Best Practices on Effective SEL/Soft Skills Interventions in Distance Learning
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought critical attention to the value and importance of social and emotional learning (SEL) and Soft Skills, in coping with crisis. The purpose of this review is to provide evidence on effective, equitable, and inclusive SEL practices that can be delivered via distance learning modalities in USAID-recipient countries. The scope of this review includes formal and non-formal basic, secondary and higher education programs, as well as workforce development programs, in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and, to a lesser extent, North America and Europe. Researchers analyzed documents and interviewed key informants from 22 programs offering SEL using distance learning modalities to answer the following:
- What are the most effective, equitable, and inclusive types of SEL interventions that can be delivered at a distance?
- Which of these interventions has an evidence base?
- What are the most relevant principles and best practices that should inform the design and delivery of high-quality, equitable, and inclusive distance learning SEL interventions?
SEL programs and practices were considered at the national, community, and school/home level. Three key findings from these analyses are:
- Currently, there is limited research evidence of the impact of distance SEL programs on participants (children, youth, parents/caregivers and educators).
- Although many different SEL skills were targeted by programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of programs focused on emotional well-being and behavioral well-being in order to manage the pandemic’s impact.
- Because stress and anxiety are extremely high across program beneficiaries, with marginalized populations likely experiencing even greater stress and anxiety, many SEL programs incorporated stress management strategies for all participants—not just children and youth.
This review also presents important considerations for teams planning to create new distance learning SEL programs or to pivot existing in-person programs to distance learning modalities. When developing or adapting SEL programs, implementers should consider the following best practices:
- Target multiple levels of an individual's social-ecological context;
- Make educators' and parents'/caregivers' well-being a central component of remote SEL delivery;
- Prioritize building and maintaining positive learner-educator and parent-educator relationships;
- Contextualize SEL to meet the needs of learners and communities;
- Use multimodal delivery as it has the widest reach; and
- Provide opportunities for children, youth, educators, parents, and caregivers to practice SEL.