day, the report reinforces the idea that the afterschool field is a critical lever in the efforts to provide social and emotional supports to youth around the country.

"Embracing a vision that each young person deserves access to quality after-school and summer learning opportunities requires schools and districts to play a role in providing and identifying sufficient resources to achieve that vision in partnership with youth development organizations, faith-based institutions, municipal leadership, provider networks, and youth development intermediaries.” - NCSEAD Nation At Hope Report

"While each youth development organization operates differently, their common denominator is the commitment to create supportive learning settings that nurture young people’s strengths and interests and enable them to thrive. Relationship building is at the heart of what these organizations do.” - NCSEAD Brief: Building Partnerships in Support of Where, When, and How Learning Happens


SEL Issue Briefs & Spotlights

SEL Webinars

SEL Blogs