Post by:

Deiera Bennett

Created on:

February 25, 2024

How to Choose an SEL Curriculum

A growing number of schools and school districts are recognizing the valuable impact of social and emotional learning (SEL). According to CASEL, SEL enhances students’ social and self-awareness and contributes to improved academic performance, behavior, and overall student well-being. Although SEL has been around for decades, many school and district administrators are at the forefront of implementing SEL initiatives. As you navigate the implementation process, it’s crucial to carefully choose an SEL curriculum that meets your students’ needs and aligns with your school and district goals. Here are six questions to consider as you begin the process of selecting an SEL curriculum.

Does it align with SEL standards?

Create a solid foundation for educators to build on by choosing a social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum that aligns with SEL standards. Last year, 27 states had K-12 SEL standards. Some of these states created their own SEL standards, while others use universal competencies such as the ones outlined by CASEL. The social and emotional learning curriculum that you choose should be transparent about the topics it covers and how students will be exposed to them. Choosing an SEL curriculum that aligns with standards ensures consistency across the board and enhances its overall effectiveness.

Does it align with our values?

When choosing an SEL curriculum, consider the school and/or district’s core values. If your school values representation, it’s important to choose an SEL curriculum that showcases different types of people, especially if social awareness is one of your SEL standards. Our SEL curriculum and online game Ava is perfect for schools and districts that value inclusivity, diversity, and representation. Starring an autistic character, Ava takes students through an engaging journey where they interact with neurodiverse characters and learn valuable SEL skills that they can apply in the classroom and beyond. 

Is it easy-to-implement?

With so much on teachers’ plates already, the last thing they want is a complicated, lengthy implementation process. Do them a favor by prioritizing an SEL curriculum that’s easy and quick to implement. Some EdTech platforms require professional development and live onboarding sessions before teachers and students can get started. This can be a sign that the program is time-consuming and difficult to implement, which can greatly reduce teacher buy-in and usage. Ready-to-use curriculum allows educators to hit the ground running without unnecessary delays or complications while providing on-demand tutorials, guides, and product support when needed.

Is it engaging?

Students tend to perform better, behaviorally and academically, when they’re actively engaged in what they’re learning. Gone are the days that students would sit quietly for a class period, read from a textbook, and answer the questions at the end of the chapter. Curriculum, accompanied with interactive activities such as games and quizzes, are becoming the norm in classrooms throughout the country. These activities immerse students into the learning process by empowering them to learn through exploration and application rather than memorization. It’s also important for students to understand the real-world relevance of what they’re learning. Effective SEL curriculum will connect the dots for students by providing lessons and activities that encourage students to relate SEL concepts to real-life situations that they’ve encountered. 

Student playing Ava by Social Cipher, an online social and emotional learning game and curriculum.

Is it user-friendly?

An SEL curriculum or program that’s difficult for students to use not only frustrates the students but also adds unnecessary strain on educators. This often leads to low usage and ineffective outcomes, which can threaten the success of your SEL initiative. User-friendly programs empower students to take ownership of their learning while still receiving guidance and support. Curriculum that centers discussions, group activities, and reflections give students the opportunity to explore and express their own thoughts while minimizing prep time for the educator. When searching for a curriculum with digital activities, such as our online SEL game Ava, it’s important to ensure the activities strike the right balance. The content should challenge students and foster learning, but the instructions and interface should be easy to follow and navigate.   

How does the program keep data secure?

Digital curriculum and programs that store personally identifiable information or other data about students must adhere to federal, state, and local laws to keep the data secure. Prior to choosing an SEL curriculum, gain clarity about how the platform complies with laws, especially since they can vary from state to state. Some companies sign a voluntary Student Privacy Pledge to prove their commitment to keeping student data private and secure. 

How much does it cost?

An SEL curriculum can check all of the boxes above, but cost can make or break the decision. Evaluate your budget and income sources to determine how much your school or district can afford to spend on a program. The beauty of social and emotional learning lies in its adaptability – the concepts can be taught in a standalone curriculum or integrated throughout the school day into existing curriculum. This flexibility ensures that every school or district can implement SEL programs regardless of the budget.

The process to choose an SEL curriculum can be daunting, but by assessing your goals, needs, and priorities, you can ensure that the SEL curriculum you choose positively impacts the hundreds, or thousands, of students in your school or district. 

Our online curriculum and SEL game Ava was created by a neurodivergent team specifically for neurodivergent youth ages 10-15. Learn more about how Ava can help your students strengthen valuable social and emotional skills.


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