Principals SEL Brief

|
Research, Well at Work

Principals’ Social and Emotional Competence

A Key Factor for Creating Caring Schools

This brief reviews the research on principal stress, coping, and positive school leadership. However, the research is currently thin, especially on how principals’ professional development, preparation programs, and certification standards can be strengthened to improve principal well-being and school outcomes. We review various strategies to enhance effective leadership by supporting principals to deepen their social and emotional competencies, all of which set the foundation for student success. A conceptual model of the Prosocial School Leader is also included. We conclude with a series of recommendations on research, programs, and policies to build this field and improve the lives of principals for effective prosocial leadership.


This issue brief, created by The Pennsylvania State University, is one of a series of briefs that addresses the future needs and challenges for research, practice, and policy on social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. This is the second series of briefs that address SEL, made possible through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The first set synthesized current SEL research on early support for parent engagement and its effects on child outcomes; SEL in infancy/toddlerhood, the preschool years, the elementary school period, and middle-high school timeframes; and how SEL influences teacher well-being, health equity, and school climate.

Meet the Expert(s)

Julia Mahfouz_headshot

Dr. Julia Mahfouz

Assistant Professor, University of Idaho

Julia Mahfouz, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Educational Leadership program, Department of Leadership and Counseling at the University of Idaho. Her ...

Read More
Mark T. Greenberg_headshot

Mark T. Greenberg

Emeritus Professor, Bennett Chair of Prevention Science, Pennsylvania State University

Mark T. Greenberg, PhD, is Emeritus Professor at Penn State University and Founding Director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center. He is the...

Read More