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Defining SEL Outcomes: Develop Goals for Schoolwide SEL

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.


This tool presents the “SMARTIE” goal-setting process. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the school’s vision statement to prioritize clear, motivating goals for SEL.

Schoolwide social and emotional learning (SEL) is a systemic approach to infusing social and emotional learning into every part of students’ educational experience — across all classrooms, during all parts of the school day and out-of-school time, and in partnership with families and communities.

This involves cultivating caring, participatory, and equitable learning environments and using evidence-based practices that actively involve all students in their social, emotional, and academic growth.


• Specific: Does each goal clearly state what is to be accomplished? Where appropriate, does it specify where and by whom activities should be carried out?

• Measurable: Does each goal refer to a measurable outcome? Does it set a standard that will allow the team to know whether or not the goal has been met?

• Attainable/Ambitious: Does the goal seem reachable given where things are now? At the same time, is it challenging enough that success would mean significant progress for the school?

• Relevant: Will attaining this goal make a difference in the quality of students’ lives? Is the goal aligned with other school improvement goals?

• Time-bound: Has a timeframe been established for achieving the goal? Have shorter-term benchmarks been set so progress can be monitored along the way?

• Inclusive: Does this goal invite traditionally excluded or marginalized individuals to make decisions and contribute in a way that shares power?

• Equitable: Does this goal include an element of fairness or justice that seeks to address systemic injustice, inequity, or oppression?

Reflection Questions for Setting SMARTIE Goals

 1. What would your school like to see change as a result of SEL implementation?

A. How will SEL enhance students’ social and emotional skills, competencies, and mindsets?
B. How will it enhance academic performance?
C.  How will it positively impact school climate?
D.  How will it lead to more equitable outcomes?
E.  How will it impact teacher effectiveness?
F.  How will it strengthen partnerships between the school and families?
G.  Will it decrease undesirable outcomes, such as suspension or dropout rates?

 2. Who is supposed to change as a result of SEL?

A. Are changes expected for students?
B. Are changes expected for other members of the school community? Teachers? School administration? Families? Community members?

3. How much change is expected?

A. What magnitude of change would indicate that a difference is being made?

4.  When will the change occur?

A. How long would the desired changes take (e.g., six months, one year)?
B. By what specific date would the change be projected to happen?

5. How will the changes be measured?

A. What are any existing measures (e.g., surveys) that can aid in measuring change?
B. What would signify that “change happened” (e.g., integrating SEL into daily functioning of the school, teachers using an evidence-based SEL program, staff interactions, etc)

What is CASEL?

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the country’s leading PreK-12 SEL practice, policy and research organization. For 25 years, CASEL has been a trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) and has made the case for SEL as an integral part of education. Through research, practice, and policy, CASEL collaborates with thought leaders to equip educators and policymakers with the knowledge and resources to advance social and emotional learning in equitable learning environments so all students can thrive. Watch the below short video about CASEL to learn more.

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