Inclusion Criteria

  • Inclusion Criteria for SELect Programs

    CASEL adopted rigorous criteria derived from a research-based framework. We refer to evidence-based SEL programs that meet these criteria as “SELect.” Specifically, SELect programs are well-designed classroom-based programs that target all five areas of social and emotional competence, provide opportunities for practice, and offer multi-year programming; offer training and other implementation support, including initial training and ongoing support to ensure high-quality implementation; and are evidence-based with at least one carefully conducted evaluation that included a comparison group and pre and post measures that documented a positive impact on academic performance or other important student behaviors, including increased prosocial behavior, reduced conduct problems, and/or reduced emotional distress.

    • Well-designed and classroom-based. The first criterion for inclusion as a CASEL SELect program is that it must be well-designed and classroom-based. For the purpose of this Guide, a well-designed program is defined as addressing all five of the CASEL competencies, providing opportunities for practice, and being structured in a way that allows for skill development to occur over multiple years. As described in the introduction, child development research and theory suggest that the five social and emotional competencies are the building blocks of academic achievement and social adjustment.
      (Elias, 2006; Durlak et al., 2011; Greenberg et al., 2003; Nation et al., 2003; Payton, Graczyk, Wardlaw, Bloodworth, Tompsett, & Weissberg, 2000; Zins et al., 2004)

      Research has also shown that effective programs provide repeated opportunities to practice new skills and behaviors within the program structure and beyond to real-life situations (Durlak et al., 2011; Durlak, Weissberg, & Pachan, 2010; Hawkins et al., 2004). Durlak and colleagues (2010; 2011) provide compelling evidence that SEL programs promote better student outcomes when program implementers follow “SAFE” procedures: they use a Sequenced step-by-step training approach; they emphasize Active forms of learning that require students to practice new skills; they Focus specific time and attention on skill development; and they are Explicit in defining the social and emotional skills they are attempting to promote. Providing opportunities to practice within classroom lessons is important, but actual opportunities to practice in real-life situations are likely to have even more impact (Cohen, 2006; Nation et al., 2003; Weare & Nind, 2011). All of the programs in the 2013 Guide offer opportunities to practice. We also rated the extent to which opportunities for practice are available in real-life situations.

      Research has demonstrated the most effective programming is multi-year and ideally preschool through grade 12(Greenberg et al., 2003; Nation et al., 2003). CASEL SELect preschool programs are designed to be implemented in one or two years. Because elementary education is multi-year (K-5), CASEL SELect programs at the elementary level provide classroom instruction across multiple grades. In fact, many elementary school SELect programs cover all grade levels from kindergarten through fifth grade.



  • Note: programs selected after 2013 will not be in the PDF

  • Training and other implementation support. Research has demonstrated that the effectiveness of well-designed programs depends on high-quality implementation (Aber, Brown, & Jones, 2003; Abbot, O’Donnell, Hawkins, Hill, Kosterman, & Catalano, 1998; Battistich, Schaps, Watson, & Solomon, 1996; Durlak et al., 2011; Greenberg, Domitrovich, Graczyk, & Zins, 2005). Training is an important strategy for enhancing quality of implementation (Botvin, Baker, Dusenbury, et al., 1990; Ringwalt et al., 2002; Ross, Luepker, Nelson, Saavedra, & Hubbard, 1991; Tappe et al., 1995). Teachers who receive an initial training to support a particular program are more likely to teach all of the lessons in that particular program. They will use the methods prescribed by the program more effectively than teachers who do not receive training.

    Although initial training is important, research has also demonstrated that ongoing training and support beyond an initial training (Rohrbach, Gunning, Sun, & Sussman, 2010), along with coaching and/or follow-up training, enhances both the quality of teaching and student performance (Domitrovich et al., 2011; Rimm-Kaufman, Wanless, Patton, & Deutsch, 2011). Another key criterion for inclusion as a CASEL SELect program, therefore, is the ability of the program to provide training for school personnel to support high-quality implementation. We included only programs for which there was a standard, replicable training format and a United States-based team of trainers who conducted trainings in the past year. Other support for implementation includes materials such as standardized manuals, lesson plans, and needed supplies, as well as services such as technical assistance, ongoing consultation, and feedback once the program begins. Programs were required to have manuals for implementation. In addition, we assessed the extent to which they provided services beyond initial training, such as coaching and/or follow-up training.
  • Evidence of effectiveness. There is now good evidence regarding the effectiveness of SEL programs (Diekstra, 2008; Durlak et al., 2011; Weare & Nind, 2011; Zins et al., 2004). Empirical research is essential for determining the efficacy of programs and practices that promote SEL. How a study is conducted determines the level of confidence one can have in the findings. Although randomized controlled studies provide the highest level of confidence, other types of studies can also offer evidence of effectiveness. For example, well-controlled studies that use a comparison group and include reliable assessments of key outcomes before and after a program address many of the factors that can threaten the validity of the findings. As such, these two design features—a comparison group, and pre and post measurement—were required to qualify as a CASEL SELect program, and we included both randomized and quasi-experimental studies that contained these features. Outcome studies that met these criteria had to have sufficient clarity and no serious threats to validity.

    The CASEL Guide also required an evaluation of each SELect program in a school setting with a preschool or elementary grade population (up to fifth grade). Outcomes had to be documented on student social or academic behavior and not just on measures of attitudes or perceptions. Group comparisons on outcomes had to be statistically significant at the p < .05 level, meaning that the probability was less than one chance in 20 that the results happened by chance—an acceptable level of significance in most research studies.