CASEL Updates Framework, Definition, Competencies, and Theory of Action

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CASEL Framework updated to put additional emphasis on how we can all learn to work together to create caring and just schools and communities.

CASEL Framework

In our efforts to keep you up-to-date let’s take a moment to revisit CASEL’s SEL framework(click to visit their site and engage in their INTERACTIVE SEL Framework). We’ve seen this before. A LOT. However, there were some revisions released in October 2020 that we wanted to draw your attention to.

Stated by Karen Niemi, CEO of CASEL, “As the creators of the most widely cited SEL definitions, CASEL now sees a need to clarify what’s necessary to achieve the vision of SEL for all educators, adults and young people. We’ve updated our definition and framework to pay close attention to how SEL affirms the identities, strengths and experiences of all children, including those who have been marginalized in our education systems. CASEL has continued to highlight the importance of enhancing the social-emotional competence of all young people and adults, while putting additional emphasis on how we can all learn and work together to create caring and just schools and communities.”

– Read more from this article at

CASEL's Updated Definition of SEL

Let’s start with the definition of SEL, which is subtly different than the 2017 version. This definition has been adopted by the ND SEL Leadership team.

CASEL SEL Definition

CASEL's FrameworkCASEL Framework-Definition

[Key Settings. CASEL’s framework takes a systemic approach that emphasizes the importance of establishing equitable learning environments and coordinating practices across key settings of classrooms, schools, families, and communities to enhance all students’ social, emotional, and academic learning.

Quality implementation of well-designed, evidence-based, classroom programs and practices is a foundational element of effective SEL. We believe it is most beneficial to integrate SEL throughout the school’s academic curricula and culture, across the broader contexts of schoolwide practices and policies, and through ongoing collaboration with families and community organizations.

These coordinated efforts should foster youth voice, agency, and engagement; establish supportive classroom and school climates and approaches to discipline; enhance adult SEL competence; and establish authentic family and community partnerships.

Students, families, schools, and communities are all part of broader systems that shape learning, development, and experiences. Inequities based on race, ethnicity, class, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other factors are deeply ingrained in the vast majority of these systems and impact young people and adult social, emotional, and academic learning. While SEL alone will not solve longstanding and deep-seated inequities in the education system, it can create the conditions needed for individuals and schools to examine and interrupt inequitable policies and practices, create more inclusive learning environments, and reveal and nurture the interests and assets of all individuals. ] --


In addition, CASEL has included a more elaborate definition of each competency as well as associated skills/indicators. Could use a little bit more here. The information noted below is taken directly from

[The CASEL 5. The CASEL 5 addresses five broad and interrelated areas of competence and highlights examples for each: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. The CASEL 5 can be taught and applied at various developmental stages from childhood to adulthood and across diverse cultural contexts. Many school districts, states, and countries have used the CASEL 5 to establish preschool to high school learning standards and competencies that articulate what students should know and be able to do for academic success, school and civic engagement, health and wellness, and fulfilling careers.

A developmental perspective to SEL considers how the social and emotional competencies can be expressed and enhanced at different ages from preschool through adulthood. Students’ social, emotional, and cognitive developmental levels and age-appropriate tasks and challenges should inform the design of SEL standards, instruction, and assessment. Given that, stakeholders should decide how best to prioritize, teach, and assess the growth and development of the CASEL 5 in their local schools and communities.] -- 

CASEL SEL Competencies

CASEL's Theory of Action 

Another new guiding document created by CASEL is its Theory of Action that is addressed in a recent, peer-reviewed journal article on systemic SEL titled Systemic SEL: Promoting Educational Success for All Preschool to High School Students.

CASEL Theory of Action

Ultimately, National experts have created a resource for us to think through systemic SEL. If Theory of Action is new to you, we read it left to right. If you don’t know where to begin, start with the Implementation Focus Areas, it might sound something like:

If we, invest in these actions:

  1. Building foundational support and creating a plan,
  2. Strengthen Adult competencies and capacity
  3. Promote SEL for students, and
  4. Reflect on data for continuous improvement

Apply the implementation focus areas to the companies in these key settings (CASEL wheel).

We can yield the following results:

  1. Short-Term:
    • Improved attitudes about self, others, and tasks
    • Perceived classroom and school climate
  2. Intermediate:
    • Positive social behaviors and relationships
    • Academic success
    • Fewer conduct problems
    • Less emotional distress
    • Less drug use
  3. Long-Term:
    • High school graduation
    • College/career readiness
    • Safe sexual behaviors
    • Healthy relationships
    • Mental health
    • Reduced criminal behavior
    • Civic engagement


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