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In Their Own Words, 2nd Edition: What Scholars Say about Social-Emotional Skill Development while Learning Remotely


In March 2020, the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI) published a brief entitled In Their Own Words: What Scholars Say About Social-Emotional Skill Development in Summer. This paper summarized youth survey findings from Summer 2019 related to scholars’ experiences with social and emotional learning (SEL) across six domains prioritized by BellXcel partners: growth mindset, self awareness, self-regulation, responsible decision making, social awareness, and interpersonal skills. Open-ended survey responses were analyzed to highlight specific areas of growth according to the scholars’ own words.

One year later, SCRI again set out to explore how SEL programming affected scholars in BellXcel’s partners’ programs, though this time through a very different lens. The COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effect on the educational landscape led BellXcel to develop a suite of tools, resources, and curricula to support partners in delivering high-quality remote learning programs in Summer 2020. The approach, called BellXcel Remote, sought to support the social and emotional (SE) needs of youth while offering engaging, teacher-led academic and enrichment activities for scholars and their families. BellXcel Remote emphasized relationships and routines above all else, asking staff to prioritize nurturing strong, positive relationships, putting in place consistent routines and schedules, creating a sense of belonging and emotional safety, and ensuring high levels of engagement.

SCRI conducted a mixed-methods analysis to learn about the scholar experience in a remote learning environment with the revised SEL focus and to see how scholars, in their own words, described their SE growth over the summer.

The analysis revealed a wealth of insights about how BellXcel Remote’s SEL programming positively impacted scholars and showed how participation in BellXcel Remote led to improved relationships, increased confidence, strengthened growth mindset, improved self regulation and engagement, and better routines and schedules.

Results are complemented by quantitative findings across stakeholder surveys and highlight the power a strong SEL curriculum can have on participants even remotely.

Click here for the complete research brief.


About SCRI

The Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI) is part of BellXcel, a national nonprofit with nearly 30 years’ experience innovating educational solutions rooted in evidence. Drawing on decades of firsthand implementation experience and a culture of continuous improvement, SCRI bridges the research to practice to policy gap, to help partners strengthen goals, implement high-quality practices, expand to reach more young people, and advocate for improved policies.

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