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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Social, Emotional Learning: Instructional Support Goes Online

Maurice Elias

Professor, Rutgers University Psychology Department and Edutopia Blogger

The community of implementers of SEL and related programs is growing. And the capacity of individuals to leave their workplaces to congregate for extensive training and sharing opportunities seems to be diminishing. These and other realities are creating an imperative to use the Internet as a vehicle for providing support for instruction and other aspects of implementation necessary to sustain and reinforce instruction.

The Second Step program is both a thought leader and an action leader in re-imagining professional development and implementation support via an array of online and person-to-person resources and approaches.

Committee for Children (CfC), which developed the Second Step program, recognizes that even an evidence-based program will not achieve success without a supportive infrastructure in the school and district.

Therefore, CfC offers district-level support through live, in-person trainings for district SEL coordinators (an annual Second Step Leadership Institute). The Institute cohort is kept together with monthly, topical online meetings for the year following the initial training session. The Second Step outreach staff conducts in-person trainings and workshops, as well as customized webinars (groups of principals in a district, teachers in a school, or other configurations) by request. These staff members also consult on more complex implementation planning and support at the district or school level.

The Second Step partnerships manager provides more in-depth, in-person support, and consultation for district-level implementation as well. The client support services offers unlimited telephone and email support; the high volumes of calls and emails this group handles suggest these are popular modalities for support.

How Do Users Get Access?

SecondStep.org was designed to act as an interactive teaching and implementation support guide. Each physical Second Step kit comes with an activation key used to register the kit on the site. There are features that allow users to provide CfC staff with feedback about lessons and resources, for them to access experts directly, and for CfC staff to track what is and is not being used and appreciated. Other materials include a guide for teachers and counselors organized around the core components of the program; a guide for implementation coordinators organized around the key tasks for effective implementation; and a wealth of instructional and training materials. You can download the PDF to preview some of the content found on SecondStep.org.

Included among the implementation support resources is an Implementation Checklist, a series of guidelines to attend to prior to implementation, such as building a support network, creating an implementation plan, and doing an environmental scan to see needs, resources, and opportunities, a detailed elaboration of implementation roles, and templates to communicate progress.

SecondStep.org launched an array of community features in January. Designed to connect program users with each other, the features include a space where users can share resources, adaptations, chat in forums, and create their own groups, toward becoming a community of practice. I particularly value the recorded and archived webinars. The webinar on "Get Those Kits Off the Shelf" has great generic value to assist in implementation regardless of what SEL or Character Education or related program one might be using.

CfC is able to monitor the site and identifies over 30,000 members at SecondStep.org. There have been over 19,000 site visits since February and over 92,000 page views. Of those who entered the community, 37 percent of the clicks were for the Q&A thread, showing a large need for resources and answers to questions.

As online platforms improve, the technology of program support will also improve. But the Second Step program is already proving that online modalities, combined with interactive approaches, are now essential to any hope at scaling up high quality implementation.

Maurice Elias

Professor, Rutgers University Psychology Department and Edutopia Blogger
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