This resource contains many affordable, targeted interventions for both students and school staff. However, you may find that it is best for your school to purchase or subscribe to an existing whole school wellbeing or social emotional learning (SEL) program. Though there are many positive education programs available, it is important that the program you choose has been thoroughly researched and shown to improve school wellbeing. There are so many existing programs that it can be difficult to sort through them all and find the right fit for your school or classroom. Here are a few steps that can guide you in choosing the best program to meet your school or classroom’s unique needs:
Complete an assessment to determine your student and staff needs. Our companion resource Assessing Wellbeing in Schools provides multiple measures to assist you in this process.
2. Determine Focus
After completing your assessment, determine which aspects of wellbeing you will focus on. For example, Does your classroom need additional support in social connection and belonging? What about emotional regulation? Or, is increasing positive emotion your first priority? Identifying your wellbeing priorities will help you narrow down available wellbeing and SEL programs.
3. Desired Resources
Decide what resources you would like this program to include, such as lesson plans, media resources, teacher trainings, activities, etc.
4. Determine Budget
Decide on your budget for the program. Some wellbeing programs can be more costly or more affordable than others.
5. Begin Research
Begin your research into different programs. This can be done through a simple internet search or by visiting program guides and evaluations. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has developed a resource that allows you to compare 86 different SEL and wellbeing programs based on your school’s needs. These programs are rated on different levels based on how well they have been evaluated for effectiveness. The CASEL program guide can be found here. Additional program guides can be found in the resource list below. We also recommend consulting with other district and state educators and leaders about the programs they have found most useful and effective.
6. Evaluate Programs
Look for programs that are well-designed and have gone through program evaluations that demonstrate the program’s effectiveness at improving wellbeing outcomes(Schwartz & Skoog-Hoffman, 2021). Well-designed wellbeing programs have the following characteristics, identified by the New South Wales Department of Education:
- “Clearly identified aims and objectives.”
- “Clear links between the program and the needs of the students and school community.”
- “Universal program delivery which includes teacher training, support for parents, student intervention and resources.”
- “Clearly defined implementation procedures, including roles and responsibilities of staff, details about appropriate monitoring of student outcomes, and ongoing staff consultation following program implementation.”
The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education in Australia has developed a mental health and wellbeing program template, found here, that assists school teams in evaluating and choosing wellbeing and SEL programs. Jones and colleagues(2021) have also provided a series of worksheets that can help guide you in choosing and implementing a wellbeing program, which can be found here.
Wellbeing and SEL Program Guides
CASEL Program Guide: The CASEL program guide contains 86 SEL programs, rated for their evidence-based outcomes and program design. The program list can be filtered according to grade level, implementation supports, program characteristics, and school demographics.
NSW Department of Education Program List (List found at bottom of webpage): The Department of Education in New South Wales, Australia has developed a list of 26 evidence-based wellbeing programs, taken from a report by Monash University(Berger et al., 2020). Some of these programs are primarily offered in Australia, but many international programs are included on the list as well. This list includes program cost, duration, grade level, delivery mode and a research summary.
Harvard Graduate School of Education SEL Report: This list, developed by Jones and colleagues (2021), reviews 33 SEL programs with an early childhood and elementary level focus. This detailed report contains summaries of the program evaluations and compares each program by program outcomes, targeted skills, delivery method and various other program characteristics.
These program lists do not contain all available SEL, wellbeing and positive education programs, but they can be a great place to start! We recommend using the steps above in choosing and evaluating any other wellbeing programs you may wish to implement.
Berger, E., Reupert, A.E. & Allen, K. (2020). School-based prevention and early intervention for student mental health and wellbeing. Monash University. https://research.monash.edu/en/publications/school-based-prevention-and-early-intervention-for-student-mental
Collaborative for Social, Emotional and Academic Learning (CASEL). (n.d.). Program guide. https://pg.casel.org/
Jones, S.M., Brush, K.E., Ramirez, T., Mao, Z.X., Marenus, M., Wettje, S., Finney, K., Raisch, N., Podoloff, N., Kahn, J., Barnes, S., Stickle, L., Brion-Meisels, G., McIntyre, J., Cuartas, J. & Bailey, R. (2021). Navigating SEL from the inside out. Looking inside & across 33 leading SEL programs: A practical resource for schools and providers, expanded and revised second edition. Harvard Graduate School of Education. https://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/pages/navigating-social-and-emotional-learning-from-the-inside-out.aspx
New South Wales Department of Education. (n.d.). Evidence-based mental health and wellbeing programs for schools. https://education.nsw.gov.au/student-wellbeing/counselling-and-psychology-services/mental-health-programs-and-partnerships/evidence-based-mental-health-wellbeing-programs-for-schools
Schwartz, H. & Skoog-Hoffman, A. (2021, October 5). How to choose an SEL program for your school. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-choose-sel-program-your-school