What is Social Emotional Learning? 

Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, is a framework that teaches the life skills people need to understand themselves and other people. 

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

“Social emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

With social and emotional skills, students can improve in school and succeed in their work and lives.

SEL Competencies

There are five key areas of social and emotional learning:

  • Self awareness – understanding personal emotions, values, and goals
  • Self management – regulating emotions and behavior
  • Social awareness – understanding and having empathy for others
  • Relationship skills – establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with appropriate behavior
  • Responsible decision making – evaluating consequences and making good choices across different situations

Why is SEL Important?

SEL helps students thrive inside and outside the classroom by contributing to positive learning environments and promoting the skills needed to participate fully and respectfully. With social and emotional skills, students are empowered to moderate emotions and behavior. This enables them to have positive interactions with their peers. It also allows them to make the most of educational opportunities for academic achievement.

Students with socioemotional skills:

  • Do better academically
  • Show improved attitudes
  • Show decreased distress and disruptive behavior
  • Are twice as likely to earn a college degree
  • Are 50% more likely to graduate from high school and have a full time job by age 25
  • Have more friends, making them feel more connected to family, school, and community

Helping Diverse Students

SEL helps students with different backgrounds and needs cope in various situations. SEL helps students overcome obstacles to their learning. While not all students are affected by specific issues or needs, everyone goes through challenges during parts of their life and can benefit from learning skills that help them succeed during hardship. Social and emotional learning creates a safe and supportive environment that helps students identify emotions, link them to  behavior, and learn to deal with their emotions in a productive way.

Social emotional learning addresses issues of equity, making it an important part of being a trauma-informed school, supporting students with learning disabilities, and other campus goals.

Building SEL into Classrooms and Schools

Most effective SEL programs involve four elements represented by the acronym SAFE:

  • Sequenced: coordinated activities to promote skill development
  • Active: active forms of learning for students to practice and master new skills
  • Focused: emphasis on developing personal and social skills
  • Explicit: specific, defined, and targeted social and emotional skills

Social and emotional development in students involves activities that are interpersonal and student-centered, promoting student voice, autonomy, and engagement. 

  • Student-teacher interaction and support to build and model trusted relationships
  • Activities that encourage students to explore feelings, such as personal reflections and examining character motivations in literature
  • Modeling positive self-talk and growth mindset (the idea you can learn from hard work and dedication)
  • Modeling respectful disagreements in group work and discussions
  • Activities that build positive relationships and a sense of community, like advisories
  • Bullying prevention practices
  • Providing community resources and supports, like counseling

Promoting Positive School Climate Through SEL

Building social and emotional skills helps students become positive and engaged, nurturing growth and responsibility. To prevent specific campus issues such as alcohol, substance abuse, and bullying, schools can equip students with programming that not only educates, but provides the social and emotional skills for self-awareness and good decision-making.

At 3rd Millennium Classrooms, we design our online prevention and intervention courses with social and emotional learning in mind. To motivate real behavior change, our modules involve evidence-based SEL-informed practices, such as: 

  • Using reflection and evaluation – What are good and bad choices, and what outcomes did those choices have?
  • Identifying reasons and triggers – What circumstances and stressors lead to problem behavior?
  • Protective behaviors – What alternative behaviors and limit-setting can a person reasonably do to avoid repeating problem behavior?
  • Making a plan – How does a person plan to act in certain situations?
  • Personalized feedback – Each student gets tailored summaries of personal behavior, including comparing their behavior with those of their peers and estimating the risk of future problems.

By equipping students with the skills to understand, manage, and express emotions and resolve conflicts, social and emotional learning nurtures students who are sensitive, thoughtful, healthy, and connected, leading to well being and success.