Short Title

Interpreting Social-Emotional Learning


Social-emotional learning, adult learning, school leadership


The need for social-emotional learning for adults has emerged due to accountability stressors and the Covid-19 pandemic. While many school leaders believe in SEL for adults, major disconnects exist between their understanding and belief in SEL and their plans to implement it. The main problem this research sought to address integrated two ideas in the affective world of school leaders: First, research literature today does not describe what competencies from the most commonly used framework for SEL, CASEL, mean concerning school leadership. Second, research literature today does not describe how school leaders explicitly develop SEL skills and operationalize these competencies to influence teachers’ SEL. Considering the phenomenon of this study was school leaders' understanding and use of SEL skills, the overarching purpose for this study was to explore how school leaders in schools known for their SEL focus make sense of and use SEL skills for their leadership and with their staff and students. This study utilized a more modern form of grounded theory research called Constructivist Grounded Theory and used semi-structured interviews to collect data. Using the CASEL competencies as sensitizing concepts, five categories and 13 subcategories emerged from the data along with a separate but related category with three subcategories. The analysis of these findings suggests eight challenges school leaders face when trying to support the SEL of their teachers.



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