Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School Psychology


In 2003, the state of Illinois passed the Children's Mental Health Act, becoming the first state to develop standards focused specifically on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) while mandating the use of SEL instruction in schools. Over a decade and a half later, it is unclear to what degree, if any, Illinois teachers are aware of the standards as a means to guide SEL instruction, or if they possess sufficient awareness of SEL as a framework to systematically support social-emotional development in the first place. In recent years, SEL has received much attention in the field of education. A body of literature has emerged linking SEL to a variety of positive student outcomes including academic achievement (Durlak, Weisberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Zins, Bloodworth, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). During this time, SEL has been referred to as a "global phenomenon" (Humphrey, 2013) and the "missing link" (Civic Enterprises, Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Hariharan, 2013) in a successful, modern education system. Certainly, there is much to be excited about SEL. However, a persistent gap exists between what has been demonstrated through research as effective practice and what schools actually do on a day to day basis. If SEL initiatives are to achieve desired outcomes, greater attention must be given to the process of implementation. This attention should include the capacity of teachers to effectively put these programs in place (Durlak & Dupre, 2008). This study surveyed a non-random, purposive sample of 129, K-12 teachers in Illinois to evaluate their capacity to provide SEL instruction as well as their awareness and use of the Illinois SEL Standards. Quantitative and qualitative analyses indicated that although teachers perceive SEL instruction as valuable and important, they lack the self-efficacy and experience to confidently provide SEL instruction. In general, high school teachers reported lower levels of capacity to provide SEL instruction relative to teachers at younger school levels. Finally, teachers at all levels reported very limited familiarity with and use of the Illinois SEL Standards.

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