Social Emotional Learning

SEL is the process through which people manage emotions, achieve goals, show empathy, maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. These skills, essential for academic and professional success and to thrive in an ever-changing global society, become particularly necessary in times of crisis or conflict.

Rooted in a combination of education practice and psychology, World Learning’s SEL approaches focus on a range of competencies such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and conflict resolution. SEL is a pillar of World Learning’s Holistic Learning Approach and is imbued in the teacher professional development we lead and the teaching and learning materials we develop. Our team uses culturally relevant activities and approaches that ensure that educational activities support students’ and teachers’ well-being in a holistic manner, embedded in a safe and welcoming environment.

More than a decade ago, World Learning began providing psychosocial support trainings. Since that time, we have created SEL frameworks and curricula and implemented educational programs and trainings around the world. We work with government agencies, teachers, parents, schools, and local partners to assess needs and resources and develop culturally and contextually specific tools and materials. This locally led methodology ensures there is collective ownership and long-term, sustainable improvement in students’ social and emotional development. It ensures a broader, more transformational change.

In Lebanon—which has experienced political instability, an economic crisis worsened by the pandemic and the 2020 port explosion, and an influx of refugees—World Learning was instrumental in helping to build a national SEL framework that is strengthening the country’s national and local education systems. Through the USAID-funded Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement programs (QITABI 1 & 2), World Learning supports Lebanon’s public and semi-private schools to improve learning outcomes across literacy, numeracy, and SEL.

Through our work embedding SEL and Universal Design for Learning principles into STEM teaching in Algeria, to our programs in Uzbekistan equipping youth with life skills, to our professional exchange programs on how to integrate SEL into the classrooms for teachers of English as a foreign language, World Learning grounds its programming in research-based SEL principles.

In addition, we implement well-established measurement tools to generate meaningful data that leads to increased accountability and stronger programs. This ensures that we use evidence-based SEL strategies in ways that are most meaningful to a local context.

People-to-People Exchanges

Building relationships across cultures is vital to creating a more peaceful and just world. When people from diverse cultures and backgrounds know and understand one another—and gain the skills they need to contribute as citizens and leaders—they form the global partnerships that undergird global security, economic stability, and tolerance.

World Learning offers dozens of exchange programs each year, empowering people from more than 150 countries at all points in their careers and academic lives. Our professional exchanges include networking opportunities with U.S. and international counterparts, site visits, and industry and community discussions; our academic exchanges place international students in U.S. colleges and universities to strengthen their leadership and career skills; and our youth programs teach young people about leadership, current affairs, and peacebuilding. These exchanges promote tolerance, empathy, and respect, as well as foster a deeper understanding of U.S. values and culture.

Building on our decades of experience, World Learning also creates custom professional exchanges designed to help participants build their global networks and gain knowledge to succeed on an international level. We work with professional associations to develop an agenda that addresses their needs, ensuring that the exchange is relevant to their members’ professional development.

Read on to see how we incorporate the five signature elements of World Learning’s approach to change into our People-to-People Exchange programming or check out our Theory of Change for an even more detailed look at what sets us apart.

Global Education

Global education is the linchpin of progress. Yet nearly 20 percent of the world’s school-aged children will not reach fourth grade. Another 20 percent will fail to learn basic skills like literacy and numeracy. High dropout and repetition rates, in combination with other obstacles—such as poverty, conflict, gender inequality, language, and disability—compound this problem. And while higher education is often viewed as the surest path out of poverty and to a better life, many universities lack the ability to train students in skills essential to the 21st century workforce.

World Learning believes everyone has the right to a high-quality education. We help make that vision a reality through our cutting-edge global education programming tailored to each country and context. In our Basic Education programming, we strengthen four key players —teachers, administrators, government, and community—so they can pursue lasting change to the educational system together. We work with higher education systems and individual institutions, too, as they seek to improve lives and generate thought leadership for their countries.

Read on to see how we incorporate the five signature elements of World Learning’s approach to change into our Global Education programming. You can also check out our Basic Education Theory of Change.

Capacity Strengthening

At World Learning, we believe investing in the capacity strengthening of local organizations is not just a strategic imperative; it is a transformative activity that empowers communities, fosters sustainable development, and enhances the resilience of grassroots initiatives.

For decades, World Learning has actively engaged in institutional capacity strengthening for government institutions, civil society organizations, higher education institutions, and the private sector. We provide demand-driven, targeted support to help equip our local partners to adapt to challenges, address their needs, and sustainably contribute to social and economic development.

We recognize that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to capacity strengthening. We partner with local actors, ensuring they are in the lead of defining priorities and goals, co-identifying tools to maximize the impact in their communities and countries, and articulating metrics of success. Our approaches are tailored depending on the specific needs identified and whether we work with individual organizations, networks, or systems.

Our Tools and Approaches

Organizational level: World Learning’s exclusively designed Participatory Institutional Analysis (PIA) framework guides organizations through a facilitated self-assessment where entry-level to leadership staff explore and reflect on capacity gaps across governance, operations, human resources; financial management, communications, and external relations; monitoring, evaluation, and learning; and service delivery.  Organizations use this analysis to define and prioritize needed changes, develop a concrete capacity plan, and put their plans into action. In addition to using the PIA with organizations focused on agriculture, health, advocacy, and public education, we have also adapted the PIA for higher education institutions and the private sector. With PIA, we have strengthened hundreds of institutions in countries such as Angola, Armenia, the Bahamas, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Liberia, Mozambique, Lebanon, Mexico, Laos, Indonesia, and the United States.

Network level: World Learning’s exclusively designed Local Expertise Advancing Development (LEAD) uses a strengths-based approach to match local organizations’ needs and areas of expertise. The model shifts the dependence from external facilitators to a deep recognition of local proficiency across a country or region, elevating local actors as the facilitators of knowledge exchange and encouraging stronger local networks. This leads to more sustainable development. In addition, we pay special attention to inclusion, engaging small, community-based organizations that work with individuals who might normally be marginalized or excluded, along with larger organizations that represent a diversity of voices.

Systems level: The goal of Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD) is to help complex institutions and systems improve performance by identifying and addressing fundamental causes of performance gaps. HICD recognizes that many of the biggest levers for performance improvement are often hidden behind processes, as opposed to individuals and specific competencies. Through HICD, local actors analyze structures and processes that are hindering performance and develop action plans. Resulting HICD initiatives strengthen an institution’s systems and processes, as well as its team members’ abilities to provide effective services and respond to complex challenges. Through HICD, World Learning has strengthened education and health systems in countries such as Kosovo, North Macedonia, Georgia, and Lebanon.

Youth Workforce and Entrepreneurship

Societies and economies are stronger when each person contributes to individual and community prosperity. Yet 25 percent of global youth aged 15-29 are not in education, employment, or training. And, in many places, adults are out of work simply because their skills do not match the available opportunities. Educational systems are failing them.

Youth workforce development and entrepreneurship programs build a more promising future by training youth and adults in the skills essential to the 21st century workplace, encouraging them to respond constructively to community needs and opportunities, and ultimately helping them find or create decent work. World Learning realizes that vision through our proven expertise in six core programmatic areas: career center development through our signature WorkLinks approach, STEM education, industry and professional study tours, training in hard and soft skills, civic engagement and social enterprise, and English for the workplace. As people pursue that path into the workforce, we all prosper.

Learn More about WorkLinks and the Bawsala Career Mentorship Program

WorkLinks Skills and Values Assessment (WLSVA)

WLSVA Toolkit PDF Cover

World Learning offers a validated assessment tool, the WorkLinks Skills and Values Assessment (WLSVA), to measure individual- and group-level change over time among youth and young adults in soft skills, earning skills, and certain civic values. To access this tool and use it with your own programs, please visit the WorkLinks Skills and Values Assessment(WLSVA) page.

Program Research and Reports

Read on to see how we incorporate the five signature elements of World Learning’s approach to change into our Youth Workforce and Entrepreneurship programming or check out our Theory of Change for an even more detailed look at what sets us apart.

Civic Engagement

People are their own greatest champions. World Learning believes society is stronger when people can influence the life of their communities, stand up for their fundamental rights, and hold their government accountable.

Civic engagement is most effective when it takes place within a system that encourages collaboration between government and a country’s people. In such a system: Individuals understand their rights and responsibilities. Civil society mobilizes people, advocates for progress, and works with stakeholders to implement solutions. Stakeholders form coalitions and communicate with their government to promote change. Government is responsive to constituents, while laws and policies promote freedom and access to information.

World Learning’s civic engagement programming cultivates emerging leaders and engaged youth, provides civic education and skills building, connects activists across borders, strengthens the internal performance of civil society organizations, and provides sub-grants to local groups to take direct action.

Read on to see how we incorporate the five signature elements of World Learning’s approach to change into our civic engagement programs or check out our Theory of Change for an even more detailed look at what sets us apart.

TESOL | English Teacher Training

English is increasingly vital to success in higher education and the 21st-century workplace. It is the de facto language of global business, academia, and travel. It accounts for about 85 percent of internet content and 90 percent of peer-reviewed science research journals. Simply put, English opens doors to better opportunities, new possibilities, and diverse cultures.

World Learning helps open those doors through our TESOL teacher training. We believe that when teachers are better educated and better equipped, they are better positioned to motivate and empower their students in their language learning. Our comprehensive array of programming includes intensive and customized training courses, leadership building, professional development for teachers, and educational system strengthening.

Visit our TESOL Center for a comprehensive look at TESOL programming offered by World Learning and SIT, the academic arm of World Learning.

Refugee Resettlement

It is estimated that more than 103 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide. This staggering number includes refugees, asylum seekers, and those internally displaced in their own countries—and this number is growing. Future conflicts, fragile economies, and increased natural disasters due to climate change will force even more people to flee their homes for safety, security, and prosperity for themselves and their families in a new community. In addition to humanitarian needs such as shelter, food, and healthcare, World Learning believes that access to quality education is critical to empowering refugee children, adolescents, and adults in their new environment.

World Learning has a long history of supporting refugees, going back to the 1950s when we provided English language courses and coordinated homestays for Hungarian refugees at our School for International Training (SIT) campus in southern Vermont. A few decades later, we led a consortium of organizations that delivered skills assessment, English language learning, and cultural orientation programming to more than 250,000 refugees forced to flee during the Vietnam War.

Since 2014, World Learning has been a key partner of the Ministry of Education in Lebanon through the USAID-funded Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement (QITABI) program to support Lebanon’s public school system and improve learning outcomes across literacy, numeracy, and social emotional learning, including ensuring equitable access to quality education for Syrian refugee children. And our Dirasa/School Bridging Program initiative, in partnership with UNICEF, ensures quality education for better learning outcomes for children whose schooling has been interrupted for more than two years, including Syrian refugees, host community children, and stateless children.

More recently, World Learning created the New Vermonter Education Program in partnership with the Ethiopian Community Development Council and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation to provide temporary housing on the SIT campus and English language and cultural immersion courses to refugees. In addition, World Learning leads the Supporting Higher Education in Refugee Resettlement program, which aims to bring U.S. colleges and universities more deeply into the refugee resettlement process. Through an innovative collaboration with key refugee resettlement partners, this program builds the capacity of higher education institutions to directly support refugee resettlement efforts.

In addition, School for International Training, World Learning’s academic arm, offers humanitarian assistance study abroad and graduate-level programs in Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, and other countries so students can better understand and respond to issues connected with forced displacement and refugee resettlement.