Building Social and Emotional Skills in Afterschool Programs: A Literature Review



This literature review summarizes findings and analyzes themes in the research around social and emotional learning (SEL) in afterschool programs.

Report coverSEL has captured the attention of educators and policymakers since its inclusion as an allowable indicator of accountability in states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. Social and emotional skills include critical thinking, managing emotions, working through conflicts, decision making and teamwork.

While proponents argue these skills are essential to students’ success later in life, others point out the difficulty in measuring outcomes connected to SEL skills.

The flexible environments of afterschool programs are uniquely structured to offer opportunities for SEL-focused curricula. Although it remains a challenge to measure the full impact of programs on students’ SEL outcomes, a growing research base has developed in recent years.

Research findings show that participants in high-quality, SEL-focused afterschool programs can benefit from improved social behavior, increased community engagement and service, and fewer negative behavior problems.