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SEL Kernels of Practice

Flexible easy-to-use, targeted strategies to support children's social emotional learning in school

SEL Kernels are a low-cost and flexible way to integrate SEL into the daily routines and activities of schooling. Grounded in a content analysis of 50+ evidence-based SEL programs, Kernels are an alternative to traditional comprehensive programs, which can be expensive and difficult to implement. Kernels are easy to adapt and localize to fit different educational contexts around the world.

HundrED 2024
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2015

Established

20K

Children

13

Countries
Target group
All
Updated
April 2024
"The Kernels approach has transformed how we think about and do SEL in our program. It has made such a huge difference in children’s growth and development and in our relationships."

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

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.

What does your innovation look like in practice?

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.

How has it been spreading?

We use our database of Kernels to conduct field testing and design research that informs the local content, format, and delivery mechanisms for SEL Kernels in different contexts. We have collaborated with educators, parents and caregivers, ministry of education officials, humanitarian agencies, and local nonprofits to refine SEL Kernels for diverse age groups and contexts, including: formal and non-formal education for refugees and internally displaced youth in Lebanon, Nigeria, and Uganda; early childhood centers in Brazil; afterschool programs and summer camps in the USA; and K-5 schools in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Estonia, USA, and Ukraine. Across projects we work with local partners to study the uptake, implementation, and effectiveness of Kernels in each site.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

For school and community-based partners interested in participating in research, professional development, or localizing SEL Kernels to your specific population, needs, or context, please reach out to EASEL Lab via easel@gse.harvard.edu. In addition, free access to a set of SEL Kernels is available on the Greater Good Science Center website (see below).

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Kernels is an impactful research-based program that collects and analyses data from numerous SEL practices to develop smaller-scale, personalized, flexible and sustainable daily practices tackling social and emotional learning. Its robust monitoring and evaluation process creates cycles of iteration that improve the quality and impact of the project exponentially.

HundrED Academy Reviews

The innovation is based on bonafide, documented research and specifically identifies impactful practices aimed at strengthening social and emotional health and overall flourishing. The innovation's approach is based on objective, scientific research.

SEL Kernels of Practice has the potential to be further developed and added to as a library of resources and reach many classrooms/students as is free and structured for teachers to use as fits with their curriculum and student needs.

- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process

Media

In Ukraine, the EASEL Lab is partnering with LEGO Foundation Master Trainers, classroom teachers, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Education to adapt SEL Kernels to support children’s wellbeing and learning through play. In the fall of 2024, we will begin a National Rollout of Kernels in primary schools across the country. We aim to reach 1 million students by the end of 2026.
In 2024, EASEL is collaborating with Brazilian educators, Itaú Social, and the Brazilian Ministry of Education to launch a National Rollout of SEL Kernels for early childhood settings across the country. Building on successful partnerships in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraty, and the Amazonas region, we are creating online training modules to support ECE teachers to use Kernels effectively.
Fundación Kiri
In 2023, the Estonian NGO Head Matters translated SEL Kernels and made them available through their website. Head Matters is a leading mental health organization in Estonia. As part of their increased work in education, Head Matters selected Kernels to promote wellbeing among children and youth in schools: https://peaasi.ee/sotsiaal-emotsionaalsete-oskuste-arendamise-tuumiktegevused-ehk-ivad/
In Nigeria, the EASEL Lab and IRC collaborated with local teachers and government officials in Borno and Yobe states to adapt and pilot test SEL Kernels with refugee and internally displaced students. Read about our work and findings here: https://airbel.rescue.org/studies/social-emotional-learning-kernels-in-northeast-nigeria-contextualization-implementation-research-and-impact-research/
Read about Brain Games, a set of Kernels that build executive function and social skills through play. Brain Games were evaluated in a RCT with over 600 PreK-4th students in low-income schools in the US. Brain Games led to positive impacts on student executive function, attention skills, prosocial behavior, and impulsivity. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.655246/full
Education in Emergencies: Evidence for Action (3EA) Explainer Video
In Brazil, the EASEL Lab collaborated with early childhood educators and researchers to adapt SEL Kernels to the needs of local families and teachers. These activities, called "BASE" in Portuguese, were revised and delivered via TV programs when schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read about our adaptation process and findings: https://nissem.org/nissem-global-briefs/ngb-vol-iii/
In Uganda, VVOB and EASEL Lab support the Ministry of Education and Sports and Adjumani District Local Government in piloting a holistic approach to education that develops learners' foundational literacy and numeracy skills and SEL. This pilot serves 2000+ students and 59 teachers who have been trained on SEL & TaRL. https://uganda.vvob.org/tarl-play-literacy-numeracy-and-social-emotional-skills
Re-imagining social-emotional learning: Findings from a strategy-based approach 
Kernels to support children's wellbeing
Coping with Changes: Social-Emotional Learning Through Play - FutureLearn
Breaking SEL Down Into Manageable Practices
Can Bite-Sized Lessons Make Social-Emotional Learning Easier to Teach?
A cheaper, quicker approach to social-emotional learning?
Learn how the EASEL Lab used a content analysis of evidence-based SEL programs to develop "kernels of practice". Read the brief here: https://wallacefoundation.org/report/kernels-practice-sel-low-cost-low-burden-strategies-low-cost-low-burden-strategies
Kernels of Learning
Brain Games Case Study

Implementation steps

Open Access to SEL Kernels

Spread of the innovation

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