Education Endowment Foundation:Personal Social and Emotional Development

Personal Social and Emotional Development

Approaches and practices to support Personal, Social and Emotional development in the Early Years

Approaches for supporting Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Introduction — using the Evidence Store

Information on how to make use of the Evidence Store is provided in the how-to guide. There is also a methodological summary of how the evidence was summarised and how we plan to improve it. The Evidence Store is a living resource with additional evidence, written examples and videos to be added in the future.

The Evidence Store’s recommended approaches can be applied across different contexts for teaching and learning in the early years (see pedagogical continuum here) and educators should reflect on how they can use the approaches and practices both during adult-initiated and child-initiated opportunities.

  • Evidence consistently shows that supporting young children’s PSED is effective
  • There is a growing body of evidence to support individual PSED approaches
  • However, the evidence is most reliable when approaches are applied together.

This theme seeks to foster children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED). These approaches can underpin academic or cognitiveRelated to the mental process involved in knowing, understanding, and learning. dimensions of learning. PSED includes social and emotional learning (SEL) and a child’s ability to self-regulateA child’s developing ability to regulate their emotions, thoughts and behaviour to enable them to act in positive ways toward a goal.. PSED approaches might seek to improve children’s emotional awareness and competence in the way they interact with peers, parents and other adults. PSED approaches also seek to improve children’s understanding and awareness of their bodies and their independence in terms of taking care of themselves; as such PSED is closely linked to children’s physical development.

There are multiple meta-analyses and systematic reviewsResearchers summarise all of the research on a particular topic, which meets pre-defined eligibility criteria, in order to answer a specific research question. This gives an objective overview of the evidence for a particular topic or research question. The methods used must be reproducible and transparent. that demonstrate that PSED interventions have a positive impact on young children’s social competenceA set of positive skills necessary to get along with others and function constructively in groups., emotional competenceA set of positive skills necessary for identifying, interpreting and constructively responding to emotions in oneself and others., self-regulation and learning. Children can benefit in terms of recognising, expressing and regulating emotions as well developing their ability to collaborate, negotiate and solve problems with others. Some PSED approaches may particularly benefit children experiencing disadvantage. The existing evidence suggests that universal PSED interventions (i.e. delivered to all children in a setting) are effective, while the evidence on targeted interventions (i.e. delivered only to children experiencing social, emotional or behavioural challenges) is inconclusive (Blewitt et al., 2018; Blewitt et al., 2021; Murano, Sawyer and Lipnevich, 2020). Although there is strong evidence for PSED interventions in general, individual approaches in this area are not all equally well-evidenced. There is promising evidence for teaching children emotional awareness and relationship management, but promoting self-care is currently under-researched in the field of education.

We would recommend that early years settings use multiple approaches to support children’s personal, social and emotional development, for two reasons. Firstly, a significant proportion of the evidence supporting PSED approaches in the early years comes from evaluations of programmes which combine several approaches; when approaches are combined, it is not possible to establish which of the approaches involved leads to improved outcomes for children. Secondly, all the PSED approaches appear to support each other and target similar skills; they are mutually reinforcing.

Evidence summary

Overarching summary of the evidence for personal, social and emotional developmentUploaded:  • 232.4 KB - pdf
Download resource Evidence summary