Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Harrington Gibson

Second Advisor

Beth Minor

Third Advisor

Angela Elkordy



Students face increased mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, trauma, racial trauma, and suicide risk, in addition to opportunity gaps. Despite educators’ work to support students through mental health services and despite the existence of social emotional learning (SEL) programs within the school environment, the impact on student learning and long-term post high school outcomes can feel overwhelming. There is also a perception that the responsibility for SEL belongs only to social workers, psychologists and counselors. The primary research question is; how does embedding of SEL practices vary within instructional, non-instructional, and leadership roles? The related questions are: to what extent does staff capacity building for SEL practices incorporate support for the social emotional competence of both staff and students, and how does race relate to social emotional learning practices for staff and students? This study explores the context, conditions, culture, and competencies (Wagner et al., 2006) for District 321, utilizing qualitative and existing quantitative data. The findings detail the critical role of ongoing professional development to increase culturally responsive social emotional learning practices, build social emotional competencies of all staff, model SEL for students, and embed SEL within all practices and instruction. In addition, moving beyond social emotional learning programs for District 321, the consistent social emotional competency development of every employee is emphasized in consideration of the positive impact on student learning, school culture, and student and staff wellbeing.


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