Culturally Responsive Social Emotional Learning for International Students

Professional Development for Higher Education


  • Ellen Yeh Columbia College Chicago
  • Rashmi Sharma University of West Florida
  • Monika Jaiswal-Oliver Columbia College Chicago
  • Guofang Wan Loyola University Chicago



culturally responsive teaching (CRT), CRT–SEL model, international students, mid-sized institutions of higher education (IHEs), social and emotional learning (SEL)


This qualitative study demonstrates how a culturally responsive teaching (CRT) approach builds the capacity of faculty and staff to create a social and emotional learning (SEL) environment that is conducive to success for international students. We propose a CRT–SEL model to address the increasing needs of mid-sized universities with emerging international students. The findings from 14 faculty and staff participants point to professional development strategies that can help reduce or remove barriers for working with international students. This study highlights the need to build upon the CRT and SEL tenets and align them with the existing support networks within the mid-size higher education institutions for classroom learning and off-campus activities to bolster international students’ overall success. The results also indicate the faculty and staff’s varying priorities and diverging trajectories.

Author Biographies

Ellen Yeh, Columbia College Chicago

Ellen Yeh, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in English and Creative Writing Department and serves as Director of English as an Additional Language Program at Columbia College Chicago. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in second language education from Ohio University. She also holds a TESOL Certificate and CALL Certificate. Her research interests include media literacy in teacher education, social media literacy, Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), intercultural communication, and family diversity in education. Her previous publications include articles in the CALICO Journal, the CALL Journal, and International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy collection.E-mail:

Rashmi Sharma, University of West Florida

Rashmi Sharma earned a Doctorate in Education in 2016 from Ohio University School of Educational Studies; she majored in Educational Administration. Currently, she is a Visiting Instructor at the University of West Florida teaching action research and curriculum and instructional strategies for adult learners. Her research interests include global learning, community partnership schools, and organizational change. E-mail:

Monika Jaiswal-Oliver, Columbia College Chicago

Monika Jaiswal-Oliver holds Masters in Organizational Leadership in Higher Education and M.B.A from Lewis University.  She currently serves as the Academic Manager and Adjunct faculty in Business and Entrepreneurship Department Columbia College Chicago. She works with faculty in curriculum development, strategic offering of course schedule, and evaluations and outreach of the degree programs and student retention. E-mail:

Guofang Wan, Loyola University Chicago

Guofang Wan joined Loyola University Chicago as a Professor and Chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning. Her research interests range from the education of diverse populations and media literacy education to English as a second language. She has authored and edited several books, including “The Education of Diverse Student Populations: A Global Perspective.” Among Wan’s recognitions are the Margaret B. Lindsey Award for Distinguished Research in Teacher Education from American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Fourth Annual Media Literacy Award from National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). E-mail:


Aceves, T. C., & Orosco, M. J. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching (Document No. 1C-2). University of Florida, Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform Center (CEEDAR).

Asgedom, M., & Even, J. (2017). Empowering English Learners for Classroom Success. Mawi Learning.

Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Hariharan, A. (2013). The missing piece: A national survey on how social and emotional learning can empower children and transform schools. Civic Enterprises.

Center for Teaching and Learning. (2014). International student success- 2013-2014 Annual Report, University of California, Berkeley.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL] (2013). CASEL schoolkit: A guide for implementing schoolwide academic, social, and emotional learning. Author.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL] (2017). CASEL’s widely used framework identifies five core competencies.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL] (2020). What is SEL?

Conley, C. S., Durlak, J. A., & Dickson, D. A. (2013). An evaluative review of outcome research on universal mental health promotion and prevention programs for higher education students. Journal of American College Health, 61(5), 286–301.

Conley, C. S. (2015). SEL in Higher Education. In J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice (pp. 197–212). The Guilford Press.

Conley, C. S., Durlak, J. A., & Kirsch, A. C. (2015). A meta-analysis of universal mental health prevention programs for higher education students. Prevention Science, 16(4), 487–507.

Donahue-Keegan, D.,Villegas-Reimers, E., & Cressey, J.M. (2019). Social-emotional learning and Culturally Responsive Teaching. Teacher Education Quarterly, Fall, 150–168.

Dresser, R. (2013). Integrate social-emotional learning into oral reading practices for best results. Education Digest, 79(4), 61.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1): 405–432.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, research, and practice. Teachers College Press.

Gay, G. (2002a). Culturally responsive teaching in special education for ethnically diverse students: Setting the stage. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15, 613–629.

Gay, G. (2002b). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2), 106–116.

Gay, G., & Kirkland, K. (2003). Developing cultural critical consciousness and self-reflection in preservice teacher education. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 181–187.

Glass, C. R., Kociolek, E., Wongtrirat, R., Lynch, R. J., & Cong, S. (2015). Uneven experiences: The impact of student-faculty interactions on international students’ sense of belonging. Journal of International Students, 5(4), 353–367.

Gloria, A., & Ho, T. (2003). Environmental, social, and psychological experiences of Asian American undergraduates: Examining issues of academic persistence. Journal of Counseling and Development, 81, 93–105.

Hammond, Z. L. (2014). Culturally Responsive Teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Corwin.

Hammond, Z. L. (2016). Why cultural responsiveness matters for social-emotional development: Nurturing resilience & building stamina to navigate diversity. An interactive forum.

Harrison, J. & Shi, H. (2016). English language learners in higher education: An exploratory conversation. Journal of International Students, 6(2), 415–430.

Hastings, C., & Jacob, L. (Eds.). (2016). Social justice in English language teaching. TESOL Press.

Herrera, P., & Javier, L. (2020). Social-emotional learning in TESOL: What, why, and how. Journal of English Learner Education, 10(1), 1–16.

Hollins, E. R. (1996). Culture in school learning: Revealing the deep meaning. Erlbaum.

Institute of International Education [IIE], (2019). Open doors fast facts.

Jones, S. M., Bouffard, S. M., & Weissbourd, R. (2013, May). Educators’ social and emotional skills vital to learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(8), 62–65.

Jordan, P. J., & Ashkanasy, N. M. (2006). Emotional intelligence, emotional self-awareness, and team effectiveness. In V. U. Druskat, F. Sala, & G. Mount (Eds.), Linking emotional intelligence and performance at work (pp. 145–163). Erlbaum.

Keene, B. M. (2018). Social and emotional learning (SEL). Salem Press Encyclopedia.

Ladson-­Billings, G. (1992). Reading between the lines and beyond the pages: A culturally relevant approach to literacy teaching. Theory into Practice, 31(4), 312–320.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. Jossey-Bass.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what’s it doing in a nice field like education? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 7–24.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2014). Culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0: aka the remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 74–84.

Markowitz, N.L. (November 1, 2019). Bringing a social, emotional, and cultural lens to preservice teacher education: Responding to new teacher performance expectations. Webinar by the CSU Office of the Chancellor partnered with the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child (CRTWC).

Massachusetts Consortium for Social-emotional Learning in Teacher Education [MA-SEL-TED] (2013). Social-emotional learning skills & Culturally Responsive Teaching heuristic. In SEL-TEd, cultural resiliency & equity.

Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2020). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (4th ed.). Sage.

Montgomery, K. A. (2017). Supporting Chinese undergraduate students in transition at U.S. colleges and universities. Journal of International Students,7(4), 963–989.

Paolini, A. (2019). Social emotional learning: role of the school counselor in promoting college and career readiness. Anatolian Journal of Education, 4(1), 1–12.

Paris, D., & Alim, H. S. (2014). What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 85–100.

Parker, J., Duffy, J., Wood, L., Bond, B., & Hogan, M. (2005). Academic achievement and emotional intelligence: Predicting the successful transition from high school to university. Journal of the First-Year Experience, 17(1), 1–12.

Patton, M. Q., (2014). Qualitative research & evaluation methods: Integrating theory and practice (4th ed.). Sage.

PR Newswire. (2017, November 28). “Empowering English learners for classroom success” offers first look at the power of social-emotional learning in fueling academic success. PR Newswire US.

Redden, E. (2014). Bridge or back door? Inside Higher Ed.

Robinson-Ervin, P., Cartledge, G., & Keyes, S. (2011). Culturally responsive social skills instruction for adolescent black males. Multicultural Learning and Teaching, 6, 1–16.

Saldaña, J., & Omasta, M. (2016). Qualitative research: Analyzing life. Sage.

Sciuchetti, M. B. (2017). Addressing inequity in special education: An integrated framework for culturally responsive social emotional practice. Psychology in the Schools, 54(10), 1245–1251.

Sobel, D. M., & Taylor, S. V. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogy: Teaching like our students’ lives matter. Brill.

Taylor, R., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2017). Promoting positive youth development through school-based social and emotional learning interventions: A meta-analysis of follow-up effects. Child Development, 88, 1156–1181. DOI:10.1111/ cdev.12864

TESOL International Association (2010). Standards for the recognition of initial TESOL programs in p-12 ESL teacher education. TESOL International Association.

Wang, N., Wilhite, S., Wyatt, J., Young, T., Bloemker, G., & Wilhite, E. (2012). Impact of a college freshman social and emotional learning curriculum on student learning outcomes: An exploratory study. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 9(2), 1–20.

Weissberg, R. P., & Cascarino, J. (2013). Academic learning + social-emotional learning = national priority. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(2), 8.

Wyatt, J. & Bloemker, G. (2013). Social and emotional learning in a freshman seminar. Higher Education Studies, 3(1), 106–114.



How to Cite

Yeh, E., Sharma, R., Jaiswal-Oliver, M., & Wan, G. (2021). Culturally Responsive Social Emotional Learning for International Students: Professional Development for Higher Education. Journal of International Students, 12(1), 19–41.



Research Articles (English)