Afterschool Focus: Social-Emotional Learning

Although the 21st CCLC program often focuses on academic enrichment, an increase in students’ social-emotional skills is also one of the goals of the Illinois 21st CCLC program.1 The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) describes social-emotional learning as “the process through which children and adults acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to:

  • recognize and manage their emotions;
  • demonstrate caring and concern for others;
  • establish positive relationships;
  • make responsible decisions; and
  • handle challenging situations constructively.”2

Some studies have shown that nurturing positive relationships among youth and staff and fostering collaboration and cooperation among students are critical elements of high-quality afterschool programs.3 There is also research suggesting that these high-quality programs that include youth development and a focus on social-emotional learning in their programming have found improvements in areas like avoidance of drug and alcohol use and decreases in delinquency and violent behaviors. Other areas of improvement include better communications skills, confidence, decision making, desire to help others, problem solving, and general well being, to name a few.4

The following social-emotional learning standards are part of the Illinois Learning Standards:

  • Goal 1: Develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success.
  • Goal 2: Use social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships.
  • Goal 3:- Demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community contexts.5

Each one of the standards have corresponding indicators. For example, under self-awareness and self-management skills, early elementary students are asked to recognize and accurately label emotions and demonstrate control of impulsive behavior. Late elementary students are asked to identify verbal, physical, and situational cues that indicate how others may feel. Middle and junior high school students are expected to analyze factors that create stress or motivate successful performance and apply strategies to manage these situations. Early high school students are asked to analyze similarities and differences between their own and others’ perspectives. Late high school students are asked to evaluate how expressing their emotions in different situations affects others. A full list of the standards by age group is available on the Illinois State Board of Education website.

Some ways that ISBE recommends fostering social-emotional learning in the classroom and afterschool include

  • identifying ways to integrate social and emotional learning into existing systems and structures;
  • embedding social and emotional instruction into existing curricula;
  • taking advantage of teaching moments that naturally occur;
  • promoting students’ feelings of autonomy, relatedness, and competence; and
  • providing opportunities for students to practice social and emotional competencies.6


We invite you to explore the following resources for social-emotional learning:


ISBE, 2011.
2 ISBE, n.d.
3 Huang, Cho, Mostafavi, & Nam, 2008;  Jordan, Parker, Donnelly, & Rudo, 2009.
4 Little & Harris, 2003; Durlak & Weissberg, 2013
5 ISBE, 2010.
6 ISBE, n.d.


Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2013). Afterschool programs that follow evidence-based practices to promote social and emotional development are effective. In Peterson, T. K. (Ed.) Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success (pp. 194–198). Washington, DC: Collaborative Communications Group. Retrieved from

Huang, D., Cho, J., Mostafavi, S., & Nam, H. (2008). What works? Common practices in high functioning afterschool programs: The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning final report. Austin, TX: SEDL. Retrieved from

Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). (n.d.) Comprehensive System of Learning Supports: Social/Emotional Learning (SEL). Springfield, IL: Author. Retrieved from

Illinois State Board of Education. (2010). Illinois Learning Standards: Social/Emotional Learning (SEL). Springfield, IL: Author. Retrieved from

Illinois State Board of Education. (2011). Illinois state plan for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Springfield, IL: Author. Retrieved from

Jordan, C., Parker, J., Donnelly, D., & Rudo, Z. (2009). A practitioner’s guide: Building and managing quality afterschool programs. Austin, TX: SEDL. Retrieved from

Little, P. M. D., & Harris, E. (2003). A review of out-of-school time program quasi-experimental and experimental evaluation results. (Out-of-School Time Evaluation Snapshots No. 1) Retrieved from