Traditional SEL programs can be expensive and time-intensive, making them difficult to implement successfully in many school-based and community settings, especially in low-resource environments. SEL programs also tend to be rigid and prescriptive, thereby limiting teacher autonomy and making it difficult to adapt SEL materials to different cultures, contexts, or individual and situational needs.
We developed SEL Kernels by drawing from both research and practice. First, over the course of multiple years, we coded and analyzed 50+ evidence-based SEL programs spanning early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school. We coded these programs for the specific skills they target in each lesson and the instructional strategies they use (e.g., storytelling, music, discussion, game, etc.). From this database, we identify common practices across the programs, and use these practices as a starting place for SEL Kernels. Kernels target knowledge, skills, and competencies within five broad domains of SEL: cognitive skills, emotion processes, social skills, character/values, and mindsets. Second, we conduct focus groups, interviews, and landscape research with educators, parents, and other community stakeholders to identify SEL-related needs and current gaps in the field. Kernels are then designed, refined, implemented, and evaluated with these needs in mind.
In the last 5-10 years, we have worked with human-centered designers and behavioral insight experts to conduct field testing and design research that informs the content, design, format, framing, and delivery mechanisms for SEL Kernels in different contexts. We have collaborated with local educators, parents/caregivers, ministry of education officials, humanitarian agencies, and others to refine SEL Kernels for multiple age groups and cultural contexts, including: Brazil early childhood centers, education for refugees and internally displaced youth in Nigeria, infant caregivers in Educare across the US, and school-based programming in the US and Canada. Across projects, we have found Kernels to be effective. Next, we hope to continue building partnerships and conducting rigorous research.
For school and community-based partners interested in participating in research, professional development, and tailoring or localizing of SEL Kernels to your specific population, needs, or context, please reach out to EASEL Lab via firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, free access to a set of SEL Kernels is available on the Greater Good Science Center website (see below).