On May 1, more than 300 educators, researchers, and policymakers gathered for the inaugural exSEL Network conference, titled Social-Emotional Learning: Lessons Learned and Opportunities for Massachusetts, led by Transforming Education, the Rennie Center, and SEL4MA. Participants took part in breakout sessions focused on learning from the experiences of districts putting social-emotional learning policies and practices into place and hearing from experts about SEL supports and strategies.
The conference was kicked off by keynote speaker Dr. Stephanie Jones, Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and member of the Council of Distinguished Scientists for the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD). In her speech, Dr. Jones drew on the recommendations in the National Commission’s report From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope, calling for the assembled practitioners to focus on teaching social-emotional skills directly and explicitly, creating safe and supportive learning environments, supporting adult capacity, and building partnerships and alliances. Dr. Jones also invited the researchers and policymakers in attendance to build a research paradigm that begins with practice and emphasizes the intersection of research and practice.