Date of Award



© 2020 Christopher T. Basta

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Suzan Nelson

Second Advisor

Corinna Crafton


Society, parenting, and public education have changed drastically over the past several decades. As a result, public schools recognize the need to address student social and emotional learning (SEL) in addition to their academic growth. Although there is abundant research into the benefits of SEL and various methods for delivering SEL instruction, there is a dearth of research studying teacher perceptions and understandings of SEL embedded in academic instruction. The purpose of this study was to explore teacher perceptions of social-emotional learning (SEL) during academic instruction. This phenomenological study’s research questions were (a) How do teachers’ past experiences and training with embedding social-emotional learning in academic instruction inform their approach to teaching? and (b) How and to what extent do teachers perceive they are addressing their students’ social-emotional needs during academic instruction?

Six teachers from a kindergarten to fourth grade public school participated in this study. Data was collected via an SEL survey, semi-structured interviews, and classroom observations. Participants had a general understanding of SEL and focused their related work with students around the SEL competency of relationship skills. Each of the six participants relied on the stand-alone SEL program, Second Step, as the sole way of addressing the five SEL competencies with their students. There was little to no evidence of participants purposefully having students apply these competencies within academic settings. The researcher noted that participants addressed student emotions and relationships across their school day, but did not embed social and emotional skill instruction, practice, or application within academic content instruction.

All school districts must critically examine how they have implemented SEL and provide ongoing, targeted professional development to staff related to the five SEL competencies and embedding SEL within academic instruction. There is a need for future research into how teachers’ own social emotional development and SEL training impacts their ability to deliver meaningful, embedded SEL instruction to their student during academic instruction. Further investigation is also needed to determine to what extent a teacher’s inclusion of SEL during academic instruction improves academic performance for students compared to classrooms where SEL is provided only via a stand-alone program.


Ed.D. Dissertation