Integration of Social Emotional Learning into Basic Education: Findings from Eight Case Studies
The 2018 USAID Education Policy identifies social and emotional skills, alongside literacy and numeracy skills, as a foundational learning outcome. Given the growing demand from the field for more technical support on social and emotional skills or soft skills programming, USAID commissioned NORC at the University of Chicago to complete a series of qualitative case studies to identify best practices for SEL/soft skills integration into USAID’s basic education activities, which include pre-primary, primary, secondary, and youth workforce development activities.
The research team used document analysis and key informant interviews (KIIs) to answer the following questions:
- How are social and emotional skills integrated into the conceptualization and design of USAID’s basic education activities?
- How are SEL interventions managed, implemented, and measured?
- What are the best practices and lessons learned in designing, implementing, and measuring SEL in USAID’s basic education activities?
- How can USAID better support Mission staff to design and manage interventions toward social and emotional skills or outcomes?
In addition to the synthesis report, individual Case Studies have been published for the following nine current or completed USAID basic education activities:
- Asegurando la Educación (ALE)/Honduras
- Education Crisis Response (ECR)/Nigeria
- Empleando Futuros (EF)/Honduras
- Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity (LARA)/Uganda
- Mindanao Youth for Development (MYDev)/Philippines
- The Pakistan Reading Project (PRP)/Pakistan
- Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement (QITABI)/Lebanon; QITABI 2/Lebanon
Based on the key findings, the following four points synthesize the major recommendations:
- It is crucial to agree on context-specific SEL terminology, related definitions, and the role of SEL in the activity’s theory of change during the design phase.
- The contextualization process should be based on the understanding that social and emotional competence areas and skills may include those that are universal as well as those that are culturally and contextually specific. Rigorous and iterative pilot testing of SEL teaching and learning materials with learners and educators will enable proper contextualization.
- Activity staff should ensure that SEL is integrated using multiple innovative pedagogical approaches (e.g. embedding learning through play concepts within SEL activities) and that the integration is a long-term educational goal that is conducted system wide.
- When possible, assess social and emotional skills and associated outcomes using measurement tools that are developed or adapted to the specific context and the activity design.