Date of Award

Spring 4-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling & Psychology

First Advisor

Peiwei Li, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Daniel Simone, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Brandon Jones, Ph.D.


Following a comprehensive literature review on the topic of social-emotional learning (SEL), a noticeable gap revealed insufficient research to ensure all students gain access to the benefits of SEL, particularly racially diverse students from under-resourced backgrounds. As a result, this qualitative research study used narrative inquiry to explore the beliefs, viewpoints, and lived experiences of educators working in a K-12 public school setting related to social-emotional learning and equity in education. A purposive sampling strategy was utilized to invite 14 participants to share in a semi-structured interview conducted virtually. Data from participant interviews were investigated through thematic analysis to bring themes and subthemes within the transcripts to the surface.

Through a transformative learning lens, significant findings from the study unveiled considerations for what educators required for Adult SEL skills and mindset, resources, and professional learning to foster more equitable and inclusive learning environments for all youth. Participants advocated for educators to strengthen their adult SEL competencies and adopt a flexible mindset to reflect upon current practices, overcome obstacles, and embrace change. Participants also expressed how implementing systemic SEL involves stakeholder buy-in, consistently using an SEL curriculum, and weaving SEL efforts into the school culture to enhance academic learning and more equitable and inclusive practices.

Through a critical lens, participants shared how a candid evaluation of current policies and procedures could shift educators’ mindsets to view SEL as a tool for fostering the competencies necessary to manage issues related to trauma and student behavior effectively. Participants also discussed how SEL naturally augments equity and inclusivity efforts by creating a sense of belonging and encouraging students’ identities and cultural assets to be seen, heard, and valued. Finally, participants acknowledged that implementing a transformative approach to SEL required conditions to support its efficacy, including effective school leadership, increased family engagement, and authentic measures prioritizing teacher well-being.

Ultimately, the implications of this study revealed how transformative social-emotional learning can help build equity and culturally responsive teaching to promote inclusive learning environments and ensure all students benefit from social-emotional learning.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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