Schools have the monumental task of educating youth, and they can’t go at it alone. Out-of-school partners, such as afterschool programs, are an important resource for schools. Yet, school and afterschool programs often lack cohesion and tend to be treated as separate entities. This results in missed opportunities to connect and reinforce lessons learned during the school day with outside instruction.

Schools and afterschool programs can use social and emotional learning (SEL) to increase coordination and reinforce instruction in a meaningful way. Both settings have unique aspects that work well for SEL. Schools often have access to a bigger pool of resources and support staff; afterschool programs often enjoy increased instructional flexibility and less rigid curricular demands that limit SEL efforts.

By working together, schools and afterschool programs can leverage their strengths to create a seamless, highly-effective SEL program that improves student outcomes.

How Educators Can Work Together

Below are six ways to combine the efforts of school and afterschool staff to improve students’ educational experiences and increase SEL program effectiveness:

1. SEL as part of the central mission: Afterschool programs are more likely to include SEL in their core goals and mission. Schools can learn from this and embed SEL in their central mission and strategic plans. SEL is more effective and sustainable when leadership makes clear that it’s a priority.

2. Social and emotional data: Universal SEL assessments help educators prioritize instruction based on group trends and tailor interventions to students’ unique needs. This framework can be applied to both in- and out-of-school settings, and staff can use the data in conjunction to maximize instruction.

3. SEL curriculum: Schools are more likely to utilize evidence-based curriculum to teach social and emotional concepts. Afterschool programs can learn from how schools implement SEL and integrate lessons with more structure. Of course, not all afterschool programs have the ability to implement curriculum the same way it’s used in schools, but staff may see benefits to implementing SEL in a more structured way.

4. Professional development: Training school staff along with afterschool facilitators can increase the effectiveness of SEL professional development. Hosting a joint session that brings the two groups together during training makes sense financially, and it ensures that all staff are on the same page when it comes to understanding SEL and teaching those skills to students.

5. Common language and expectations: One practice that can greatly increase the impact of SEL is to create a common language and expectations around it. Educators can more effectively teach SEL when they are clear on what students should be able to learn and do.

6. Using policy to strengthen partnerships: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes several SEL components, and schools are still working out how to implement them. Afterschool programs can strengthen their school partnerships by offering SEL-related activities that help schools meet ESSA’s new requirements.

There are many ways educators can improve the connection between school day instruction and afterschool activities with SEL. Combining SEL efforts in and out of school can result in a stronger SEL program and better outcomes for students. Contact our experts at Aperture Education to learn more and get started today.