Principals Are More Ready Than Ever to Bring SEL to Their Schools


Recently, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) presented a webinar on principals' perspectives of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) which reported the findings of an update to the 2017 report "Ready to Lead". See the Ready to Lead 2019 Update here.


The webinar initially reviewed some pertinent stats from previous CASEL reports as listed below (full reports available to read in full here):


93% of teachers in 2013 wanted a greater focus on SEL in schools. (The Missing Piece, 2013)
41% of recent graduates believe their high school prepared them for a job or career after high school. (Respected, 2018)
73% of principals believe students from all types of backgrounds would benefit from SEL. (Ready to Lead, 2017)


It then went on to explain the role of principals in fostering Social Emotional Learning in schools:

  • Research on successful whole-school improvement has identified school leader support as the single biggest predictor of whether change takes hold and is beneficial (Fullan, 2011).

  • Principals who fostered positive relationships with teachers improved job satisfaction and staff’s sense of community and commitment. (Price, 2011), and “The number one reason for teachers’ decisions about whether to stay in a school is the quality of administrative support.” (Darling-Hammond, 2007)

  • School leadership is second only to classroom instruction as an influence on classroom learning. (Louis, Leithwood, Wahlstrom, & Anderson, 2010)

  • Principals have a significant influence on how teachers rate their sense of empowerment in school, their school environment, their professional development, and the use of their teacher time. (Burkhauser, 2017)

  • The positive impact that effective principals have on teacher outcomes are even greater in disadvantaged schools. (Grissom, 2012)

  • Schools with the highest learning gains had principals who promoted a strong school climate by empowering and coordinating the work of teachers and school staff around shared goals. (Allensworth and Hart, 2018)

  • Transformative school leaders are needed in order to realign structures and relationships as part of systemic social and emotional learning implementation, to achieve genuine and sustainable change. They do this by: 1) leading with vision and courage, 2) integrating SEL schoolwide and 3) implementing SEL with integrity.

Principals’ Social and Emotional Competence: A Key Factor for Creating Caring Schools


A report recently released by The Pennsylvania State University echoes the findings from the Ready to Lead 2019 report and explains that "principals have substantial impacts on many aspects of their schools, including school climate and culture, teacher well-being and retention, and students’ school success. As such, the personal and professional development of principals is a key element in creating a caring school in which adults and children feel welcomed, cared for, and challenged. It is now recognised that principals experience substantial job-related stress which can compromise their personal well-being as well as their leadership. Surprisingly, the social and emotional development and well-being of principals has received little attention."


The report provides a conceptual model of the Pro-social School Leader, which has two components. The first is the principal’s own social and emotional competence (SEC) and the ability to handle stress and model caring and culturally competent behaviours with staff and students. The second component is an enhanced model of leadership in which principals are the pro-social leaders whose responsibility is to ensure that all staff, students, parents, and community members feel safe, cared for, respected, and valued. Principals’ SECs, well-being, and leadership form the foundation that influences the effective implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL), school climate, teacher functioning and well-being, family and community partnerships, and downstream student outcomes. (The Pennsylvania State University, 2019)


Awareness and understanding of one’s emotions may support leaders’ efforts to develop self-understanding and to strengthen relationships with others, which contribute to growth and improved communication.

Second Step provides leadership support for implementing long-term and sustainable SEL in a whole-school context with the Principal Toolkit. As we know from the research, the gains in pro-social behaviour, increase in school readiness and improved academics occurs when an evidence-based SEL program is implemented whole-school and is fully supported by the school leadership team.


Contact Positive Pieces Education to learn more about the Second Step Social Emotional Learning program. To place an order for Second Step resources, click here.




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