Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools?

The Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools is a partnership of the College of Saint Elizabeth and Rutgers University. Our mission is to help educators develop the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary to support social-emotional learning, character development, and positive culture and climate in schools.

We are supported primarily by NoVo Foundation and led by two recognized experts in psychology, school improvement, and child development. Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D., is professor of psychology and director of the Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab at Rutgers University. Patricia Heindel, Ph.D., is dean of professional studies and director of the Center for Human and Social Development at at the College of Saint Elizabeth.


I’m a teacher or principal. What does the Academy offer for me?

The Academy offers two online programs. For educators who work or aspire to work primarily at the school and district levels, we offer the Certificate in School Leadership for Social-Emotional Learning and Character Development. For educators who work or aspire to work primarily at the classroom or small group level, in or out of school, we offer the Certificate for Direct Instruction in Social-Emotional Learning and Character Development.

Participants in the school-leadership program enroll at the College of Saint Elizabeth. More information about this program is available on the enrollment page of this website. Participants in the direct-instruction program enroll at Rutgers University. More information about that program is available at


Why should I enroll in these programs? How are they relevant to teaching science, math or other academic areas?

Research shows that children benefit tremendously when educators know how to support social-emotional learning, character development, and positive school culture and climate. Unfortunately, few educators have a fundamental understanding of these concepts and how to implement them in schools and classrooms.

In 2011, a peer-reviewed analysis of 213 programs in systematic, multi-year social-emotional learning found that K-12 students who participated in the programs demonstrated significantly improved academic performance, reflecting achievement growth of more than 11 percentile points. The study, published in Child Development, found that participating students also showed improvements in behavior and attitudes toward themselves and others, as well as a lower likelihood of emotional distress such as depression.

Teachers and principals can successfully conduct  programs in social-emotional and character development, but they must also know how to create positive overall conditions in schools and classrooms that allow these programs — and the students involved in them — to thrive. The Academy’s courses prepare educators to create these positive learning environments regardless of the specific programs or curricula they employ.


Are there direct contacts among students or is it all asynchronous?

Generally, participants meet for online workshops every week during SEL101, every two weeks during SEL201, and every month during SEL301. However, exact class schedules vary by section. For more detailed information, please check our latest schedules for the school-leadership and direct-instruction course sequences.


Can I really complete all requirements online?

Courses for both programs are entirely online, but some assignments require participants to be concurrently employed in a school, after-school program, or school system. For example, the third course in each program is a practicum that requires participants to address a vital problem in their workplace related to social-emotional learning, character development or school culture and climate. Your role must allow you to be able to implement an intervention, report on the outcome, and propose a course of future work after completion of the program. If you are uncertain about your status in this regard, contact the certificate program of interest and someone will discuss the details with you.


I work in education, but without direct access to a school or students. May I obtain the certificate by completing an alternate project as my practicum?

It’s possible. We recognize that many of those who are most interested in social-emotional learning and character development work outside of schools, in places such as regional education centers, community partner organizations, and state-level agencies. We consider such situations on a case-by-case basis and encourage you to contact us with your questions before enrolling in the Academy.


Do these programs satisfy continuing-education or certification requirements? Do they carry graduate or undergraduate credit?

In many cases, our alumni can apply completed courses from the Academy toward their continuing-education requirements, and we provide letters of completion to support alumni in doing so. However, the decision of whether to honor specific continuing-education units is ultimately with participants’ employers and certifying authorities, so we highly encourage interested participants to check local requirements to be sure about reimbursement status.

The Academy’s programs do not serve as certification pathways for teachers or principals, and they do not (at this time) carry university credits leading to a graduate or undergraduate degree. They are intended as value-added education for educators who are interested in social-emotional learning and character development, and who are already certified or intend to earn certification or a degree through a separate program.


What resources or support can I expect after complete a certificate program?

Becoming an alumni of the Academy means joining an extensive network of fellow alumni across the world. It also gives you access to our online professional learning community, which includes carefully curated resources and access to experienced practitioners who can mentor you in designing, implementing and leading initiatives related to social-emotional learning, character development and school culture and climate. Lifelong membership in our professional learning community is exclusive to our program participants.


How do I apply?

Applications to both programs are currently free. Instructions for the school-leadership program are available on the enrollment page of this website. Instructions for the direct-instruction program are available on the eligibility page of the Rutgers University website.


May I enroll in just one course?

Yes. Enrollment in a single course still requires an application, and single-course participants must still begin in SEL101 before continuing to SEL201 and SEL301 within the School Leadership sequence and a parallel set of courses within the Direct Instruction sequence. Single-course participants can later decide to complete an entire sequence to earn a certificate, so long as they begin and end within the same sequence at either the College of Saint Elizabeth or Rutgers University.


I want to enroll, but the available sections don’t suit my schedule. What should I do?

Please check our websites at least once a month. (For future sections in the school-leadership program, check this website. For future sections in the direct-instruction program, check the Rutgers University website.) We post all new sections as soon as they become available.

Additionally, you should submit your application as soon as possible. Once you are admitted, you may defer enrollment to a future section as long as your eligibility remains the same. Being an admitted participant also gives you priority access to a seat in a future section, ahead of others who have not yet been admitted.


I’m an experienced educator with extensive prior knowledge of social-emotional learning, character development and school culture and climate. Do I need to take SEL101?

We want all participants in SEL201 and SEL301 to share a common understanding of fundamental concepts, and we have designed SEL101 to be both affordable and short enough for almost any educator to complete it efficiently before advancing to the next courses.

However, some participants come to us with enough prior knowledge and experience to demonstrate that they are prepared to enter on an accelerated path. While these exceptions are rare, we may occasionally grant them to applicants who express interest and the appropriate qualifications in their materials.  The accelerated path within the Direct Instruction certificate program at Rutgers has its own separate application process.


I do not have an education degree. Should I apply?

Yes. We generally weigh an applicant’s experience and career path more heavily than a specific educational background. However, participants in the school-leadership program at the College of Saint Elizabeth must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and participants in the direct-instruction program at Rutgers University must be currently enrolled in a college or university or have completed at least 60 undergraduate credits.


I live outside of the United States. Should I apply?

Yes. Many of our participants join us from other countries. However, because of differences in time zones, please take careful note of online-workshop times for the sections in which you intend to participate. Because peer community and discussion is very important in our programs, we require all participants to concurrently participate in these online workshops, regardless of their geographic location.


I am not an educator. Is the Academy right for me?

Maybe. Generally speaking, we consider anyone working with children in groups to be educators, whether your background is in youth work, positive youth development, school psychology or counseling, social work, students assistance, and related fields.  We value interest in social-emotional learning and character development from individuals in all fields, and we have designed our program for educators who can affect change within their schools and classrooms. While our admission requirements for SEL101 alone are least stringent because many can benefit from an overview of the field, individuals will not be eligible to earn a certificate until they can successfully complete a practicum, which requires implementation of an intervention in a school, classroom, or after-school setting.


Can I enroll my entire team in the Academy?

Depending on the size of your group, we may be able to accommodate a separate section or number of seats. Please contact us directly for further details on group eligibility and registration. Leadership teams should use email Teaching teams should email


I submitted my application, but I have not received a reply. What should I do?

We review applications on a rolling basis and generally respond within two weeks after submission. Please contact us if you have not heard from our admissions team and your intended course section is quickly approaching. For inquiries related to the school-leadership program, please email For inquiries related to our direct-instruction program, please email


How can I pay tuition?

Tuition is payable in advance, but exact instructions vary by program. Detailed guidance is included with registration materials provided after admission.


Are scholarships or other financial aid available?

While the Academy itself does not offer financial aid at this time, many other organizations provide grants to educators who are pursuing continuing education and field-specific training in social-emotional learning, character development or school culture and climate. In many cases, participants’ employers reimburse tuition.

We will gladly provide letters of admission and completion for participants, and individual facilitators may provide letters of recommendation for scholarships on a case-by-case basis. But because of the wide variety of eligibility requirements, the Academy is not able to assist with scholarship searches or applications.


I have another question that’s not covered here. How do I contact the Academy?

For inquiries related to the school-leadership program, please email For inquiries related to our direct-instruction program, please email