Integrating Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in Remote Learning Environments



Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resulting trauma can have a negative impact on young people’s social and emotional wellness and mental health, and consequently, their capacity to learn. Students and adults are grappling with new and exacerbated traumas that can have far-reaching impacts on health and educational outcomes, potentially well beyond the pandemic. Throughout spring 2020, NYSED distributed resources for teachers and parents to address the immediate impacts of COVID-19, including strategies for trauma-informed remote teaching, helping students cope with the crisis, and addressing stress, anxiety and grief, as well as resources to help students, parents and teachers maintain social-emotional health as they engage in remote learning. Beyond these COVID-specific resources, NYSED is adapting trainings to focus on integrating SEL and trauma-responsive practices into remote learning environments and support development of students’ social-emotional competencies related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness,  relationship skills, and reasonable decision-making. Intentional development of these five core SEL competencies builds a foundation of protective factors that support the development of positive mental health and increase resilience for students and adults, improving capacity to cope and thrive amidst uncertainty. Moreover, when SEL is integrated with CRSE (described above) it can generate “transformative SEL”—a process in which young people and adults build strong, respectful relationships founded on an appreciation of similarities and differences, learn to critically examine root causes of inequity, and develop collaborative solutions to community and societal problems. We cannot practice and teach authentic SEL in our schools, especially in a remote environment, without intentionally considering the intersections of SEL with racism and bias. NYSED is developing strategies to bring transformative SEL into remote learning in order to help address the range of immediate student needs related to COVID-19 and help students build their capacities for long-term success.