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Toolkit: Introduction to SEL | Status: FINAL

Transforming Education

Build a deeper understanding of growth mindset, leave with at least one specific technique or idea to try in the classroom to support students developing growth mindset, and be introduced to a pilot project related to social-emotional learning that will support the development of your school accountability system.

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Intro to SEL: Video 1 - Student Voice

Intro to SEL: Video 2 - The Impact of Praise

Intro to SEL: Presentation

Pilot Overview Handout

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Pilot Overview: Developing a Broader Definition of Student and School Success


Our district and seven other California school districts are collaborating to develop a more holistic definition of student and school success. We believe that student success goes beyond academic test scores to include other factors that matter in college, career, and life. To that end, we are exploring ways to incorporate measures of student social-emotional competencies and school climate/culture into our new school accountability system.

Ours is one of about 20 schools that are participating in a pilot to help determine how to effectively measure social-emotional competencies. As part of this pilot, we will administer survey-based measures of student social-emotional competencies and provide feedback on how valid, feasible, and useful these measures prove to be for our school. The pilot is an opportunity for schools to provide input on these measures and receive actionable data that can help us support students more effectively.


Goals of the Pilot Project

The initial pilot project will build on existing knowledge to answer several key questions:


What We Know

  • Success in school and in life depends on more than academic ability alone.
  • Research has shown that specific social-emotional competencies—such as growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness—are linked to performance in school (i.e., to academic and behavioral outcomes) as well as long-term success in life (i.e., health, well-being, and financial outcomes).

What We Hope to Learn

  • Can we assess student social-emotional competencies quickly and reliably through student self-reporting and teacher report surveys?
  • How does each social-emotional competency that we are exploring relate to specific student outcomes such as grades and test scores?
  • Is the information collected from these surveys helpful to educators (e.g., does it help teachers provide differentiated supports to students)?


What to Expect as a School Participating in the Pilot

As a participating school, we will be testing out a set of preliminary surveys about student social-emotional competencies. Our school will designate a time this spring for students and teachers to complete the surveys.

In Each Participating School

Students will complete a one-period self-reflection survey.

  • Student surveys will be completed on paper. In order to keep the results confidential, we will use perforated survey forms. The top of each survey form will show the student’s name so that teachers can easily distribute the correct form to each student. Students will tear off this top portion once they receive their surveys.

Teachers will complete a one-hour survey about student behavior.

  • Teacher surveys will be completed online. Each teacher will receive a secure link enabling him/her to complete the one-hour survey at any point during the designated two-week window.
  • Teachers will be asked to assess students’ behavior with respect to four specific social-emotional competencies. (See competency descriptions below.)

In Each Participating School

Students’ and teachers’ individual survey results will be strictly confidential.

  • The survey results and your feedback will be used to improve the surveys for future years. Survey responses will have no bearing on student grades or teacher evaluations.

Schools will receive school- and grade-level reports of the survey results in the fall.

  • These reports will highlight key findings of the surveys, including the relationship between student social-emotional competencies and other indicators of student success (e.g. test scores, overall grades, effort grades, attendance, etc.)
  • We will have an opportunity to discuss these reports and share suggestions about the types of information and supports that would help our school use this data effectively.


Social-Emotional Competencies

The eight districts collaborating on this effort have prioritized following four social-emotional competencies for exploration:

  • Growth Mindset : The belief that you can grow your talents with effort. Students with a growth mindset see effort as necessary for success, embrace challenges, learn from criticism, and persist in the face of setbacks.
  • Self-Efficacy: The belief that you can succeed in achieving an outcome or reaching a goal. Self-efficacy reflects confidence in your own ability to control or manage your motivation, behavior, and environment.
  • Self-Management: The ability to effectively manage your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. This includes managing stress, delaying gratification, motivating yourself, and setting and working toward personal and academic goals.
  • Social Awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.


How Can I Learn More?

CORE is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve student achievement by fostering highly productive, meaningful collaboration and learning among its member districts. The member districts engaged in this effort to develop a more holistic definition of student success include Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento City, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana unified school districts. To learn more about this effort and related collaborations among California school districts, visit .


Transforming Education is a non-profit that helps districts develop policies and practices that support student social-emotional development. For more information about Transforming Education, please contact .

Introduction to SEL Workshop Facilitator Guide

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Introduction to SEL Workshop: Facilitator Guide


Overview: The “Introduction to SEL” session provides an opportunity for schools participating in the CORE SEL pilot to introduce to educators—or deepen their existing knowledge of—social-emotional learning as a critical component of student success. The session focuses on a specific competency, called growth mindset, which is one of four social-emotional competencies that the CORE districts have prioritized for exploration during their initial pilot effort. This session also serves as an introduction to the CORE SEL pilot effort itself: The final portion of the 60-minute session provides a broad overview of what schools participating in the pilot will do and what they can expect to learn.


Getting Started with the SEL Toolkit: The “Introduction to SEL Toolkit” contains the materials you or someone in your school will need to facilitate the “Introduction to SEL” session. Please download all of the materials if you haven’t already done so. If you have any questions, feel free to contact


Inventory: Your toolkit should include the following items:

  • 1_Introduction_to_SEL_Workshop_Facilitator_Guide.docx
  • 2_Introduction_to_SEL_Presentation.pptx (the main workshop slide presentation)
  • 3_Introduction_to_Growth_Mindset_Handout.docx
  • 4_Pilot_Overview_Handout.docx
  • Video_1_Teri_Student_Voice.mp4 (the first video in the workshop)
  • Video_2_the_Impact_of_Praise.mp4 (the second video in the workshop)
  • Two links: 1) , which goes to a feedback survey to be shared with workshop participants near the end of the session, and 2) , which goes to a survey for workshop facilitators to be filled out after the session


How to Use/Modify the SEL Toolkit : To make things as easy as possible, we’ve intentionally tried to put all of the information you need to run the session on the main presentation slides themselves and in this document. However, the session can be modified to suit your needs. The presentation and materials have been developed in editable formats so that you can modify them based on your own situation.


A Critical Step: Testing Your Technology Setup

At least two days before the workshop, we recommend that you download the presentation and both videos to the computer you will be using during the workshop. Please check that the presentation displays and advances properly. Also check that the videos embedded in slides 10 and 14 run when you reach the slide or click on them directly.


Additional Pre-Workshop Activities: Before the session, you will need to:

  • Make sure each participant will have a smartphone, iPad, or laptop for the feedback survey at the end.
  • Prepare an email to send to all participants with a link to the teacher feedback survey with directions that the link should not be opened until they are asked to do so.
    • It will be easiest to send the email out to participants just before the session begins. Please ask participants not to click on the link until the end of the session.
    • The PowerPoint presentation indicates when participants should fill out their surveys.


During Your Workshop

  • We recommend distributing the two handouts at the end of the workshop while participants are filling out their surveys.
    • The “Introduction to Growth Mindset” handout includes most of the content in the slide presentation, as well as some additional information on growth mindset.
    • The “Pilot Overview” handout includes information about the pilot project and survey in more detail than is included in the presentation. You may wish to distribute it during the session and also send teachers an electronic copy closer to the time when they will be administering the SEL survey.

Workshop Agenda for Facilitators


The following is an agenda that can be used to run the workshop session. The timing of each portion is an estimate only and can be adjusted based on your own situation


Session Length: 60 minutes


Getting Started (slides 1 to 4) 5 minutes

  • Participant objectives and a brief introduction to social-emotional learning


Warm Up: Stories From Your Classrooms (slide 5) 8 minutes

  • First discussion activity: It is up to you whether/how participants will share out. We recommend limiting sharing unless you plan to extend the length of the session.


Growth Mindset  (slides 6 to 8) 4 minutes

  • The two mindsets and what they look like


Teri’s Story (slides 9 to 12) 9 minutes

  • Video 1: Interview with Teri (Video_1_Teri_Student_Voice.mp4)
  • A Brief Look at Teri’s Growth: a quick exercise to focus participants’ attention
  • Research supporting growth mindset


One Way to Encourage Growth Mindset (slides 13 to 14) 5 minutes

  • Video 2: How praise impacts mindset (Video_2_the_Impact_of_Praise.mp4)


Growth Mindset in Class (slides 15 to 16) 12 minutes

  • Second discussion activity: picturing a growth mindset classroom


Sample Growth Mindset Practices (slides 17 to 24) 5 minutes

  • A series of ideas from other educators 
    • Please send the email with the participant survey link now, if you have not already done so. Ask participants not to follow the link until the end.


The Survey and the Project (slides 25 to 29) 5 minutes

  • Your school’s role in the pilot project, including basics about the survey 


Time for Some Feedback (slides 30 to 32) 5 minutes

  • Ask teachers to take out their smartphone, iPad or laptop
  • Ask teachers to look in their email for the survey link and fill it out before they leave
  • The link is also shown on screen:
  • Distribute both handouts
    • 1) Introduction to Growth Mindset Handout and 2) Pilot Overview Handout




Facilitator Survey

Introduction to Growth Mindset Handout

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Introduction to Growth Mindset


Students with a fixed mindset believe that their own intelligence and talent are innate traits that don’t change (“I just can’t learn math.”). These students typically worry about not looking smart, get upset by mistakes, and give up sooner on tough tasks. Students with a growth mindset believe that ability can change as a result of effort, perseverance, and practice (“Math is hard, but if I keep trying, I can get better at it.”). Students with a growth mindset see mistakes as ways to learn, embrace challenges, and persist in the face of setbacks. [i] High-performing students and low-performing students may have either mindset. Whether or not students are aware of their mindset, a broad body of research has shown that what they believe about their own intelligence can affect their effort, engagement, motivation, and achievement as measured by test scores, school grades, passing rate in post-secondary education, and other metrics. [ii]


Why This Matters: A growth mindset may contribute to better outcomes in school and beyond.

MindsetGraphic_sm_ORIGINAL_cropped.jpg Lower Failure Rates: Low-achieving students at 13 California high schools failed 7% fewer courses and improved their GPAs by .18 grade points after a one-period class designed to boost growth mindset. [iii]

Improved Scores: When a group of struggling 7 th grade students in New York City learned to 1) think of their brains as muscles that grow with exercise and 2) visualize new connections developing within their brains, their motivation and math scores improved at a time when math achievement typically declines. [iv]

Increased Effort: Seventh-grade students receiving growth-mindset feedback (“I’m giving you these comments because I have high standards and know that you can meet them.”) were twice as likely to revise and resubmit an assignment. [v]

More Problems Solved : Students who saw a growth mindset-related message (e.g., “When you learn a new kind of math problem, you grow your math brain!”) correctly solved 3% to 5% more online math problems compared to those who didn’t see growth mindset-related messages. The change carried over to the next math topic the students tackled. [vi]

Neuroscience and Mindset : Recent findings in cognitive neuroscience support the ideas underlying growth mindset. Intelligence is not fixed, but rather, learning occurs through rich interactions between students, teachers, and their environments. We can see these changes in the brain, where learning leads to new neural connections forming and strengthening. This brain plasticity and development continues across the lifespan. Research has shown that learning about brain plasticity can help students develop a growth mindset. [vii]


Growth Mindset Can Be Taught [viii]

Praising Effort and Process Over Results

  • “Wow, you did great on that. You must have worked really hard.”
  • “Tell me about the different strategies you used to get to that answer.”

Nurturing a Culture That Tolerates Risk

  • “We value taking on tough challenges more than we value easy success.”

Emphasizing Process and Perseverance

  • Instead of displaying only finished student work, post work in progress or drafts so students can see how work evolves with effort and feedback.

Thinking of the Brain as Something That Grows

  • Work with your students to create posters or other reminders that the brain, like a muscle, grows and gets stronger with effort.

Encouraging Students to Share Advice

  • Have students write tweets, blog posts, or letters giving advice to a struggling student who doesn’t think he is smart enough to succeed.

Framing Mistakes as Part of the Learning Process

  • When introducing new material, say something like: “After you do this lesson, I’m going to ask each of you to share a mistake you made while doing your work, because mistakes help us learn.”

Specifically Rewarding Effort and Process:

  • Create a grading rubric focusing on effort or process in addition to one focusing on outcomes.

Communicating High Expectations:

  • As part of written feedback to students (especially those who are underperforming) explicitly communicate high expectations: “I’m giving you these comments because I have high standards and I know that you can meet them.”


Want to Know More? We have provided lots of resources on growth mindset and social-emotional learning! You can access them by:


[i] Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development , 78(1), 246-263.

[ii] Aronson, J., Fried, C. B., & Good, C. (2002). Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology , 38(2), 113-125; Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development , 78(1), 246-263; Dweck, C. S., Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. (2011). Academic tenacity. White paper prepared for the Gates Foundation. Seattle, WA.; Yeager, D. S., Walton, G., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Addressing achievement gaps with psychological interventions. Phi Delta Kappan , 94, 62-65.

[iii] Yeager, D. S., Walton, G., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Addressing achievement gaps with psychological interventions. Phi Delta Kappan , 94, 62-65.

[iv] Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development , 78(1), 246-263.

[v] Yeager, D. S., Walton, G., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Addressing achievement gaps with psychological interventions. Phi Delta Kappan , 94, 62-65.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development , 78(1), 246-263.

[viii] Dweck, C.S., (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, v. 68 (1). Pp. 16-20. Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Technology of Success (2006).

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