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Research Questions

  1. How did OST programs incorporate SEL into their programming?
  2. How did out-of-school-time intermediaries (OSTIs) support OST programs in their SEL efforts?
  3. What approaches to implementing SEL programming worked well?

Out-of-school-time (OST) programs have long focused on children's social and emotional development as part of their mission of building a culture of connectedness and positive relationships between youth and adults. Research demonstrates that high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs are associated with positive outcomes, including improved behavior, attitudes, and academic performance. This report provides tips and recommendations for incorporating high-quality SEL instruction and practices into OST programming for children and youth. The lessons are derived from the RAND Corporation's study over four years of more than 100 afterschool programs across six communities — Boston, Dallas, Denver, Palm Beach County, Tacoma, and Tulsa — participating in The Wallace Foundation's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative. The report summarizes a variety of approaches and actions that OST programs developed over four years to support children's social and emotional development, including adding SEL content and practices into their programming, training staff in SEL, engaging families, and adopting continuous improvement systems to monitor and refine these efforts.

Key Findings

  • Short SEL rituals were easy to implement and widely used.
  • OST staff frequently integrated SEL by using instructional strategies to develop SEL skills and making connections to SEL topics.
  • Early kickoff training was complemented by additional trainings throughout the year.
  • SEL trainings increasingly emphasized development of adult SEL skills.
  • Engaging families in SEL took time, advance planning, and in-person contact.
  • OST programs tended to rely on observation and survey data to inform goal-setting and monitor implementation.
  • OSTIs supported OST programs in a variety of ways, including connecting them to broader networks of support and SEL instructional content, providing professional development about SEL, and leading continuous quality improvement processes.


  • Phase in SEL instruction over time.
  • Deliver multiple SEL professional development opportunities spread throughout the year.
  • Engage with families about SEL using multiple forms of outreach.
  • Track SEL implementation as part of a continuous quality improvement cycle.
  • Consider how OSTIs — or other similar organizations, such as mayor's offices, district afterschool offices, or youth-based networks — can help OST programs offer SEL activities.

Research conducted by

This study was sponsored by The Wallace Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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