Social and Emotional Learning and Soft Skills
USAID is providing new opportunities to systematically design, measure, implement, and understand the impact of programs that build social and emotional skills or soft skills for children and youth.
- Provides an introductory understanding of what USAID means by the terms “social and emotional skills” and “soft skills” and how to communicate about them.
- Specifies the desired outcomes and quality standards for programming that teach social and emotional skills or soft skills.
- Identifies areas in which evidence and best practices still have gaps, and areas in which we should consider investing in further learning.
USAID’s New Education Policy Brief: Social and Emotional and Soft Skills: Provides an overview of the Policy Brief.
Why Youth Skills? And Why Measure Them?: Raises awareness of the importance of developing youth’s skills.
Measuring Social and Emotional Learning in Children: Discusses three tools to measure SEL.
Curated Programmatic Resources
Best Practices on Effective SEL/Soft Skills Interventions in Distance Learning: 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.
The INEE Collection on Psychosocial Support and Social and Emotional Learning: In emergency situations, education is a major factor in the mental and physical protection of children and can be a key psychosocial intervention. If properly delivered, education can offer learners a safe, stable environment in the midst of crisis, and help restore a sense of normality, dignity, and hope by providing both routine and structured, supportive activities that help build children’s cognitive, social, and emotional skills. The Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies has curated a webpage of learning and research, interventions, and guidance documents that give implementing partners a starting point for intervention design, development, and implementation. This webpage also articulates the relationship between social and emotional learning, wellbeing, and psychosocial support.
USAID's How-To Note on Disability Inclusive Education: Millions of children and youth with disabilities around the world, especially girls with disabilities, are left out of education and workforce development plans due to stigma, poor data collection, and a lack of knowledge on how to make learning and work environments inclusive and accessible. This How-to note is meant to be used by USAID education staff and partners of education projects and activities as a reference document and guide for putting into practice USAID’s commitment to disability inclusive education as well as for Disabled Person’s Organizations advocating for more inclusive programming. Disability inclusive education programs develop students' individual strengths and talents, including improving social and emotional learning outcomes.
Focus: Disability inclusion
CASEL SEL Implementation Tools and Resources: The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, a U.S. based organization, has an online suite of tools that provides guidance and support for districts and schools to implement high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning programs in their communities. Their resources span pre-primary through secondary school, include programming with parents or other community members, as well as programming guides focused on administrators. Though they are U.S.-focused, USAID staff and partners may find them useful when looking for concrete examples of implementation approaches.
Focus: Basic Education
ECCN/USAID Social and Emotional Learning Roundtable: The Education in Conflict and Crisis Network convened a policy roundtable discussion. The purpose was to develop recommendations on social-emotional learning (SEL) in crisis-affected context for the new United States’ international education strategy. This event brought together practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to discuss the current evidence, implementation challenges, promising approaches, and innovative SEL interventions. These discussions helped inform the U.S. government’s policy priorities and implementation guidance on how to best improve SEL outcomes for children in crisis. These documents are useful to understand the business case for including social and emotional skills in USAID's education programming.
Focus: Basic Education
YouthPower's Cross Sectoral Skills for Youth Community of Practice: As the evidence base on the importance of soft skills for fostering positive youth outcomes, including workforce success, social and health behaviors, and education, has grown, international youth development programs have increasingly focused on interventions that develop soft skills. YouthPower's Cross-Sectoral Skills Community of Practice is working to better understand the value and impact of soft skills, including how they should be defined and measured, as well as their importance for Positive Youth Development. Their website contains a variety of resources for USAID staff, implementing partners, and researchers, including programming guidance, measurement guidance, and a systematic review of cross-sectoral skills.
Life Skills in Non-formal Contexts for Adolescent Girls in Developing Countries: Non-formal education and training programs are vital avenues for equipping disadvantaged and out-of-school youth, such as girls, with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to cope with, navigate, or transform life’s challenges. This study aims to improve the understanding of the current state of non-formal life skills education and training programs that serve adolescent girls in developing countries. It includes a comprehensive literature review and case studies in Lebanon, Tanzania and Ethiopia, as well as comprehensive recommendations for policy and further research in adolescent girl programming.
The INSPIRE Handbook: Quality education helps children acquire the knowledge, skills and experiences that build resilience and reduce risk factors for violence. The INSPIRE Handbook provides a technical package of seven selected strategies to prevent and respond to violence against children in low- or middle-income countries. The seven INSPIRE strategies are based on policies, practices or programmes that are considered effective, prudent, or promising in addressing violence. The "Education and life skills strategy" includes efforts to support school participation, create safe and supportive school environments, and to build students’ skills in relationships, communication, managing emotions, conflict resolution and self-protection.
Focus: Violence Prevention
The Taxonomy Project: The Explore SEL platform is a product of the Havard EASEL Lab's Taxonomy Project, a multi-year research project that seeks to create an evidence-based system for organizing, describing, and connecting frameworks and skills across the “non-academic” domain. The tools and resources on this site will help you explore, connect, and compare SEL and “non-academic” frameworks and skills in ways that enable you to better understand SEL and related fields, be clear and precise about the skills you want to target, select a framework to guide your SEL work, and much more.
SEL In Higher Education: From Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning Research and Practice: This chapter reviews this literature in the context of SEL and offers suggestions for future research and practice addressing SEL in higher education. USAID staff and partners can use this chapter as a helpful reference when considering how best to reflect the importance of social and emotional skills for all learners across the education spectrum, including in higher education.
Focus: Higher Education
Curated Measurement Resources
SEL Measurement Toolkit for Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey: Provides a library of tools that can be used to assess children and youth's learning and holistic development in crisis and conflict settings in the MENA region. The measures come with guidance regarding their reliability and validity, possibility for adaptation, and specific uses for monitoring, evaluation, assessment, or research.
Youth Power Measurement Toolkit: This toolkit, developed by YouthPower Learning, provides guidance and resources for implementers of youth programming in LMICs to integrate PYD principles in their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems and effectively measure PYD outputs and outcomes within their programs. This online toolkit provides an introduction and a brief overview of the toolkit.
Soft Skills F Indicator: USAID has issued new reporting guidance for Education and Youth Workforce Development. Standard or supplemental indicators relevant to programs aiming to improve social and emotional or soft skills development include:
- EG.6-13 Percent of individuals with improved soft skills following participation in USG-assisted workforce development programs (USAID PIRS available)
- ES.1-51 Number of learning environments supported by USG assistance that have improved safety, according to locally-defined criteria (USAID PIRS available)
- Supplemental-1 Percent of pre-primary learners achieving school readiness (no USAID PIRS yet)
- Supplemental-9 Number of students who have improved social and emotional skills, as locally defined, with USG assistance (no USAID PIRS yet)
Call to Action
USAID invites missions, partners, or other actors to share their successes and challenges in implementing, measuring, and evaluating programs focused on growing the social and emotional skills or soft skills of children and youth through this submission form on EducationLinks. The SEL Working Group will use these resources to:
- Invite missions or partners to share their experiences via presentations to USAID (virtual or in-person) or blog posts on EducationLinks.
- Connect with missions, partners, or other actors who have the expertise to inform implementation guidance or other technical resources for USAID staff and partners.
- Grow our resource library on EducationLinks. Many recommended resources currently come from high-income countries. We’d like our resources to reflect the contexts in which we work.
The SEL Working Group looks forward to your EducationLinks Submissions!