Prevention Science

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 457–467 | Cite as

The Core Components of Evidence-Based Social Emotional Learning Programs

  • Gwendolyn M. LawsonEmail author
  • Meghan E. McKenzie
  • Kimberly D. Becker
  • Lisa Selby
  • Sharon A. Hoover


Implementing social emotional learning (SEL) programs in school settings is a promising approach to promote critical social and emotional competencies for all students. However, there are several challenges to implementing manualized SEL programs in schools, including program cost, competing demands, and content that is predetermined and cannot be tailored to individual classroom needs. Identifying core components of evidence-based SEL programs may make it possible to develop more feasible approaches to implementing SEL in schools. The purpose of this study was to systematically identify the core components in evidence-based elementary school SEL programs, using the five interrelated sets of competencies identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as an organizing framework. We present the components that were identified, and the rates at which each component was included in the sample of evidence-based SEL programs. The core components that occurred most frequently across programs were Social Skills (100% of programs), Identifying Others’ Feelings (100% of programs), Identifying One’s Own Feelings (92.3% of programs), and Behavioral Coping Skills/Relaxation (91.7% of programs). These findings illustrate the feasibility of systematically identifying core components from evidence-based SEL programs and suggest potential utility of developing and evaluating modularized SEL programs.


Core components SEL Social emotional learning Universal interventions Schools 



This project was completed with funding from Baltimore County Public Schools, Consultant Contract Agreement No. JNI-748-16-02 with the University of Maryland Baltimore, as part of their Project AWARE efforts funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The work was partially supported by T32MH109433. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

For this type of study, formal consent is not required.


*Reference used to code SEL program

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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester DivisionNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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