Over the past few years, social and emotional (SEL) research and implementation in K-12 settings and other sectors has increased exponentially. But many questions remain about how issues of equity intersect with the study and practice of SEL. In communities that face daily injustices, it is disingenuous at best, and harmful at worst, to engage in SEL efforts without attending to historical and contemporary systems that underlie inequities in education, well-being, and health. SEL efforts have historically evaded or been silent on such issues, and thus have been rightfully critiqued for placing the burden on individual youth to navigate SEL challenges. By contrast, transformative SEL refers to the integration of an explicit equity and social justice lens into the conceptualization and implementation of SEL.

The SCoPE and REQSEL Projects directly address the need for empirical studies of transformative SEL principles in practice.

Exploring Teacher Practice (SCoPE)

Developing a Measure (REQSEL)

School and Community Pathways to Engagement (SCoPE) was a mixed-method study that examined how social-emotional learning (SEL) practitioners "stretched" their SEL practice to be responsive to the identities and community concerns of students and their families. We were particularly interested in discovering the ways in which such practitioners leveraged these identities and concerns as assets in the process of achieving the school's and district's SEL aims and fostering civic engagement.

The overarching research question guiding the Racial Equity-Based SEL (REQSEL) measure development project is: How can we assess the extent to which practitioners advance racial equity through their social-emotional learning practices? Using findings from the SCoPE Project along with theory, prior research, and experience with practitioners, we are engaging in a mixed-methods study to develop, refine, and disseminate a measure to assess SEL practices that are aligned with transformative SEL principles.

Transformative SEL

Transformative SEL is a specific form of SEL implementation that concentrates SEL practice on transforming inequitable settings and systems, and promoting justice-oriented civic engagement.

Learn more about Transformative SEL from our colleagues at CASEL.

SCoPE Project Aims

  1. To examine the extent to which SEL practices are prospectively associated with civic engagement among Black and Latinx adolescents (A)

  2. To test the mediating roles of students' perceived equitable treatment, school engagement, and school belonging in the relation between SEL practices and civic engagement (B-E)

  3. To investigate whether and how teachers modify their SEL practice to incorporate a focus on community issues around social justice (C&F)

  4. To explore the role of family and community civic socialization at different points in the process (F-H)

Racial Equity-Based SEL (REQSEL) Measure Development Aims

  1. Iteratively develop a reliable, ecologically valid, and psychometrically sound measure of racial equity-oriented SEL practices

  2. Field-test the measure in large districts that serve racially marginalized youth

SCoPE by the Numbers

Project Team and Partners


This project is generously sponsored by the William T Grant Foundation. (Grant ID#188925, PI: Deborah Rivas-Drake, Co-PI: Enid Rosario-Ramos). Special thanks to the students, staff, and administrators at our participating school sites as well as our collaborators at the larger school district and CASEL. We thank all research assistants, research staff, and collaborators for their contributions to the research process.