Afterschool Research: Social and Emotional Learning

Addressing the needs of the whole child

Strong communication skills, responsible decision-making, and self-confidence are critical skills young people are developing in afterschool. 

Research has found that social and emotional learning—developing competencies in areas like the ability to communicate effectively with others, being a team player, making responsible decisions, and persevering through challenging circumstances—is linked to behavior in school and attitude toward school. And teachers agree that social and emotional learning is critical to students’ success in school. This section explores the ways in which afterschool programs are embedding social and emotional learning into their curriculum, helping students develop their leadership skills, grow their self-confidence, and interact with their peers. 

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Afterschool: Fostering Protective Factors that Can Last a Lifetime (September 2019)

New research tells us that the adolescent years are a highly important developmental period for brain growth and “the second most critical period of development.” However, there are factors at the individual and community levels that impact the development process. This includes both risk factors that increase the likelihood that one will take part in unhealthy behaviors, such as substance misuse, and protective factors that spur healthy behaviors and development. This issue brief, accompanied by in-depth afterschool program profiles, examines the way in which afterschool and summer learning programs promote protective factors to help young people to build up the skills and competencies they will need to navigate life’s challenges and become the country’s next generation of leaders, thinkers, and trailblazers.


Health and Wellness Issue Briefs

Featured Summary

An Ideal Opportunity: The Role of Afterschool in Social and Emotional Learning (May 2018)

Ensuring all children and youth thrive as they move through school and into their adult lives requires that they have the opportunity to develop the skills and competencies that will help them land their first job, navigate and overcome the challenges they will face, keep positive relationships, and make good decisions. Learn more in this issue brief about afterschool and summer learning programs, which have long been a place for positive youth development, helping in students' social and emotional development. In addition, in-depth afterschool program profiles that highlight the different roles programs play to support social and emotional learning complement this issue brief:


Afterschool Programs Inspiring Students with a Connected Learning Approach (January 2015)

Connected learning, an educational approach that integrates student interest and peer networks with academic pursuit, has been shown to create a deeper form of learning that help students succeed in school, work and life. Afterschool programs have been pioneers in this approach, with environments well-suited for connected learning. This report presents the benefits of the connected learning approach and explores how afterschool can continue to integrate the principles of connected learning into programs.

Executive Summary

Student-Centered Learning in Afterschool: Putting Students' Needs and Interests First (2011)

Now more than ever, creativity and imagination are an important part of helping children learn to think critically, solve problems and express themselves - all necessary to compete in today's global community. Wherever children are - in school or out - [student-centered learning opportunities] work to surround them with opportunities to develop skills and nurture talents that lead to success.


Afterschool: A Strategy for Addressing and Preventing Middle School Bullying (2011)

The Afterschool Alliance, in partnership with MetLife Foundation, is proud to present the second of four issue briefs in our fourth series examining critical issues facing middle school youth and the vital role afterschool programs play in addressing these issues. This brief emphasizes how afterschool programs, in partnership with schools, parents and the wider community, can help produce more emboldened students that know how to stand up to bullies, thereby promoting a bully-free environment in which all students can learn and grow.


Afterschool: Providing Multiple Benefits to Middle School Students (2010)

The Afterschool Alliance, in partnership with MetLife Foundation, is proud to present the first of four issue briefs in this series examining critical issues facing middle school youth and the vital role afterschool programs play in addressing these issues. This brief discusses the specific needs of middle school youth, the ways afterschool programs can meet these needs, and the barriers to participation that exist among middle school youth.


Afterschool and Global Competence: Expanding and Enhancing Learning Opportunities (2010)

In our increasingly globalized society, having knowledge about the world and understanding diverse perspectives or cultures is essential, however many youth do not have the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and perspectives needed for our global age. The Afterschool Alliance, in partnership with the Longview Foundation, is proud to present this issue brief examining the importance of global competence, describing ways afterschool programs are successfully facilitating global learning, and highlighting resources and partners for global learning.

Executive Summary

Afterschool: The Bridge Connecting Schools and Communities (2007)

The Afterschool Alliance, in partnership with MetLife Foundation, is proud to present the second of four issue briefs in a series examining the vital role afterschool programs play in supporting children, families and communities. This briefs addresses the benefits of bridging schools and communities, outlines how afterschool can help build this bridge and identifies quality programs that are already successfully linking school and communities.


Afterschool: The Natural Platform for Youth Development (2004)

This brief discusses the relatively new "youth development" movement, and explores the ways in which this movement can utilize afterschool programs as a solution to the increasing number of challenges our unsupervised youth are facing today.


Afterschool and the Building of Character (2003)

Respectfulness, positive behavior, self-confidence, and an interest in school are just a few traits kids can develop through participation in afterschool programs. Check out this issue brief to learn more about ways afterschool can help build character.