Intentional Practices to Support Social & Emotional Learning

By Dale Blyth, Brandi Olson & Kate Walker from University of Minnesota | Extension

The 2013-2016 cycle of the Minnesota 4-H Foundation’s Howland Family Endowment for Youth Leadership Development is dedicated to understanding social and emotional learning and its contribution to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps. This series of issue briefs, funded in part by Youthprise, is designed to help people understand, connect and champion social and emotional learning in a variety of settings and from a variety of perspectives.

Intentional Practices to Support Social & Emotional Learning

Social and emotional skills are important tools for navigating life (Larson & Tran, 2014). They are also powerful predictors of other important youth outcomes such as academic achievement and work readiness (Durlak et al., 2011). Developing social and emotional competence can have an exponential effect on youth throughout their lives. Therefore, it is critical that youth programs claiming social and emotional outcomes become intentional about the strategies they practice and the growth that youth experience.

Practitioners play an influential role in social and emotional learning of the young people they work with, but it does not happen by accident. The purpose of this brief is to highlight strategies that practitioners can use to increase their intentionality around young people’s ways of being social and emotional learners. These Ways of Being include all of the attitudes, skills, and behaviors that exist in the ways we deal with feelings, relationships and getting things done. The Ways of Being Model is fully described in a previous brief in this series. The model is a tool for practitioners, youth, and families to deepen their understanding of social and emotional learning (SEL).

Intentional support of SEL is highly aligned with good youth development practices, but quality youth work alone does not sufficiently guide practitioners who want to focus on SEL (Shernoff, 2013). Intentionality is about both creating environments and designing experiences in ways that foster SEL. Increasing intentional practices to support SEL can be an important part of achieving SEL youth outcomes and have a long-term impact on youth’s social and emotional competence. Improving the quality of the youth development process is highly compatible with, but distinct from, intentionally improving the focus on SEL outcomes. Improvements in both areas increase the likelihood that a youth’s participation in expanded learning opportunities will have impact on their lives. This brief will describe specific strategies that compliment a variety of program structures, curriculum choices, and SEL frameworks, as well as point to additional resources for practitioners who want to deepen their expertise in SEL.

View the full document and corresponding resources here.

University of Minnesota | Extension

Minnesota 4-H Foundation Howland Family Endowment for Youth Leadership Development

Further Reading


Ways of Being: A Model for Social & Emotional Learning

From Dale Blyth, Brandi Olson & Kate Walker, University of Minnesota | Extension

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