The Circulus Institute

Preparing learners to connect with each other and the world around them

Decades of research tells us that the integration of social, emotional and academic development leads to better people. In fact, in 2017, scientists in the fields of medicine, neuroscience, economics, psychology and education came together to learn more about this integration and to ultimately make the case for schools to adapt this approach. This Council of Distinguished Scientists affirmed what so many other researchers, economists, civic leaders and educators have known for some time now: when we invest in the social and emotional development of our youth, our young people learn better and our society reaps the economic, civic and social benefits.

This approach is critical with the international challenges we currently face and those we expect to escalate. The impact of climate change; polarization and authoritarian governments; automation and the elimination of jobs; and the gap between the very rich and poor, require solutions that are social, creative, compassionate, and culturally competent. These skills, along with others, are precisely the skills that are developed through a social and emotional approach to learning.

However, in order for adults to teach youth these skills, they must first be able to model their own social and emotional competencies. This is the mission of the Circulus Institute. While our vision is to reach all adults that play an important part in young people’s growth, such as mentors, school leaders, parents, employers, and youth development professionals, we must begin this journey by empowering our teachers. Unfortunately, teachers report that they have received inadequate training and therefore lack confidence in supporting students’ SEL and developmental needs.

Specifically, the evidence suggests that there are two critical gaps in teachers’ professional development in SEL: development of their own social and emotional competencies and stress management. Yet, according to Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, a developmental psychologist and the head of the University of British Columbia’s Social and Emotional Learning Lab “studies have consistently found that programs pay little attention to giving teachers the knowledge and skills they need to promote their students’ social and emotional competence and to create positive classroom environments that enhance student success.” Additionally, we know that teaching can be a stressful job, and when teachers experience constant stress and are not equipped with the strategies to manage negative emotions, their performance in the classroom declines and student misbehavior increases.

To address this gap, the Circulus Institute will offer the Social and Emotional Competencies Certification (SECC), which will provide teachers the opportunity to master these social and emotional competencies and well-being skills. In addition to offering the full certification program, the Circulus Institute will introduce its inaugural program, the Circulus Fundamentals for select educators, which offers early access to the foundational elements to the program. Circulus Fundamentals is a  blended learning experience, with in-person and online learning opportunities within the context of a supportive community and guided by the field’s experts.

1. Jones, S.M., Farrington, C.A., Jagers, R., Brackett, M. & Kahn, J. (in press). National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development: A research agenda for the next generation. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute.
2. Schonert-Reichl, K.A. (2017). Social and emotional learning and teachers. The Future of Children, 27(1), 137-155.
3. Osher, D., Sprague, J., Weissberg, R. P., Axelrod, J., Keenan, S., Kendziora, K., et al. (2007). A comprehensive approach to promoting social, emotional, and academic growth in contemporary schools. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology (Vol. 5, 5th ed., pp. 1263-1278). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.