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Cohen, J. (2006). Social, emotional, ethical and academic education: Creating a climate for learning, participation in democracy and well-being. Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 76, No. 2, Summer, pg 201-237. (


Abstract and Figures

In this article, Jonathan Cohen argues that the goals of education need to be re- framed to prioritize not only academic learning, but also social, emotional, and ethical competencies. Surveying the current state of research in the fields of social- emotional education, character education, and school-based mental health in the United States, Cohen suggests that social-emotional skills, knowledge, and disposi- tions provide the foundation for participation in a democracy and improved quality of life. Cohen discusses contemporary best practices and policy in relation to creat- ing safe and caring school climates, home-school partnerships, and a pedagogy in- formed by social-emotional and ethical concerns. He also emphasizes the importance of scientifically sound measures of social-emotional and ethical learning, and advo- cates for action research partnerships between researchers and practioners to develop authentic methods of evaluation. Cohen notes the gulf that exists between the evi- dence-based guidelines for social-emotional learning, which are being increasingly adopted at the state level, and what is taught in schools of education and practiced in preK–12 schools. Finally, he asserts that social, emotional, ethical, and academic education is a human right that all students are entitled to, and argues that ignor- ing this amounts to a social injustice.
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Social, Emotional, Ethical, and
Academic Education: Creating a
Climate for Learning, Participation
in Democracy, and Well-Being
Center for Social and Emotional Education
In this article, Jonathan Cohen argues that the goals of education need to be re-
framed to prioritize not only academic learning, but also social, emotional, and
ethical competencies. Surveying the current state of research in the fields of social-
emotional education, character education, and school-based mental health in the
United States, Cohen suggests that social-emotional skills, knowledge, and disposi-
tions provide the foundation for participation in a democracy and improved quality
of life. Cohen discusses contemporary best practices and policy in relation to creat-
ing safe and caring school climates, home-school partnerships, and a pedagogy in-
formed by social-emotional and ethical concerns. He also emphasizes the importance
of scientifically sound measures of social-emotional and ethical learning, and advo-
cates for action research partnerships between researchers and practioners to develop
authentic methods of evaluation. Cohen notes the gulf that exists between the evi-
dence-based guidelines for social-emotional learning, which are being increasingly
adopted at the state level, and what is taught in schools of education and practiced
in preK–12 schools. Finally, he asserts that social, emotional, ethical, and academic
education is a human right that all students are entitled to, and argues that ignor-
ing this amounts to a social injustice.
There is a paradox in our preK–12 schools, and within teacher education.
Parents and teachers want schooling to support children’s ability to become
lifelong learners who are able to love, work, and act as responsible members
of the community. Yet, we have not substantively integrated these values into
our schools or into the training we give teachers. In fact, driven by federal
mandates, the primary focus of teacher education and preK–12 schools is
Harvard Educational Review Vol. 76 No. 2 Summer 2006
Copyright © by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
Harvard Educational Review
increasingly on linguistic and mathematical literacy. This paradox is all the
more striking because recent studies have shown that research-based social,
emotional, ethical, and academic educational guidelines can predictably pro-
mote the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that provide the foundation for
the capacity to love, work, and be an active community member. Social, emo-
tional, academic, and ethical education can help children reach the goals
their parents and teachers have for them: learning to “read” themselves and
others, and learning to solve social, emotional, and ethical problems.
Social-emotional competencies and ethical dispositions provide an essen-
tial foundation for life-long learners who are able to love and work (Beland,
2003; Cohen, 2001; Elias et al., 1997; Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg,
2004).1 Consequently, when evidence-based social, emotional, and ethical ed-
ucation is integrated into traditional teaching and learning, educators can
hone the essential academic and social skills, understanding, and dispositions
that support effective participation in a democracy. In doing so they are also
laying the foundation for well-being and the pursuit of happiness. As I detail
below, these findings emerge from a series of research studies in overlapping
fields of preK–12 education: risk prevention, health promotion, civic educa-
tion, child mental health, character education, and social-emotional learn-
ing. While there are certainly important distinctions among these fields, they
all suggest that there are two core processes that promote children’s school
success and healthy development: (a) promoting children’s social-emotional
competencies and ethical dispositions throughout their preK–12 school expe-
rience, and (b) creating safe, caring, participatory, and responsive school sys-
tems and homes. I use the term “social, emotional, ethical, and academic ed-
ucation” (SEEAE) as shorthand for sustained preK–12 programmatic efforts
that integrate and coordinate these pedagogic and systemic dimensions.
In this article, I summarize what is old and new about social, emotional,
and ethical education. I describe how SEEAE efforts grow out of many tradi-
tions, particularly character education, social-emotional learning, and school-
based mental health. I demonstrate that SEEAE practices are supported by a
large body of preK–12 research, and I describe how evidence-based SEEAE
efforts promote the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that provide the foun-
dation for learning, well-being, and effective participation in a democracy.
Finally, I detail how developments in research, policy, and teacher education
in SEEAE present both barriers and opportunities to support America’s chil-
dren and our future as a nation. But to set the stage, I begin by offering a
perspective on the aims of education.
Exploring the Aims of Education
What do we really want our children to have accomplished when they gradu-
ate from high school? Educational philosophers have answered these ques-
tions in a variety of ways, ranging from national prosperity, to managerial
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
efficiency, to individual happiness (Dunne & Hogan, 2004; Marples, 1999;
Noddings, 2003). Parents tend to answer this question in a more consistent
manner. For example, the 2000 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll found that over
the past thirty-two years, Americans have said the single most important pur-
pose of public schooling was to prepare people to become responsible citi-
zens (Rose & Gallup, 2000). When I talk with the parents I work with through
the Center for Social and Emotional Education, I often ask them what they
want their children “to know” and “to be” when they graduate from high
school. Parents across America have consistently responded by saying, “I want
my child to be responsible,” “to be a lifelong learner,” “to get a good job,”
and “to have good friends and a good marriage.” Educators have also long
agreed that schools should produce socially responsible, healthy, happy citi-
zens. However, until quite recently there have been few discussions about
what skills, knowledge, and dispositions are needed for children to become
engaged, responsible participants in a democracy.
These discussions almost exclusively emphasize civics-related knowledge.
For instance, middle school civics courses tend to focus on the electoral col-
lege, the history of political parties, or changes in voting patterns. However,
I would argue that this knowledge does not promote the skills and disposi-
tions that individuals need to be engaged members of the community, the na-
tion, and the world. Along with an informed citizenry, a democratic society
must reflect a respect for others, an ability to collaborate, regard for fairness
and justice, concern for the commonwealth, as well as voluntary, active par-
ticipation in society (Michelli & Keiser, 2005). Building on past work (Tor-
ney-Purta & Vermeer, 2004), I would suggest that the skills and dispositions
listed in table 1 provide the foundation for people’s capacity to participate in
a democracy. SEEAE efforts promote these skills and dispositions and point
the way toward achieving a sense of personal and national well-being and
Happiness is a foundational American value, but it is also a complicated
notion. It can refer to both positive feelings and positive activities.2 Research-
ers have begun to compile evidence-based findings about how to promote
happiness. As Noddings (2003) recently underscored, we rarely talk about
happiness in educational circles, yet happiness can be understood as an or-
ganizational goal of human life. Happy people are healthier, more success-
ful, and more socially engaged (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). In
the last decade there has been an explosion of interest in positive psychology
or the scientific study of positive emotions, traits, and institutions. Research
has shown that although we cannot teach children to be happy, there are
three routes to happiness: positive emotion and pleasure, engagement, and
meaning (Seligman, 2002). Recent research indicates that the most satisfied
people are those who orient their goals toward all three (Peterson, Park, &
Seligman, 2005). I suggest that social-emotional competencies provide an es-
sential foundation for many, if not all, aspects of pleasure, engagement, and
Harvard Educational Review
meaning. In fact, preliminary findings support the notion that social-emo-
tional competencies and well-being are significantly related (Bar-On, 2005;
Brackett & Mayer, 2003).
Interestingly, pleasure seems to be the least consequential pathway to a
happy, satisfied life (Peterson et al., 2005). Research has demonstrated that
engagement and meaning are the most important and lasting forms of well-
being. Gratification stems from doing activities we like, that engage us fully
without self-consciousness, and create what Csikszentmihalyi (1990) calls a
“flow” experience. This kind of deeply involving and gratifying experience
rests on our ability to develop authentic interests, strengths, and virtues. To
do so, we must develop our capacity to listen, to be reflective, and to be life-
long social and emotional learners. Research in positive psychology reveals
that recognizing, honoring, and developing our strengths is the most impor-
tant way to instill a true sense of engagement (Lopez & Snyder, 2003; Peter-
son & Seligman, 2004).
Finding a sense of meaning or purpose in life is another essential element
that contributes to our feelings of well-being and happiness. Positive psy-
chology suggests that developing such a sense rests on our ability to use our
strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than ourselves
(Seligman et al., 2005). Whether our focus is on children, family, disease,
spirituality, social justice, or the environment, these larger domains are all so-
cially and emotionally grounded. We care about them because we care about
people. Altruistic actions are necessarily social, emotional, and ethical, as well
as cognitive endeavors. They are also deeply tied to our long-term success as
happy, satisfied citizens.
TABLE 1  Skills and Dispositions Required for Participation in a Democracy
Essential Skills  Essential Dispositions
Ability to listen to ourselves and others. Responsibility or the inclination to respond
to others in appropriate ways.
Ability to be critical and reflective. Appreciation of our existence as social
creatures that need others to survive and
Ability to be flexible problem-solvers and
decisionmakers, including the ability to
resolve conflict in creative, nonviolent ways.
Appreciation of and inclination toward
involvement with social justice.
Communicative abilities, e.g., being able
to participate in discussions and argue
Inclination to serve others and participate in
acts of good will.
Collaborative capacities, e.g., learning to
compromise and work together toward a
common goal.
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
Social, emotional, ethical, and academic education grows out of research,
theory, and practice on a range of endeavors related to education and mental
health. The two major educational traditions that provide the foundation for
recent SEEAE work are character education (CE) and social-emotional learn-
ing (SEL). Theory always shapes goals, which in turn suggest methods or
strategies designed to actualize the goals. As I have discussed elsewhere (Co-
hen & Sandy, 2003, in press), a range of theories has recently shaped goals
and practices in CE and SEL: cognitive behavioral theory, brain research,
systems theory, the emerging psychobiological science of emotions, develop-
mental psychology, and facets of psychoanalytic thinking. Cognitive behavior-
al theory has also informed some of the most important empirical findings
Regardless of the roots of specific theories, SEEAE’s goals in working with
preK–12 students have always focused on the promotion of social-emotional
competencies and ethical dispositions on the one hand, and the creation of a
safe climate for learning on the other. Character education practitioners tend
to highlight the importance of ethical or moral development in ways that
many social-emotional learning practitioners do not (Cohen & Sandy, 2003).
Character education is an umbrella term that has historically included a
wide range of positions, such as traditional character education, the caring
approach, and the developmental approach. The goal of educating children
to think and act in ethically “correct” ways is an anchor for all efforts that
fall under this rubric. Traditional character education has highlighted the
transmission of virtues or the importance of “doing good.” The caring ap-
proach stresses the importance of recognizing and developing caring rela-
tionships and infusing caring, relational, and social-emotional themes into
school curricula (Howard, Berkowitz, & Schaeffer, 2004). Developmentalists
emphasize decisionmaking and social action and are most focused on the
power of student participation (e.g., in creating a moral classroom or larger
For many decades, character education tended to focus on the importance
of good character and values (e.g., honesty, respect, friendship, caring). I
have been in many schools, for example, where teachers put up motivational
posters each week and talked about the rewards of a given virtue or capac-
ity. These well-intentioned efforts tended to have no impact whatsoever on
student behavior (Cohen & Sandy, 2003). An example of this is an incident
that occurred on a visit I made to a suburban elementary school. Over the
PA system, the principal announced to the students that this week “we will be
thinking about respect.” She then briefly talked about the importance of this
virtue. She told me later that the school was going to put up posters about
respect. Reflecting on this effort, I noted a lack of focus on the underlying
skills that are needed to support the teaching and learning of respect and
that there was little thought given to systemic issues that shape respectful
Harvard Educational Review
school climate. In contrast, however, some character education in schools has
become more comprehensive over the last decade. It focuses on coordinating
the systemic with the pedagogic dimensions of social, emotional, ethical, and
cognitive learning (e.g., Beland, 2003; Berkowitz & Bier, 2005a).
Like character education, social-emotional learning is an umbrella term
that includes a number of positions. All SEL programmatic efforts focus on
promoting students’ social and emotional competencies. And, because of the
significant impact of risk-prevention and health-promotion research, they all
have tended to deal with behavior and skills that can be operationally de-
fined. Many leaders in the field underscore the importance of skills-based
teaching and learning, along with the value of ongoing and systematic evalu-
ation. SEL is often associated with social-skills training programs. Many of its
practitioners also ground their work in a specific curriculum. However, SEL
has become increasingly associated with comprehensive, multiyear school re-
form efforts. These include coordinating pedagogic efforts to promote stu-
dents’ social-emotional competencies and systemic efforts designed to create
a climate for learning. Research-based work in SEL has been led by the Col-
laborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). CASEL’s
primary focus has been to synthesize empirical findings and theoretical de-
velopments to foster progress in SEL. Although their initial focus was primar-
ily conducting and disseminating research, they have moved into practice-
related initiatives designed to increase the number of schools, districts, and
states that implement coordinated SEL programming. Although character
educators still talk more explicitly and consistently than SEL advocates about
promoting moral character, the two, in my opinion, are similar.
SEEAE: An Ancient Tradition
From the beginning of formal education three thousand years ago in Greece,
Egypt, and India, the teaching of children has been first and foremost a so-
cialization process (Nash, 1968; Padel, 1992). Interestingly, the notion that
emotional learning matters is also ancient. The words “know thyself” were
carved on the wall of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi 2,500 years ago and
served as an organizing idea for Greek society (Snell, 1982). Belief in the im-
portance of environment and its power to shape human behavior — both es-
sential dimensions of SEEAE efforts are also ancient tenets. For instance,
in the last half of the fifth century BC, Hippocrates reportedly discussed how
climate and geography form human character (Jones, 1923).
More recently, America’s Founding Fathers believed that democracy has
a special need for character education. Democracy is a government of the
people, by the people, for the people; its citizens must therefore develop
the democratic virtues of respect for the rights of individuals, regard for the
law, voluntary participation in public life, and concern for the common good
(McClellan, 1999). In the late 1800s, these ideas began to gain attention in
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
the area of education, overlapping with the developing progressive educa-
tional movement. And as I describe in more detail below, Dewey and ensuing
generations of progressive educators developed theories and practices that
continue to shape current SEEAE.
Current theory and practice in social, emotional, ethical, and academic
education have been shaped by two major forces: education (assessment and
pedagogy) and the impact of mental-health/school partnerships (see Cohen,
2002, for a more detailed account of the roots of SEEAE). A number of peda-
gogic and assessment-related developments have influenced current SEEAE
research and practice. The assessment of intelligence or student achievement,
for example, has determined classroom goals and practice. It is well known
that current intelligence tests tend to emphasize linguistic and mathematical
abilities, a single-minded focus that continues to drive federal education poli-
cy such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But the notion that there are other
kinds of intelligence and the idea that social intelligence exists are certainly
not new (Thorndike, 1920). Research in intelligence has shown that we learn
and organize information in multiple ways, for example, Gardner’s (1983)
recognition of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence and Sternberg’s
(1985) exploration of practical intelligence have helped legitimatize educa-
tional interest in SEEAE.
With respect to pedagogy, Dewey (1916/2004) is the grandfather of cur-
rent work in SEEAE. He reaffirmed the aim of education as supporting the
development of the skills and knowledge needed for responsible and caring
participation in a democracy. He emphasized the importance of teaching stu-
dents to recognize and value human differences and to learn to solve prob-
lems in nonviolent ways. Dewey’s work, and that of ensuing generations of
progressive educators (e.g., from Felix Adler to Deborah Meier), focused on
a series of pedagogic strategies that recognize not only academics, but also
the social, emotional, and ethical domains of learning.
Mental health/school partnerships represent a second tradition that has
shaped current SEEAE practice. In 1896, experimental psychologist Lightner
Witmer opened the first psychological clinic in the United States. It focused
on educational issues, in large part because a teacher in an experimental
psychology class challenged Witmer to explain how experimental psychologi-
cal findings would help children (McReynolds, 1997). Also in the late nine-
teenth century, Sigmund Freud initiated a similar tradition in Europe. Freud
and his colleagues wondered how they could apply psychoanalytic ideas to
the education of children, including their own. One of Freud’s primary goals
was to use the discoveries of psychoanalysis to help parents and teachers pro-
mote children’s healthy development and their ability to learn. However, it
was his daughter Anna Freud who put this idea into practice. A teacher and
later a clinician, Anna Freud created forums where educators, parents, and
mental health professionals could learn together about how social-emotional
life interacts with and shapes cognitive development and learning in chil-
Harvard Educational Review
dren. She was one of the first to appreciate the organizing role of both con-
scious and unrecognized emotion in children’s behavior and the implications
this should have for the thinking and practice of teachers (Cohen & Cohler,
2000). There has been a series of subsequent educational–mental health part-
nerships and trends that underscore the importance of purposively fostering
students’ healthy development; among them are sex education, drug educa-
tion, primary prevention research, health promotion, and the development
of school-based health centers.
Mental health and physical health are fundamental cornerstones of any
effort to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed in
school (Hunter et al., 2005). Over the last several decades, there has been
a growing awareness that students with significant social, emotional, and/or
behavioral needs pose a great challenge for preK–12 educators. Without ef-
fective inter ventions, these two million students struggle with problems that
predispose them to long-term negative outcomes (Office of the Surgeon Gen-
eral, 1999). In 2003, a Centers for Disease Control study entitled “Youth Risk
Behavior Surveillance System” found that 28 percent of youth reported feel-
ing so sad or hopeless that they stopped their normal activities. Most disturb-
ingly, 16 percent had made a plan to commit suicide at some time during the
previous year. A major national epidemiological study recently reported that
about half of Americans will experience a psychiatric disorder some time in
their life, and that half of these instances will begin in childhood or adoles-
cence (Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, & Walters, 2005). Another recent study
confirms that many lifetime psychiatric disorders first appear in childhood
(Costello, Eggers, & Angold, 2005).
Teachers and mental health professionals need to be partners to recognize
and address the physical and mental health–related barriers to learning that
so often derail children’s development. As I will detail below, despite the im-
portance of these findings, teacher-education programs do not train educa-
tors to recognize signs of possible mental health problems. These problems
can have very real, even fatal outcomes. For example, suicide (typically associ-
ated with depression) is the third leading cause of death among adolescents
and is responsible for more deaths in this age group than all other illnesses
combined (Office of the Surgeon General, 1999).
Contemporary Best Practices in SEEAE
In order to protect and support children and to increase clinical and political
efficacy, advocates of SEEAE must marshal the results of four new research-
related developments. First, longitudinal research has revealed that social and
emotional competencies are predictive of children’s ability to learn and solve
problems nonviolently (Elias et al., 1997; Zins et al., 2004). These same com-
petencies are predictive of healthy marriages and the ability to work in adult-
hood (Bar-On, 2003, 2005; Goleman, 1998; Gottman, 1994; Heath, 1991; Val-
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
liant, 1977, 1993). We now have a clear sense of which of these competencies
are most important to focus on.3
Second, research has recently shown that social and emotional capacities
are just as brain-based as linguistic and mathematical competencies (Bar-On,
Tranel, Denburg, & Bechara, 2003; Bar-On & Cohen, 1995; LeDoux, 1998).
Third, research has underscored the fact that the vast majority of children can
learn to become more socially and emotionally competent (Cohen, 1999a;
Elias et al., 1997). Sadly, children with severe autistic disorders do not seem
able to learn socially and emotionally, nor do children or adults who suffer
injury to the neural circuitry thought to govern social-emotional competence
(Bechara, Damasio, & Bar-On, in press). However, even those with high-func-
tioning autism and Aspergers disorders are able gain competence with sus-
tained teaching and opportunities to practice (Sicile-Kira & Grandin, 2004).
Finally, a series of studies in various fields (e.g., risk prevention, health pro-
motion, character education, mental health, and social-emotional learning)
have identified two core processes that characterize effective social-emotional
and academic educational efforts (Cohen, 2001; Zins et al., 2004): (1) creat-
ing long-term educator-parent partnerships to create safe, caring, participato-
ry, and responsive schools and homes; and (2) purposively teaching children
to be more socially, emotionally, ethically, and cognitively competent. When
we integrate these two overlapping processes into school life, we give students
the wherewithal to become real learners, to be related members of the com-
munity, and to participate in a democratic society (Cohen, 1999a; Collabora-
tive for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2003; Zins et al., 2004).
Underlying this assertion are the findings of a number of recent research
reports, including the American Psychological Association’s 2003 Presiden-
tial Task Force on Prevention: Promoting Strength, Resilience, and Health in
Young People, which concluded that we now have the knowledge and guide-
lines needed to implement effective educational and health/mental health
practice and policy (American Psychological Association, 2003; Benninga,
Berkowitz, Kuehn, & Smith, 2003; Berkowitz & Bier, 2005a; Durlak & Weiss-
berg, 2005; Greenberg et al., 2003).
These two dimensions pedagogic and systemic are overlapping but
also quite distinct. Promoting social-emotional competencies and ethical dis-
positions represents an individual developmental process. Interventions de-
signed to create a safe, caring, participatory, and responsive school repre-
sent a systemic process that creates the optimal foundation for learning and
School-based mental health work provides a number of additional guide-
lines for creating safe, caring, participatory, and responsive environments
(Hunter et al., 2005; Robinson, 2004; Weist, Evans, & Lever, 2003; Weisz,
Sandler, Durlak, & Anton, 2005). Recent national studies have underscored
the importance of our schools of education and our preK–12 schools ad-
dressing the educational needs of at-risk youth, for example, as a way of ben-
Harvard Educational Review
efiting all students in the classroom (Chesapeake Institute, 1994; Office of
the Surgeon General, 1999, Osher, 1994). The six principles listed in table 2
characterize evidence-based psychoeducational approaches to effective col-
laboration between educators and mental health professionals (Hunter et al.,
Current SEEAE efforts and child mental health work overlap. Certainly,
SEEAE systemic and pedagogical primary prevention efforts are aligned with
guidelines number 3 and 6 in table 2. Similarly, the periodic need to evaluate
authentic learning (and to create baseline measurements), which is charac-
teristic of all evidenced-based SEEAE and school-based mental health work,
mirrors guideline 5 in table 2. In theory, SEEAE efforts provide an organizing
and comprehensive framework within which students’ educational and men-
tal health needs are met. In practice, they vary widely when it comes to rec-
ognizing individual student difficulties (guidelines 1 and 2) and addressing
those problems as soon as possible (guideline 4). There is still much work to
be done. However, a major thrust of SEEAE’s current research is to find ways
to integrate school-based mental health findings into its practice and theory.
There have been a number of attempts to define the core principles and
practices characteristic of effective social-emotional learning and character
education.4 With more or less detail, all of these models and linked sets of
goals are grounded in the long-term coordination of the two core process-
es described above: systemically working to foster safe, caring, participatory,
and responsive schools, homes, and communities; and promoting core social,
emotional, ethical, and cognitive competencies for children and adults.
Putting SEEAE into Practice
There are a number of ways that educators and school-based mental health
professionals translate these systemic and pedagogical goals into school prac-
tice. No curriculum or “best package” can adequately address the complex
issues involved in these interventions. Few of even the best evidence-based
SEEAE curricula, for example, incorporate important mental health guide-
lines and/or the systemic dimensions noted above that directly affect how
safe people feel in school.
Virtually all researchers and evidence-based practitioners support the no-
tion that social, emotional, and academic educational efforts involve five ma-
jor steps, as presented in table 3 and described below (e.g., Beland, 2003; Co-
hen, 2001; Elias et al., 1997).
Step 1: Planning, Discovery, and Community-Building
SEEAE efforts are designed to color and shape all aspects of school practice
and should involve all members of the child’s world to ensure that he or she
hears the same message, with a common vocabulary and related learning
goals. The initial consensus-building process is critical to any program’s suc-
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
cess. What do school staff, parents, and students believe school should be?
What skills, knowledge, and dispositions should all students and adults learn?
What is our vision for school?
One useful method of fostering a collaborative plan is to formally or in-
formally evaluate what is and is not working. School personnel, parents, and
students can jointly reflect on current practices and then use this information
to prioritize goals and develop an action plan. This allows all members of the
community to recognize people’s needs and define goals.
The following is an example of the kind of joint reflection that schools
need to engage in, taken from a recent twelve-school study using the Center
for Social and Emotional Education’s Comprehensive School Climate Inven-
tory.5 In most of these schools, staff members and parents reported that bul-
lying was a minor problem, sometimes stemming from differences like race
or sexual orientation. However, virtually all students reported that bullying
was a major issue. These findings set in motion a process that represented
TABLE 2   Six Principles for Effective Collaboration between Educators and  
Mental Health Professionals
1. Comprehensive student screening for emotional, behavioral, and learning difficulties.
2. Full assessment of at-risk individuals and their environments.
3. Schoolwide early intervention efforts that focus on prevention of more serious behavioral
4. Comprehensive intervention carefully matched to the needs of the individual student.
5. Evidence-based intervention strategies that are continually monitored for effectiveness.
6. Educational programs in which parents play an active and ongoing role.
Source: Hunter et al. (2005)
TABLE 3 The Five-Step Process of Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic 
1. Initial planning, discovery, and community-building.
2. Creating a climate for learning or systemic interventions designed to foster safe, caring,
participatory, and responsive schools, homes, and communities.
3. Creating long-term school-home partnerships
4. Pedagogy, or the process of teaching students to become more socially and emotionally
competent and ethically inclined.
5. Evaluation.
Harvard Educational Review
potentially important systemic interventions, providing an opportunity for
educators and parents to reflect collaboratively on what contributed to their
misperception. It also provided an opportunity to position students as teach-
ers to the adults. A growing body of research about bully-victim behavior sug-
gests that it is not enough to focus on the bully and/or the victim (Devine
& Cohen, in press), but that everyone in the school community must un-
derstand that there is always a “witness” a passive bystander who colludes
with the bully-victim behavior, or an “up stander” who directly or indirectly
confronts the bully-victim behavior. A coordinated and evidence-based action
plan to address bully-victim-bystander behavior includes multidimensional in-
terventions: a data-driven educational–mental health partnership that helps
the school identify students who act as chronic bullies or victims and provides
interventions; a schoolwide effort that that allows all members of the commu-
nity to articulate a shared vision about what kind of school people want; on-
going opportunities for students to talk about bully-victim-bystander behavior
and, importantly, to practice the skills needed to directly or indirectly be an
“up stander”; ongoing recognition of and reinforcement for students who are
up standers; and ongoing evaluation to ensure that the school is acting to re-
duce bullying and to create a caring, safe, responsible school environment.
Growing out of this initial evaluation is the collaborative development of
an action plan. Research and practice have shown that it is extremely impor-
tant to have an SEEAE coordinator designated to shepherd the multiyear
process. Action plans need to specify short- and long-term timelines, as well
as the resources needed to support the plans. Schools also need to develop a
sustained professional development and supervisory process that take into ac-
count teacher turnover and the particular program. Plans for periodic evalu-
ations and revision need to be explicitly detailed. Action plans must include a
sustained awareness of programmatic efforts and the curriculum available to
support SEEAE-informed systemic and pedagogic practice.6
Step 2: Creating a Climate for Learning and Safety
Systemic inter vention to create a safe, caring, and responsive school climate
is the unifying goal for evidenced-based work in this area, as it provides the
platform upon which we teach and learn. Research reveals that eleven factors
define the climate of a school: structural issues (e.g., size of the school); envi-
ronmental (e.g., cleanliness); social-emotional and physical order and safety;
expectations for student achievement; quality of instruction; collaboration
and communication; sense of school community; peer norms; school-home-
community partnerships; student morale; and the extent to which the school
is a vital learning community.
There is also powerful evidence that school climate affects students’ self-
esteem (Hoge, Smit, & Hanson, 1990) and self-concept (Cairns, 1987; Heal,
1978; Hoge, Smit, & Hanson, 1990; Kuperminc, Leadbeater, Emmons, &
Blatt, 1997; Reynolds, Jones, St. Leger, & Murgatroyd, 1980; Rutter, Maughan,
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
Mortimore, & Ouston, 1979). School climate also colors school-based risk-
prevention efforts. Effective risk-prevention and health-promotion efforts are
correlated with a nurturing school climate (Berkowitz & Bier, 2005; Catalano,
Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 2002; Greenberg et al., 2003; Najaka,
Gottfredson, & Wilson, 2002; Rand, 2004; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1993).
It also promotes academic achievement (Freiberg, 1999; Good & Weinstein,
1986; Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1989; Madaus, Airasian, & Kellaghan, 1980;
Rutter, 1983; Shipman, 1981). As a result of these findings, fostering social-
ly, emotionally, and physically safer schools has become a primary focus of
the U.S. Department of Justice and virtually all state education departments.
This is exemplified by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and
Drug-Free Schools (2004).
There is a variety of ways schools can intervene systemically — in the class-
room and/or on a schoolwide basis to foster the desired environment.
Evaluating school climate can be a powerful first step that forces us to ques-
tion the very basis of what we are doing. This kind of comprehensive evalua-
tion can become a springboard for community discovery, reflection, analysis,
and planning. Discovering problems like bullying, as described above, creates
an opportunity for schools to address the issues that can undermine learn-
ing and healthy development (Slaby, Wilson-Brewer, & Dash, 1994; Twemlow,
Fonagy, Sacco, Gies, & Hess, 2001).
Coordinating risk-prevention and health-promotion efforts is another sub-
stantive systemic intervention. Many schools have programs designed to mini-
mize risk from substance abuse, AIDS, or unresolved conflict, and to promote
good health. But these efforts are typically fragmented and short term. Given
the opportunity to meet periodically to discuss goals and methods, program
coordinators can develop a shared vocabulary and thus help all involved work
to recognize and reinforce each other’s efforts while developing data-driven
methods that support learning and teaching.
When the school values community ser vice and ser vice learning, it broad-
casts the fact that the staff members care about helping the community and/
or the environment. Vital community service and service-learning programs
are one of the most important predictors of successful SEEAE efforts (Elias
et al., 1997). Service learning is a pedagogic method that seeks to engage stu-
dents in active civic participation through organized service experiences. Ef-
fective service-learning work meets real community needs and can strengthen
the course curricula. It should be varied and should provide rich and ongo-
ing opportunities for students to reflect on the significance of their service
(Berman, 2005).
Service learning also supports the ethical goals of character education by
developing sensitivity to culture and social justice issues, as well as awareness
of the value of collaboration. We can ask students in social studies or biology
classes to investigate why so many people have to come to soup kitchens, for ex-
ample, or why the town’s pond is polluted. Integrating social, emotional, ethi-
Harvard Educational Review
cal, and cognitive learning tends to dramatically enhance student engagement
and civic participation (Billig, Root, & Jesse, 2005). Service learning compels
students to think about the skills and knowledge needed to actually improve
life in their neighborhood and about the opportunities to do so. In Hudson,
Massachusetts, for example, students have been studying and working to clean
up a local river. This multiyear effort has actually significantly improved the
ecological conditions of the river and garnered state attention. Whatever its
focus, effective service learning must meet real community needs, be integrat-
ed with academic instruction, and include time for student reflection. Essen-
tially, it is a powerful form of social-emotional education in action.
Step 3: Creating Long-Term Home-School Partnerships
Compelling research shows that parent involvement is a vital contributor to
children’s school success (Berkowitz & Bier, 2005b; Henderson & Berea, 1994;
Henderson & Mapp, 2002). The student’s family is his home base, where he
learns about self and others, about relationships, needs, values, methods of
solving problems, and much more. SEEAE efforts are undermined if a child
learns about nonviolent problem-solving and conflict resolution at school,
but sees something different at home. Therefore, vital school-home partner-
ships are an essential facet of any effective school reform effort (Melaville,
1999; Patrikakou, Weissberg, Redding, & Walberg, 2005). Supportive home-
school partnerships that promote children’s healthy development (Bron-
fenbrenner, 1979) involve two major elements: parental involvement in the
child’s life at school and shared responsibility for decisionmaking. There are
many ways parents can get involved with their child’s schoolwork (Redding,
2000), and under the leadership of the school principal they can also par-
ticipate in decisionmaking and share responsibility for school-home values,
plans, and practices.
Fostering ongoing authentic partnerships is a complicated and serious
challenge. In general, parents are not involved with educators in planning
and decisionmaking. They also may choose to have little involvement with
their child’s school. Some parents may not even want the school to focus
on the social and emotional lives of their children. Moreover, depending on
their families’ cultural background and the cultural sensitivity of the school
staff, some parents may feel or actually be unwelcome.
For example, we recently began to work with a school district that had a
historically upper-middle-class White population. Roughly ten years ago, a
growing number of relatively poor Central and South American families be-
gan to move into the area, some of them undocumented immigrants. For a
number of years, the superintendent — reflecting the sentiment of the com-
munity acted as if this growing segment of the community did not exist
and made no efforts to recognize the cultural and linguistic diversity that was
transforming school and community life. These immigrant parents virtually
never came to school events. Many of them did not speak English. Bullying
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jonathan cohen
and harassment around these cultural differences became a growing issue in
the middle school. Two years ago, the school board brought in a new superin-
tendent who was invested in recognizing, appreciating, and using diversity to
promote social, emotional, and academic teaching and learning. These dif-
ferences, along with the bully-victim-witness cycle, have now become an orga-
nizing focus for the school. The superintendent has sought to make cultural
diversity an organizing theme for social studies and service learning. Growing
out of the superintendent’s wish to work with this population, the principal is
beginning to work with local ministers who are involved with the expanding
Latin American community. Unfortunately, school leaders do not often work
to create such bridges between the school and the community, and partner-
ships disintegrate. But even when the school staff makes a sustained effort to
welcome parental involvement, these partnerships are difficult.
Step 4: Pedagogic Practice
Pedagogically, SEEAE programmatic efforts range from a detailed, proscrip-
tive curriculum to a point of view about relationships, learning, and teach-
ing. Although there are literally hundreds of SEEAE curricula, a relatively
small number are evidence based. Schools occasionally adopt an SEEAE cur-
riculum that has been designed as a stand-alone course. Just as we teach lan-
guage arts and social science, we can teach students to become more socially
and emotionally competent as a formal course of study. At the Ethical Cul-
ture/Fieldston Schools in New York City, ethics classes are taught in K–12.
In the high school, these classes are integrated into community service and
service-learning efforts. In New Haven, Connecticut, every public school has
social-development classes that include detailed lesson plans for every session
(Shriver, Schwab-Stone, & DeFalco, 1999). From kindergarten to fifth grade,
these lessons are a part of the elementary school classes. Beginning in sixth
grade, students take a class in social development along with traditional aca-
demic courses (Schonfeld, personal communication, 2005). Social- emotional
skills are initially taught in isolation. Just as some children need to learn the
basic building blocks of reading in isolation, some need to learn social and
emotional skills that way; for them it is an essential first step. Listening, for ex-
ample, is something we tend to take for granted. We all can listen. Yet, when
was the last time we felt that someone really listened to us? SEEAE curricula
teach children what it means to be in a listening position: hands in the lap,
both feet on the floor, looking at the person who is speaking, and listening
as closely as we can. When teachers eliminate distracting factors and provide
opportunities for children to practice listening this way, children’s ability to
listen can become more empathic and reflective (Kushe & Greenberg, 2001).
These skills and dispositions provide the foundation for human relationships
and for learning (Cohen, 1999b).
In the ongoing effort to integrate SEEAE into school pedagogy, we refer
to programs that present a detailed perspective on child development and
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on its applicability to whatever is being done in school. For example, the So-
cial Problem Solving/Decisionmaking Program, from University Behavioral
Healthcare, can be used as a stand-alone course or integrated into whatever
the teacher is doing (Elias & Bruene-Butler, 1999). This program uses prob-
lem-solving and decisionmaking as the organizing focus. Children, for exam-
ple, are taught to systematically consider the steps that characterize flexible
problem-solving.7 In so doing, a series of foundational social-emotional skills
are also taught: the ability to be reflective, empathic, and control impulses.
These skills are often initially taught in isolation, and then the problem-solv-
ing framework is applied to a range of academic and nonacademic endeavors.
When students are studying a novel or a given period in history, for example,
this framework becomes an organizing narrative. How did the central charac-
ter understand the problem? What was their conscious and/or unrecognized
goal? What contributed to their picking a given strategy? And so on. The Re-
sponsive Classroom approach (Charney, Crawford, & Wood, 1999) presents
another point of view about learning, development, and discipline one
that can be integrated into all facets of daily school life. There are a growing
number of curricula specifically designed for preschool children aged two to
six (Sandy & Boardman, 2000). These efforts reflect recent research that un-
derscores the fact that promoting young children’s social-emotional compe-
tencies significantly enhances school readiness and success (Denham, 2003;
Denham & Weissberg, 2004; Freedman, 2003). In addition to demonstrat-
ing that social-emotional competence has a significant impact on academic
performance, Bar-On (2003) has also found that children who participate
in SEEAE programs are better able to understand and express themselves,
understand and relate to others, manage their emotions, and solve interper-
sonal problems.
Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 focused attention on the im-
portance of reading and math in our schools, I have found that teachers are
becoming more interested in how they can integrate SEEAE work into exist-
ing curricula. Many teachers are increasingly aware that it is possible to use
existing language arts, social studies, history, or arts courses as a springboard
from which to promote social and emotional literacy. For example, a lan-
guage arts teacher I obser ved uses the analysis of a novel not only to sharpen
critical thinking and linguistic capacities, but also to open the door to an em-
pathic consideration of various points of view, an understanding of how these
characters see a conflict, and the adaptive or maladaptive methods they em-
ploy in dealing with it. We recently worked with a middle school that wanted
to infuse social, emotional, and ethical goals and pedagogic methods into lan-
guage arts. The seventh-grade teachers, for example, planned to assign John
Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men, a tragic and loving story of two lonely,
alienated young men who drift from job to job. Lennie is a gentle giant who
is mentally retarded. George guides and protects Lennie, but also depends
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
on him for companionship. The teachers wanted to use this book to focus on
two core social-emotional competencies: impulse control and friendship-re-
lated abilities. They wanted their students to reflect deeply on how children
and adolescents gradually develop the ability to recognize their impulses in
socially and emotionally appropriate ways, to think about what it really means
to be a friend. They also talked about their linguistic and critical-thinking
goals. They reviewed lesson plans that already had detailed reading, critical
thinking, and writing steps and “mini-goals,” and then added learning activi-
ties designed to promote understanding about the development of impulse
control and friendship-related abilities.
Social, emotional, ethical, and academic education can also be integrated
into the nonacademic aspects of life at school, home, and in the community.
For example, a teacher talking with children about what kind of classroom
they want, or a parent talking with their children about what time dinner
should be can lead to a shared sense of what we, as a group, want. When adults
and children develop a shared vision, the possibility for reflection, discussion,
and learning grows. I have learned that when students are asked what kind
of classroom they wanted, they talk about the importance of feeling safe. And
when this becomes a shared goal of students and teachers, it helps determine
behavior. If one student laughs at another’s mistake, for example, the teacher
has a choice. She can focus on the offending student, or she can call on their
shared vision of what the class should be and use the incident as a teachable
moment. In the middle school mentioned above, a teacher told me the story
of a seventh grader, Jose, who came to school looking very glum. When she
asked him if anything was wrong, tears began to flow. His friend noticed and
started to laugh. The teacher realized that Jose’s friend was laughing because
he was shocked and anxious, but Jose thought he was being laughed at. He
put his head on the desk and his body shook. The teacher apparently called
“Time out! We have a shared agreement that we are all invested in making
this class safe in all ways. Laughing at people is not ok.” Jose’s friend imme-
diately said that he was not laughing at Jose. What emerged was that Jose’s
uncle had been shot the night before. Over the next week the teacher used
this moment to explore the range of experiences that make us laugh at one
another and what it feels like when we are laughed at.
There are other pedagogical perspectives on how best to create a climate
for learning and to expand social and emotional competence. Arts education,
for example, provides powerful clues as to how we can use analysis and imagi-
nation about musical sounds, movement, or a drawing as a way of learning
about ourselves (Burton, Horowitz, & Ables, 1999). By the same token, a psy-
choanalytically informed perspective about child development and learning
suggests that discovering more about our unrecognized needs and motiva-
tion profoundly furthers educators’ and parents’ abilities to make sense of the
world and become more effective problem-solvers (Marans & Cohen, 1999).
Harvard Educational Review
Step 5: Evaluation Methods
Evaluation provides the foundation for learning. In public education it is
commonly suggested that if we do not “measure” it, it does not count. Given
that a positive school climate and social-emotional competencies are associ-
ated with and predictive of success, educators have a responsibility to monitor
them. There are two critical questions about evaluation: How do we use evalu-
ations? What do we evaluate? Too often, evaluations of educators are used to
grade them comparatively and not to spur authentic learning.
There is clearly a need to make judgments about performance. But when
they are only used to rate teachers or schools, they typically become a source
of fear and resentment. Research over the past several decades shows that
when evaluations become springboards for analysis and reflection, they can
powerfully enhance both adult learning and student achievement (Lieber-
man & Miller, 2001). We can and must make explicit connections between
teacher and student performance to support collegial accountability and
to couple teaching with assessment. These practices promote a vital learn-
ing community in which authentic social, emotional, ethical, and academic
teaching and learning take place. This, after all, is the central goal of virtually
all school reform efforts.
While there is a growing consensus that education needs to be evidence
based and that assessment in theory provides an essential tool for learning,
questions remain. How do we decide what data will be used to evaluate in-
dividual student progress, school climate, and the process or outcome of
schoolwide efforts? How can and should we assess cultural differences? And
do we have the tools to do so?
Today we have few generally accepted and scientifically sound measures
of individual social, emotional, and/or ethical learning. Although there are
some self-reporting measures that focus on sets of social skills, the field does
not yet have comprehensive individual measures that can be easily used in the
preK–12 setting. After reviewing thirty-three such instruments, Stewart-Brown
and Edmunds (2003) recommended three: the Devereux Early Childhood
Assessment (DECA) for preschool settings, the Behavior and Emotion Rat-
ing Scale (BERS), and the youth version of the Bar-On Emotional Quotient
Inventory (EQ-i: YV) for primary, middle, and secondary schools. A growing
number of schools and districts have issued report cards that indicate specific
social, emotional, and ethical development (e.g., reflective capacities, coop-
eration, and inclusion/exclusion tendencies). Such subjective judgments im-
portantly communicate that the schools value these dimensions of learning
and behavior. In other words, if teachers consistently evaluate social, emo-
tional, and ethical functioning, it sends a message that these count.
School climate has garnered growing educational attention over the last
few decades. As noted above, educational research findings have underscored
the powerful connection between safe, caring, responsive, and participator y
schools on the one hand, and academic achievement and healthy student
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
development on the other. As I detail later, even though there are scores of
school climate measures, surprisingly few are scientifically sound or recognize
student, staff, and parent voices.
Evaluating the process and outcome of SEEAE efforts should include an
action research model. Interestingly, the U.S. Department of Education’s
2002 Partnerships in Character Education grants required that their feder-
ally funded studies include an action research partnership between practition-
ers and evaluators. Preliminary reports suggest that this partnership was ex-
tremely fruitful (McKay, personal communication, 2005). Evaluators needed
to learn about school practice in a given unique school environment, and
educators needed to learn more about using assessment to enhance learning
and learning communities. When practitioners and researchers are members
of a school improvement team, they create an authentic teaching and learn-
ing group. When they think, for example, about pedagogic and/or systemic
goals, they will need to think together about which are most meaningful and
how they can operationally define and evaluate them (Sangor, 2005).
The notion that we can and should use data to guide school practice is
spreading and is an important and positive trend. The issue of what we mea-
sure, however, is still up in the air. Evidence-based research guidelines tend
to push practitioners and evaluators to focus on experience that can be op-
erationally defined in behavioral terms alone. However, there are many im-
portant social, emotional, and ethical dimensions to interpersonal and school
life that are not simple to define operationally.
Obstacles and Next Steps
A range of factors complicates the introduction of social-emotional and ac-
ademic educational innovations into our nation’s preK–12 schools, educa-
tion departments, and education schools. I focus on three: research, policy,
and the current state of teacher education. In theory, research shapes policy,
which in turn results in teacher-education requirements. In practice, the rela-
tionship among policy, research, and teacher training is much more compli-
cated and rarely so logically related.
Some parents and educators suggest that social and emotional education
has no place in our K–12 schools. From their first teacher-education classes,
future high school teachers tend to focus on their academic domain. Unlike
preK, elementary, and to some extent middle school teachers, high school
teachers rarely discuss the interrelationship between social-emotional and
cognitive development and learning. As a group, high school teachers tend to
learn less than elementary teachers, and often middle school teachers, about
the emerging neurocognitive research that underscores these psychobiologi-
cal and social-emotional-cognitive relationships (Jensen, 2005; LeDoux, 1998,
2003). Many high school teachers understandably feel unprepared to be pur-
poseful social, emotional, and academic teachers. In addition, they are often
Harvard Educational Review
pressured by principals to ensure that their high school students do well on
academic tests. They often believe that they do not have enough time to cover
the prescribed curriculum, let alone teach to the test or become social-emo-
tional teachers.
On the other hand, in schools and districts that have imposed a social-emo-
tional curriculum without first conferring with parents, some parents have
felt that the school was violating their value system. This has been most ex-
plosive when the social-emotional curriculum is linked to sex education, for
In contrast, as I have noted previously, when school leaders ask parents
and teachers what they want their children to know and be able to do when
they graduate from high school, they usually talk about abilities that are fun-
damentally social, emotional, and often ethical in nature. In fact, virtually all
parents I have talked with across America have in essence said that SEEAE
is a good thing. What matters are the details: What do we actually focus on
and do? How do we go about working with parents, teachers, and students to
promote the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that support school and life
Since researchers have demonstrated the efficacy of SEEAE, current stud-
ies should focus on SEEAE-informed evaluation and scaling up these pro-
grammatic efforts. How can we evaluate students’ developing social-emotion-
al competencies and ethical dispositions? How can we most helpfully evaluate
the school as a system and the climate it fosters in the classroom? The lack of
measures in these two areas often undermines SEEAE efforts.
One of the most important pedagogic challenges that SEEAE faces today
is detailing socially, emotionally, and ethically informed scope and sequence:
What skills and knowledge can children of given ages realistically learn and
in what order? There are two sets of scope- and sequence-related guidelines.
One emerges from a scope- and sequence-related synthesis of research groups
and state education department’s health education curriculum (Center for
Social and Emotional Education, 2003). The other is linked to the important
Illinois State Board of Education’s (2004) adoption of social-emotional learn-
ing standards, which includes a social-emotional scope and sequence. But this
remains an area that needs to be further developed and detailed to support
social, emotional, and ethical teaching and learning.
There are several important emotional-social intelligence self-report mea-
sures that have been normed and used with adults, children, and adolescents
(Bar-On, 2004; Bar-On & Parker, 2000; Stewart-Brown & Edmund, 2003; Van
Rooy & Viswesvaran, in press). There are also emotional intelligence tests that
evaluate an important but demarcated set of skills, which provide a founda-
tion for the range of social and emotional competencies that SEEAE aims to
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jonathan cohen
promote (Salovey, Brackett, & Mayer, 2004). But we do not yet have measures
that evaluate the range of social, emotional, and ethical abilities and disposi-
tions that provide the foundation for school and life success. We do have a
number of the aforementioned emotional intelligence measures that corre-
late with academic, occupational, and social performance (Bar-On, 2004), as
well as with overall subjective well-being (Bar-On, 2005).
Many organizations have begun to develop assessments related to SEEAE
goals. The Character Education Partnership has developed an evaluation
tool kit to aid researchers and practitioners (Posey, Davidson, & Korpi, 2003).
There are scores of school climate measures and violence audits, most of
which only recognize student or teacher perceptions of school life. The Cali-
fornia Healthy Kids Survey focuses on a range of issues, including substance
abuse, academic achievement, learning climate, and procedures to deal with
crises or violations of school rules (Hanson & Austin, 2003).
UCLA’s Center for Mental Health in Schools has developed a useful set
of surveys that help schools identify barriers to learning, with an important
focus on the educational-mental health systems that can undermine student
learning (Adelman & Taylor, 2005). The Positive Behavioral Interventions
and Support (PBIS) has garnered both the interest and backing of the Of-
fice of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education,
and of a growing number of state education departments. PBIS has been de-
veloping coordinated systems of support and accountability for both at-risk
and so-called normal students. PBIS involves key stakeholders meeting three
times a month to evaluate and develop action plans about schoolwide, class-
room, and individual student behavior. PBIS is a data-driven process. In other
words, prosocial (e.g., health promotion) and problem-related goals can be
developed and operationally defined. From the beginning of this planning
and evaluation process, operationally defined benchmarks are articulated to
support the leadership team’s understanding of the actual progress that has
been made. Reflecting the state of crisis that so often characterizes urban
schools, PBIS, in my experience, rarely moves into setting and furthering pro-
social goals. It is difficult to effectively tackle the myriad problems that repre-
sent barriers to learning and healthy development.
There are four scientifically sound tools that recognize the roles of stu-
dents, parents, and staff in creating school climate. Two measures focus on
particular aspects of school climate (e.g., diversity or character education).
However, the High Performance Learning Community Assessments (Felner
et al., 2001) and the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI; Cen-
ter for Social and Emotional Education, 2005b) evaluate a comprehensive
range of factors that define school climate. The CSCI, for example, evaluates
students,’ parents,’ and school staff’s perception in four major areas: safety
(physical, social-emotional); teaching and learning (quality of instruction,
expectations for student achievement, leadership, professional development
and social-emotional-ethical education); relationships (respect for diversity
Harvard Educational Review
among students and adults, school outreach to parents, school-home part-
nerships, morale), and external environment (quality and structure, physical
plant, structure of time and space). This survey takes about twenty minutes
and results in a narrative and numerical summary of findings, which become
a platform for the school leadership team to dig deeper into school-climate
issues. To what extent, for example, are educational, risk-prevention, health-
promotion, and other SEEAE efforts coordinated and mutually reinforcing?
These factors also become the foundation for understanding the findings,
recognizing student voice, developing authentic home-school partnerships,
prioritizing goals, and creating an evidence-based action plan. In fact, SEEAE
evaluation is an essential foundation for whole-school improvement efforts.
Scientifically sound evaluation of school climate is a current focus of many
state education departments. These offices have singled out evidence-based
risk-prevention, health-promotion, character education, mental health, and
social-emotional learning programs for attention. Increasingly, state educa-
tion departments have issued lists of approved curricula in these areas, and
they are now beginning to consider which measures are scientifically sound
and should be used to assess program efficacy.
Another important area of study is how schools and districts can scale up
SEEAE efforts. The findings of pilot projects have established guidelines for
effective three- to five-year implementation planning and underscored the
need for delineating critical processes that support scaling up such efforts
(Center for Mental Health in Schools, 2005; Elias, Zins, Graczyk, & Weiss-
berg, 2003). Researcher practitioners suggest that three processes are criti-
cal to social, emotional, and academic educational reform in our nation’s
preK–12 schools: (1) the need to teach school professionals SEEAE skills and
knowledge; (2) the importance of an action research perspective; and (3) the
need to better document the stories of educational innovation and scaling-up
efforts so that contextual data can enrich understanding of what is required
for success.
Sustainability is another critical element in scaling up any school reform
effort. All too often, reform efforts are dependent on a short-term infusion
of resources. “Spread” is a term that refers to the number of classrooms and
schools that are affected by change. If reform is to have any meaning, the no-
tion of spread necessarily overlaps with the emphasis on depth. Spread has to
involve not only a growing number of teachers and school leaders who intro-
duce aspects of the reform, but also the spread of altered underlying beliefs
in the norms and principles of how students learn, and how and what we must
teach. A shift in reform ownership is an essential foundation of true school
change (Coburn, 2003). How do we create conditions in which knowledge
of and authority for reform can be shifted from external experts to teachers,
schools, and districts? Developing the capacity to scale up school reform — in
particular, social, emotional, and academic educational reform — important-
ly rests on teacher education at the preservice and in-service level.
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jonathan cohen
Federal and state educational policies direct school practice and, to a varying
extent, the nature of teacher-preparation programs. Although NCLB is filled
with rhetoric about character education and the importance of establishing
optimal conditions for learning, these are not funded priorities (U.S. Depart-
ment of Education, 2005). Today, NCLB is creating an imbalance in the mis-
sion of public education. On many levels the classroom, school, district,
and state reading and math scores constitute the only information that
is recognized. Educators are being pushed to raise reading and math scores
without focusing on the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that provide the
foundation for school and life success. NCLB includes many important and
admirable goals; for example, it appropriately presses educators to have lin-
guistic and math-related expectations that are equal for all children; to learn
from and base educational decisions on data; and to take responsibility for
students’ language and math failures. However, the current overemphasis on
test scores is inadvertently retarding academic achievement and preventing
future generations of young people from developing the ability to be active,
engaged members of a democracy.
In conversations with state education officials, I have encountered a grow-
ing recognition that for all the concentrated reading and math interventions,
children are bumping up against a glass ceiling. Policymakers acknowledge
that if we do not work to create a safe climate for learning or help students
develop social-emotional skills that support academic achievement, concen-
trated reading and math instruction will have a limited impact. Following
on this logic, there have been a small but growing number of government
initiatives in SEEAE-related areas. The U.S. Department of Education funds
SEEAE-related efforts through character education grants and a range of safe
and drug-free schools initiatives. In 2004 and 2005, roughly 24 million federal
dollars were allocated to character education grants; $233 million and $234
million, respectively, went to the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and the Com-
munities National Programs (see Howard, Berkowitz, & Schaeffer, 2004, for a
more detailed discussion of legislative developments in character education).
My impression is that the major federal thrust in SEEAE-related areas is to
make this work evidence based and empirically grounded (McKay, personal
communication, 2005). There also has been an important push to strengthen
collaboration among evaluators, practitioners, parents, community members,
and educators.
Despite the attention given to federal initiatives, state policies drive preK–
12 educational practice and shape teacher requirements. Although a growing
amount of state legislation has touched on social-emotional learning, bully-
ing, and safety in schools, most states have limited themselves to character
education.8 By 2005, according to the National Conference of State Legisla-
tures, twenty-eight states had mandated or “encouraged” character education
Harvard Educational Review
legislation. Many of these character education acts are combined with citizen-
ship education and/or service learning.
The Education Commission of the States recently launched a policy scan
(a snapshot look at what states are recommending and/or legislating) for so-
cial-emotional learning and has reported on eight legislative acts that have
mandated or encouraged SEL efforts. Three-quarters of them focus on pre-
school settings and reflect the growing body of research that shows how so-
cial-emotional competencies provide the optimal preK foundation for school
learning (Denham & Weissberg, 2004).9 The term “social-emotional learn-
ing” is increasingly recognized and used at the state level. In 2004, the Illinois
state board of education adopted a plan to establish development standards
in this area, with the result that every school district is now required to de-
velop a policy for incorporating social-emotional learning into its education
program. In 2003, Louisiana also established a program for educational ac-
countability that requires the state education department and local school
boards to define goals, objectives, and educational programs for the “physi-
cal, intellectual, social, and emotional development” of students (Louisiana
Revised Statutes, 2003).
Bullying became a subject of vital interest to the American public, and to
SEEAE advocates in particular, after the school shootings of the late 1990s.
There is a growing body of research in this area that demonstrates how shock-
ingly prevalent verbal and physical bulling have become. Studies indicate how
toxic the bully-victim syndrome is, individually and systemically, and point to
the strong likelihood that school bullies will develop increasingly problemat-
ic psychosocial problems over time (Ferrell-Smith, 2003; U.S. Department of
Justice, 2002). As a result, seventeen states have enacted antibullying legisla-
tion (Dounay, 2005). Antibullying legislation varies in content and approach
in a number of ways: definitions of bullying, level of state support, local board
requirements, student services, school intervention strategy, curriculum, re-
porting requirements, student and parent rights, and teacher professional
development provisions.
The Education Commission of the States suggests that comprehensive an-
tibullying policies need to include the following components: a definition
of bullying, prohibition of student bullying, information about antibullying
policies for students and others, lines of communication that enable students
and parents to report bullying incidents, a mandate that school personnel
report these incidents and administrators investigate them while providing
immunity to those who report. I suggest two additional components. First, ef-
fective bullying prevention needs to involve both individual and schoolwide
efforts. In addition to addressing the needs of individual bullies and their
victims, effective strategies must consider witnesses to these incidents. Are
they passive bystanders and, hence, colluding with the behavior? Or are they
upstanding members of the community, active and responsible enough to
make their feelings known? Second, antibullying efforts cannot focus on the
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
students alone. Adult bullying is prevalent and creates problematic models
for students. When invited to work with the bully-victim-bystander problems
in schools, I often hear from parents and educators about the degree of adult
bullying, whether teachers bullying students, parents bullying teachers, or ad-
ministrators bullying teachers. Clearly, any campaign to combat this behavior
has to be a multipronged effort.
Safety in the schools is another matter that has caught the eye of state
legislators. Some states have enacted laws explicitly framed to safeguard the
safety of students. Legislators too often only focus on crime prevention and
punishment, for example, metal detectors and penalties. The issue is increas-
ingly cloaked in statutes focused on conflict resolution, violence prevention,
and mental health. Wisconsin, for example, now requires that teachers seek-
ing licensure demonstrate competency in resolving conflicts between pupils
and between students and staff; they also must be able to help students learn
methods of peaceful conflict resolution. Many states, like New York, have is-
sued legislatively linked guidelines for effective violence prevention, an effort
that is synonymous with evidence-based social-emotional and academic edu-
cational efforts (Fuchs-Nadeau, LaRue, Allen, Cohen, & Hyman, 2002).
It is difficult to generalize about SEEAE and state legislation, as there are so
many different policies and definitions of these programs. Unfortunately, at
the state level (not unlike the level of the school building), educational, risk-
prevention, health-promotion, bully-prevention, safe schools, civics education,
and mental health efforts are typically fragmented. A few states, such as Ohio,
have made a concerted, multiyear effort to coordinate these activities.
Most educational standards include language and mandates that are sup-
portive of SEEAE efforts. In fact, there is a great deal of overlap between
SEEAE efforts and curriculum standards (Kress, Norris, Schoenholz, Elias,
& Siegel, 2005). The 2000 National Educational Goals, for example, specify
that “all children in America will start school ready to learn” and that chil-
dren will develop “social and emotional competencies which contribute to a
readiness to learn.” Three current standards of the National Council for the
Accreditation of Teacher Education’s standards are aligned with social-emo-
tional learning (Patti, 2006).10 Yet at the end of the day, we evaluate students’
math and reading scores. Many policymakers largely ignore the two core di-
mensions that characterize effective, evidence-based SEEAE efforts: students’
social, emotional, and/or ethical development, as well as school climate.
Teacher Education
Today, evidence-based findings on the implementation of social, emotional,
and academic learning are not integrated into teacher-education programs,
which is a problematic and curious state of affairs for three overlapping rea-
sons. First, although a series of national educational organizations have af-
firmed the central importance of being reflective educators, we are not trans-
Harvard Educational Review
lating this goal into teacher training in substantive and ongoing ways. Second,
a 1999 national study of leading educators revealed that despite its absence,
there is overwhelming support for the notion of social, emotional, ethical,
and academic education. And, finally, as has been noted, the evidence-based
SEEAE implementation guidelines that now exist will predictably promote
school success and life success.
In 1999, the Character Education Partnership and the Center for the
Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University (Nielsen-Jones,
Ryan, & Bohlin, 1999) conducted a national survey of six hundred educa-
tion school deans to learn their views on character education and what their
institutions were doing in this area. They found that over 90 percent of re-
spondents supported the need for character education in America’s preK–12
schools and that less than 25 percent of them believed that it was emphasized
enough within their programs. Only 13 percent said that they were satisfied
with their efforts in this area. While there was little consensus about what
character education is and how it should be taught, over 66 percent of the
deans favored making it a requirement for state certification. More than 80
percent reported that they wanted to learn about best practices; 68 percent
wanted to see samples of course syllabi; and more than 66 percent wanted to
learn about related books and resources. A 2000 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll
confirmed that educators support SEEAE goals. Seven hundred of the one
thousand American educators surveyed thought that the primary purpose
of schooling was to provide a “balanced education,” teaching and learning
about academic and social “basics,” in and outside of the classroom (Rose &
Gallup, 2000). Despite this consensus, few education schools actually inte-
grate ethics and character education into their teacher-preparation efforts
(Bohlin, Dougherty, & Farmer, 2002). Many programs have only one profes-
sor who included these issues in an elective course. Some teacher-education
efforts have, of course, integrated the research-based findings and practices
that characterize effective SEEAE today.11
Conflict resolution (CR) represents an important precursor to current
SEEAE efforts and is incorporated into virtually all SEEAE programs (Co-
hen, Compton, & Diekmann, 2000). Taking their cue from recent SEEAE-
informed research, current school-based CR efforts (like Educators for So-
cial Responsibility’s Resolving Conflict Creatively Program) have increasingly
focused on systemic issues such as school climate, as well as individual skill-
based teaching and learning.12 In 2004, the City University of New York and
the Center for Social and Emotional Education developed a new four-course,
graduate-level sequence in social, emotional, and academic education.13
Many educational and school-based mental health networks, under a range
of labels, are increasingly aligned with SEEAE efforts. For example, the Amer-
ican Association of Higher Education has two “communities of practice” (in
democratic dialogue and cognitive-affective learning); the Association for Su-
pervision and Curriculum Development’s networks include affective factors in
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
learning, health in education and multiple intelligences. The American Edu-
cational Research Association has special interest groups in classroom man-
agement, conflict resolution and violence prevention, cooperative learning,
democratic citizenship in education, and family-school and community part-
nerships. Other networks, such as the National Network for Educational Re-
newal, are explicitly focused on turning education colleges that are in partner-
ships with preK–12 school districts into forums where students can learn the
skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for effective participation in a
democracy. It is unclear what these educational networks actually do. Clearly,
they raise awareness to allow professionals to let one another know about new
ideas and meetings. There are also a growing number of resource guides for
professors (e.g., Bueno de Mesquita, 2004; Cohen, 1999a, 2001; Haynes, Ben-
Avie, & Ensign, 2003; Pasi, 2001; Patrikakou et al., 2005; Zins et al., 2004).
In spite of these, a glaring gap remains between what we know and what is
actually done to help teachers learn to integrate SEEAE effectively into class-
rooms. Few courses provide educators with theoretical or practical knowledge
about evidence-based work in character education, mental health, or social-
emotional learning. The rare exceptions to this indictment exist at universi-
ties where individual faculty members have sufficient prestige or resources to
influence curriculum. As a general rule, however, education schools do not
yet embrace social, emotional, and ethical learning as a vital dimension of
school life. Another obstacle to SEEAE is that educational leaders and policy-
makers over the last one hundred years have drawn that line between cogni-
tive or academic teaching on the one hand and social, emotional, and ethical
teaching on the other. Educational leaders and policymakers tend to differ-
entiate between student learning and mental health issues. Current federal
and state educational legislation has dramatically exacerbated this unfound-
ed separation, which I view as a social injustice for our nation’s children.
The American people have expressed their conviction that the primary pur-
pose of public schooling is to prepare children to become effective and re-
sponsible citizens (Rose & Gallup, 2000). The United Nations puts it another
way: its 1948 Convention on the Rights of the Child decrees that governments
are obligated to ensure that every child has equal access to a quality educa-
tion adapted to meet the child’s needs (United Nations, 1948). In fulfilling
that obligation, schools must respect the inherent dignity of the child, create
an environment of tolerance in the classroom, and bar practices or disciplin-
ary policies that harm or humiliate. This kind of education will enable chil-
dren to realize the very fullest of their potential and, in so doing, to become
lifelong learners and active participants in society. For our country’s future,
and for social justice, it is essential that all children, particularly the disad-
vantaged and the poor, have the opportunity to develop the social-emotional
Harvard Educational Review
competencies and ethical dispositions that provide the foundation for the
tests of life, health, relationships, and adult work. Our nation’s current dra-
matic overemphasis on linguistic and mathematical learning is shortsighted
and misguided.
Educational and school-related mental health developments occur in a
larger societal context. In a variety of ways, social unrest has forced society
to develop new resources and to address social injustice. For example, the
unrest that characterized America in the late 1800s gave rise to the settle-
ment movement.14 Similarly, unrest in the 1920s led to the establishment of
community mental health clinics that in turn began to create partnerships
with local schools. Larger societal trends in later years, like the civil rights
and women’s movements, cast a glaring spotlight on the discrepant ways that
people of color, women, and children are treated in America. This gave rise
to a national need, legislatively and educationally, to think about tolerance
and how it should be taught. It also forced recognition of the blatant and
subtle ways that students and adults bully the weak and discriminate against
each other. Religion is another societal force that has historically shaped edu-
cational goals and methods. Religion has powerfully underscored the impor-
tance of “doing good” and following the golden rule, which suggests that we
treat others as we want to be treated.
But today, differences, religious or otherwise, are ripping peoples and the
world apart. From ancient times to Iraq today, people have tried to solve dif-
ferences with physical force. Instead of talking about needs and working to
collaboratively solve problems nonviolently, America today is tragically caught
in a cycle of misunderstanding, violence, and despair. What can we do to pro-
mote children’s understanding of diversity, fear, conflict, and community?
What we can and desperately need to do is teach children the skills and dis-
positions that provide the foundation for collaboration and democracy.
Yet in the United States today, people seem increasingly disconnected from
civic engagement, the political and social issues that divide the country grow
in bitterness, and compromise is looked upon as a dirty word. Has our system
of education failed? Has the research showing that social-emotional compe-
tencies and ethical dispositions provide the essential foundation for partici-
pation in a democracy, as well as the pursuit of well-being, been ignored? Not
entirely. However, if federal and state policymakers and education schools
continue to ignore the importance of social-emotional competencies, I be-
lieve that this amounts to a violation of human rights. Our children deserve
better. The country deser ves better.
1. Ethical functioning is usually conceptualized in terms of development, thinking, and/
or behavior. It does not tend to be conceptualized as a competence or as the ability
to do something well. However, interrelationships between social-emotional capaci-
Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education
jonathan cohen
ties and ethical dispositions are critical. Children can learn the social-emotional skills
needed to recognize, for example, that someone is in distress. But whether and how
children act on this understanding is a result of both skills (e.g., empathy and com-
munication) and ethical dispositions. Sociopaths, for example, are often ver y skilled
2. Interestingly, the empirical study of positive psychology is quite recent. Freud and en-
suing generations of clinicians showed that the pursuits of pleasure — and the avoid-
ance of pain — are major motivational forces in human life. Only in recent years have
well-being and happiness begun to be studied in systematic, sustained, and empirically
sound ways.
3. For decades, many parents and educators have known that children’s social, emotion-
al, and ethical competencies are more predictive of life satisfaction and success than
grades or SAT scores. But it is only in the last fifteen or twenty years that researchers
have confirmed this and helped us to understand specifically which competences are
most predictive. Different researchers have used somewhat different terms and models
in their work. Elsewhere I have reviewed various models of social-emotional competen-
cies and intelligence (Cohen & Sandy, 2003, in press).
4. The Character Education Partnership’s eleven key principles underlie its work (Licko-
na, Schaps, & Lewis, 1996). Cohen (2001) suggests that there are five. A review of evi-
dence-based programs by CASEL (2003) concluded that there are seven core dimen-
sions to successful SEL programming. And Elias (2003) summarizes his understanding
of the ten key facets of effective academic, social, and emotional learning.
5. For further information on this inventory, see
6. Although many character education and social-emotional learning programs are large-
ly ineffective, a number of excellent research-based curricula exist (Beland, 2003; Cen-
ter for the Study and Prevention of Violence, 2005; Collaborative for Academic, So-
cial and Emotional Learning, 2003; U.S. Department of Health and Human Ser vices,
7. Some of the questions we may ask are: What is the problem? What is a sensible goal?
What is the range of strategies we can use to actualize this goal? How do we utilize this
strategy? How can we evaluate the results of our implementation of the strategies?
8. I suspect that there are more character education policies than social-emotional learn-
ing policies because the former has been recognized for many decades. However, what
is most important is that current SEL and CE efforts are now grounded in evidence-
based pedagogic and systemic practice designed to promote social and emotional com-
petencies and ethical dispositions, as well as creating a climate for learning.
9. Six states now have statutes that encourage or mandate social-emotional learning in
preschool years.
10. The three standards are: candidate knowledge, skills, and dispositions; field experi-
ence and clinical practice; and diversity.
11. The Bohlin study (2002) identified three that appeared to have done so (Boston Uni-
versity; California State University, Fresno; and the University of St. Francis). At least
a dozen education schools have promising practices in the following areas: mission
statements that highlight character; courses on character education; ideas for shap-
ing a moral ethos; models of service learning within the context of teacher education
(Bohlin et al., 2002).
12. The first master’s program in this area was Lesley University’s Conflict Resolution and
Peaceful Schools program, which prepares educators for social, emotional, and ethical
teaching and learning
13. At the Center for Social and Emotional Education, we are gathering information about
teacher-education efforts in these areas and posting information about syllabi, relevant
research abstracts, and other resources for professors; available at
Harvard Educational Review
vices/professors.aspx. I request that readers let me know about efforts that they are
involved with to advance SEEAE-related efforts.
14. Growing out of the English settlement house movement, the pre–World War I settle-
ment houses were established by wealthy individuals who wanted to help with the so-
cial disorganization that was rampant in those years. American settlement houses were
often affiliated with universities, social research centers, and social action sites. They
developed a range of social ser vice programs. One of their programs involved a visit-
ing teacher, a forerunner of the school social worker. These visiting teachers sought to
understand and coordinate life in the classroom, the home, and the community.
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to Sara Vitaska and Jennifer Stedron at the National Center on State Legislators for their
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... The rate of students reporting peer victimization was 22-33% higher among schools in the bottom API quintile than among schools in the top API quintile, depending on the grade level (Hanson et al., 2010). Peer victimization and academic performance correlate at the school-level, which suggests that approaches focused on improving school climate among teachers and students are warranted (Cohen, 2006). ...
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This article reviews the extant literature on the links between peer victimization and academic performance and engagement among children and adolescents. Although most of the research on this association is based on cross-sectional investigations, research using longitudinal designs is starting to point to the fact that peer victimization does impact changes in academic performance over time. This research also points to several mediators and moderators that explain the association between repeated victimization and academic challenges, including peer rejection, depression, and decreases in students' sense of school belonging. Teachers and administrators should address peer victimization through programs and frameworks such as positive behavior intervention supports and social-emotional learning approaches. These programs decrease aggression and victimization, increase peer acceptance and social competence, and improve academic engagement and test scores.
With the growing challenges that children confront daily, schools must be prepared at any given moment to intervene on their behalf. And school professionals must be well trained to attend not only to the most routine mental health needs of its students but also to respond quickly and effectively to significant traumatic events. All this in addition to addressing demands to narrow the achievement gap, increase the rate of school success, and lower the dropout rate. Along with an introductory chapter that focuses on advancing school-based mental health practice and research, the Handbook of School Mental Health addresses a broad range of issues, including how to: • Build and enhance collaborative approaches among the various individual, group, system, and agency stakeholders. • Ensure best practices are used in all systems of care; provide effective training for all professionals; introduce strength-based approaches to assessment in schools; and facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practices. • Prevent and effectively manage crises and violence in schools while addressing the unique ethical, cultural, and legal challenges of school mental health. This volume is an essential resource for the diverse coalition of school mental health staff and advocates including educators, social workers, school psychologists, school counselors and other professionals who work with and are concerned with the well-being of children.
This paper reports key findings of a review of instruments suitable for assessing emotional and social competence in preschool and primary school settings, commissioned by the English Department for Education and Skills. We aimed to identify instruments appropriate for children aged 3-11 years, applicable to the general population. Searches of the published literature were carried out using six electronic databases and a wide range of search terms, from 1990 to 2002. Notices were posted on the CASEL and Focus Project website notice boards. Contact was made with academics known to be active in the field. We included instruments developed during the period 1990-2002 and critically appraised their content, method of application, reliability,, validity, and appropriateness for screening (early, identification), profiling and monitoring. We describe 33 instruments, 21 of which were identified from the published literature. Many of the latter focused on negative aspects of social competence and behaviour Only two were considered relevant to the assessment of emotional competence: the Behavioural and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS) for assessment of individual children, and the Child Development Project Questionnaire (CDP) for class and school assessment. Twelve (12) instruments were identified through contact with researchers and practitioners. These differed from those in the published literature in that they, all included positive questions or statements and many, covered some aspects of emotional competence. Those most relevant to the assessment of emotional and social competence included the youth version of the Emotional Quotient Inventory, (EQ-i: YV) for children over 6 years, the Process-orientated Child Monitoring System (POMS) for 4-5 year olds and the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA)for 2-5 year olds. Some of the most relevant instruments mentioned to us are still in development.
The first part of this article defines what it means to be emotionally and socially intelligent and describes a scientific approach to measuring this behaviour The second part empirically demonstrates that this construct is important in that it significantly impacts a wide spectrum of human performance based on a review of existing research findings. The third part of the article reviews additional findings indicating that the relevant competencies and skills involved in this type of behaviour can be enhanced in the schoolroom, workplace and clinical setting. The importance and implications of the findings presented are discussed as well as the next steps needed to educate more people to be more emotionally and socially intelligent.