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Transforming Adult Behavior & Culture

**Jones, S. M., & Bouffard, S. M. (2012). Social and emotional learning in schools: From programs to strategies. Sharing Child and Youth Development Knowledge, 26(4), 3–22. Available at

The authors of this article argue that effectiveness of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs at the classroom level alone are not enough to yield positive student outcomes; implementation and practices must take place system-wide. In an effort to broaden what SEL implementation can look like, Jones and Bouffard propose an ecological framework for understanding how different components of SEL implementation work together at different levels to produce greater outcomes for everyone. They summarize some of the research that explores what makes SEL more effective (e.g., using high-quality programs, implementing with fidelity) and less effective (e.g., programs inadequately sustained and poorly supported, lack of integration with other aspects of teaching and learning). For the purposes of this meeting, we recommend paying particular attention to pages 11-16, which discuss the importance of adult behavior. Teachers must embody and use the very social and emotional competencies they impart through their instruction, both on an individual level and as part of the larger school culture. The authors conclude by asking all stakeholders to be open to a more integrated perspective on SEL implementation, and to collaboratively problem-solve as the field grows.

Shafer, L. (2016). What makes SEL work? An effective social-emotional learning program has to be a whole-school initiative [Web log]. Available at

This article discusses findings from a Harvard Graduate School of Education study SEL, which proposes that all stakeholders must be involved in learning SEL skills for implementation to be successful. Traditionally, SEL programs are implemented solely at the classroom level or the individual level with students. Although Harvard’s research shows that this strategy does result in some social-emotional gains—and can improve other related academic, mental health, and behavioral outcomes as well—psychologist Stephanie Jones and her team find that a whole-school model for implementing SEL programs and practices is more effective. Jones’s research team argues that since children primarily have the opportunity to practice social-emotional behaviors in less-structured environments like the playground, cafeteria, and school bus, educators must prepare to teach in these settings. Therefore, research suggests that all adults receive training in, and commit to, promoting social-emotional growth both inside and outside the classroom. The article concludes by suggesting that schools also nurture social-emotional development amongst staff so that they may effectively model and support the same growth in children. 

Oakland Unified School District (2016). Three signature SEL practices: Creating the conditions for adult learning. Oakland, CA: Author. Available at

This guide outlines Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD’s) three SEL practices for structuring all meetings held by adults in the district. It also provides a variety of examples for how to exercise these practices. The document states that the three practices—welcoming rituals, engaging practices, and optimistic closures—create the conditions for adults to build skills across multiple SEL competencies. Welcoming rituals set the tone of the meeting and establish safety and predictability, and set norms for respectful listening and participation. Engaging practices are strategies that enable adults to process information in “brain compatible” ways and intentionally build adult SEL skills. The optimistic closure ends a meeting or professional learning with positive reflections from participants, so that they leave on a high note and with momentum towards taking action. Like other SEL work in OUSD, the practices are aligned with principles of Restorative Justice, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, and trauma informed practices. Together, these practices aim to support productivity and creative thinking by offering opportunities for adults to engage with their peers, share insights, and optimally process information.


**This document is considered a priority reading.