Over the last 30 years, a large body of scholarship has shown that high-quality practices in social and emotional learning can make a substantial difference in children’s educational experiences, and may serve as a powerful lever for transforming children’s learning and positive behavior at scale. Specifically, research indicates that preparing children to be caring, ethical, contributing adults requires supporting them to develop social, emotional, and character skills that include focusing and deploying attention; understanding and managing emotions; empathizing with and respecting others; navigating social conflicts effectively; and standing up for principles of justice and fairness. Throughout history, schools and community centers have served as an important context for building this combination of skills and habits via programs and practices focused on an inter-related set of SEL skills. In this landscape, SEL Kernels are a low-cost and flexible approach that integrates SEL into the daily routines, instructional practices, and activities of schooling. Grounded in a content analysis of 50+ evidence-based SEL programs, SEL Kernels are an alternative to traditional more comprehensive programs, which can be expensive and difficult to implement. Kernels are easy to adapt and localize to fit different educational contexts around the world.
Stephanie M. Jones is the Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Child Development and Education and Director of the EASEL Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research, anchored in prevention science, focuses on the effects of poverty and exposure to violence on social, emotional, and behavioral development from early childhood through early adolescence. Over the past fifteen years, her work has centered on evaluation research addressing the impact of preschool- and elementary-level social-emotional learning interventions on behavioral and academic outcomes and classroom practices, as well as new curriculum development, implementation, and testing. Jones is also co-Director (with Nonie Lesaux) of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative and Co-PI of the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H). She serves on numerous national advisory boards and expert consultant groups related to social-emotional development, early childhood education, and child and family anti-poverty policies, including recently as a member of the Council of Distinguished Scientists for the Aspen National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. Her research is published in academic and educational journals as well as in trade publications, and she regularly presents her work to national academic and practitioner audiences. Jones holds a BA from Barnard College and a PhD from Yale University.