What is Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (SEFEL)

What is  Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (SEFEL)?

The Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, or SEFEL, Pyramid Model is a Behavioral Support System/Intervention or PBIS. The purpose of the SEFEL is to empower early educators with the necessary tools to support social emotional competence in children ages birth through age 5. This professional development opportunity is based on a framework of evidence-based practices focused on responsive caring, cultivated learning environments, the impartation of social-emotional skills, and supporting children with challenging behavior by building and growing specific skill sets in early educators.

Tiers of The Pyramid

The Social Emotional Pyramid Model is made up of a framework of three tiers, or levels, that nurture specific skill sets. These evidence-based skill sets allow educators to engage with their students based on their individual needs. Each tier examines a specific aspect of efficient behavioral support system building, from social emotional development to individualized intervention plans. An effective workforce, or educators committed to quality, is the foundation of the pyramid model upon which the rest of the framework is built. The tiers progress from overall child/classroom well-being to targeted and more intensive services. Let’s take a closer look at each tier and what it means for classrooms and students.

Tier 1: Universal Promotion

Sitting atop the effective workforce layer is the Universal Promotion layer. The skills taught in this portion of SEFEL revolve around the need for and establishment of high quality, inclusive care in all early environments, center or homebased. The focus is on building nurturing relationships in a positive environment, both are essential to children’s social emotional development. Tier 1 looks at:

  • An educator’s attitude towards certain behaviors
  • Building relationships with students and their families
  • Exploring the classroom environment, schedules, routines and their impact on behaviors
  • The importance of continued positive encouragement

Tier 2: Secondary Prevention

Next is Secondary Prevention. In this level, class attendees are given targeted supports for children who exhibit challenging behaviors. Usually this represents 5 to 15% of children in an early learning environment. These supports may be focused on teaching students how to understand their emotions and promote self-regulation and problem-solving skills. When children can tap into their new understanding and new skillset to build relationships, they are more likely to experience success in the classroom. Tier 2 looks at cultivating relationships in the classroom by:

  • Focusing on friendship skills
  • Developing emotional literacy and emotional regulation
  • Creating problem solving and conflict resolution skills

Tier Three: Tertiary Intervention

At the top of the pyramid framework are practices for individualized, intensive interventions that may be needed for approximately 1 to 10% of children in an early learning environment. Here, educators learn how to create a behavior support plan to address persistent challenging behaviors. This plan can be utilized in and out of the classroom to promote positive growth and development

The Benefits of SEFEL

Research has shown that children who are enrolled in early environments that implement the SEFEL Pyramid Model skills exhibit less problem behavior and stronger social skills. Educators who have received professional development supports to implement behavioral support systems and interventions are readily able to create a positive environment for their students. One that emphasizes the importance of relationship building to social emotional development.

How Does Quality Start Utilize SEFEL?

QSSB uses the Pyramid Model SEFEL training to equip early educators with the strategies and tools they need to best support the children in their classroom or their family child care, all of which is relevant to the QSSB rating system. Information and skills to address challenging behavior is one of the most frequently requested trainings and SEFEL offers the knowledge and techniques to address those concerns. SEFEL courses are typically offered twice a year, in the spring and fall, for all site types.


You can learn more about the SEFEL model here.

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