Transformative Social-Emotional Learning

Transformative SEL (T-SEL) Professional Development at Urban Teachers

Given the impact of COVID-19 on student academic and emotional health as well as the racial justice related stressors for students in our partner districts, the need for culturally-relevant social-emotional supports has never been higher. Observing a need for additional social-emotional learning (SEL) training for teachers in the cities we serve, Urban Teachers secured US Department of Education funding to create equity-centered SEL content to enhance the professional development opportunities for educators. We’ve aligned the modules to the Collaborative for Academic (CASEL) Social and Emotional Learning Framework, intentionally emphasizing the transformative SEL (T-SEL)  equity elaborations described in the chart below.

Program Description and Details

The transformative social-emotional learning (T-SEL) professional development series is a set of online, self-paced modules full of interactive, reflective exercises and resources including sample activities and lesson plans. Upon completion of the program, teachers will: know the foundations of the T-SEL framework and their connections to culturally relevant pedagogy; understand how to develop T-SEL competencies within themselves and their students; and have the skills to implement T-SEL practices in their classrooms. Components of T-SEL based instruction include: 

— Partnerships between students and adults that focus on authenticity, power sharing, and joint decision making. 

— Integrating issues of race, culture, and class into academic content. 

— Honoring students’ individual cultures and lived experiences.  

— Opportunities to reflect on personal and social identities, examine prejudices and biases, disrupting and resisting inequities, and co-constructing equitable and just solutions.  

— Emphasizing students’ ability to work toward more just schools and communities. 

— Creating belonging and engagement for all. 

T-SEL professional development is free to current Urban Teacher participants, who will receive coaching to support the development and implementation of their T-SEL practice. Our modules – along with train-the-trainer and coaching services – are also available to districts, schools, and community-based organizations. Anyone interested in taking the professional development or acquiring it for their school(s) can sign up here or reach out to [email protected] for more information. 



“Explicitly teaching students to recognize a feeling and then select a positive self-management strategy is necessary for creating a classroom culture that feels safe. Positive self-management strategies will be important skills for students to have outside the classroom and later in life.”

Bryan LaRosa (Urban Teachers Cohort 2019), Language Acquisition Teacher, McFarland Middle School, Washington, DC

More About T-SEL

SEL has been shown to have myriad positive impacts on students’ lives and academic performance. Quality SEL instruction and skills can promote positive development, improve academic performance and mental health, predict positive long-term outcomes such as high school graduation and stable employment, as well as improve teacher wellbeing while reducing exhaustion and burnout.

Through addressing the missing equity links in the original SEL framework, we believe T-SEL will have a similar or better effect, especially for children in the cities we serve, where students are impacted daily by persistent inequity and injustice. In line with Urban Teachers’ mission to prepare culturally competent teachers who disrupt systems of socioeconomic and racial inequity, as well as our commitment to anti-racism, we are concerned about the criticism that SEL has faced over failing to meet the needs of students of color. We are also greatly concerned by the disproportionate negative psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on children of color and its corresponding mental health crisis. As such, Urban Teachers deliberately committed to T-SEL as the focus of its professional development program. 

Urban Teachers is also conducting a randomized controlled trial of our T-SEL endeavor with our research partner, the American Institutes for Research. The study will determine how the T-SEL modules can support:

— Teachers’ perceptions, knowledge and use of T-SEL in the classroom.

— Students’ perceptions of self, others, school, classroom safety and inclusion.

— Improvement of standardized test scores in math and English language arts.

— Decreased absences and disciplinary incidents.

Additional scholarly resources used to develop our T-SEL program can be found here.