With recent educational demands placed on academic accountability, it is difficult for many people to determine or acknowledge where or how focusing on social and emotional learning (SEL) can be beneficial. In this paper we focus on principals’ beliefs and attitudes about social and emotional learning. Principals influence implementation through their school priorities, vision, expectations, and emphases. We used grounded theory techniques and semi-structured interviews with K-8th grade principals of public schools located in a state in the southeastern United States. When describing principals’ beliefs and attitudes, late majority adopters held neutral attitudes and weak beliefs regarding SEL. In addition, a lack of understanding of the SEL concept became evident as principals did not express a clear understanding of SEL. Comprehensive training at the administrative and policy level is needed. Principals should implement targeted staff training providing key strategies for intentionally integrating SEL skills into their current curriculum.


Social and Emotional Learning, Principal Leadership, Education, Urban, Beliefs, Attitudes, Influence, Grounded Theory

Author Bio(s)

Kimberly Jones is an Instructor/ Program Development Specialist at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Department of 4-H Youth Development. She has provided statewide leadership in the area of character development for the past ten years, and has worked with the 4-H Youth Development program for over 16 years. She teaches a graduate-level course in nonformal youth programs. Her research interests include social and emotional learning, character education, nonformal educational programs, and program development. Please direct correspondence to kyjones@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Melissa Cater is an associate professor of program evaluation at Louisiana State University and Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation. She leads statewide evaluations for the 4-H Youth Development and Snap-Ed programs. She teaches graduate-level courses in program development, survey design, and data collection methods with children and youth. Her research interests include evaluation of nonformal educational programs, assessing program quality and the implementation of programs, survey design for youth audiences, and youth engagement in out-of-school-time contexts. Please direct correspondence to mcater@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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