Social-emotional learning, or SEL, is a concept that educators and administrators have been aware of for years. But what does this learning concept mean, and why is it so important for a child’s development throughout their education? We’ll get into the details here and provide scientific evidence that SEL is a valuable psychological process for teachers to incorporate into their core subject matter.
What is social-emotional learning?
If someone is in the education system or industry, they have probably heard the term “SEL,” even just in passing. Most states have their own definition of what it is, but the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as:
“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
Contrary to what some may think upon hearing the definition of SEL, the concept is more than just encouraging and teaching students how to be more emotionally aware. The education strategy incorporates psychological science to help teachers apply SEL instruction correctly in the classroom. CASEL has broken down five basic frameworks–anchored in evidence-based methodology–for teaching SEL concepts to students, known as the core competencies. Let’s take a look:
This component of social-emotional learning asks learners to turn inward and better understand their own emotions, thoughts, and actions. Teachers can urge students to connect their values and internal dialogue with behavior. Self-awareness and SEL skills are valuable tools for developing children to understand how to express themselves respectfully and appropriately.
2. Self Management
Self-management goes hand in hand with self-awareness, encouraging a child to manage their emotions and behaviors in accordance with the context of the situation. For example, you can be angry or upset without being disrespectful. In addition, this component teaches students how to achieve their goals through organization, time management, and planning skills.
3. Social Awareness
A valuable tool for anyone, social awareness helps students grasp the perspectives of people with different backgrounds and life experiences. It encourages learners to empathize with others who don’t share the same culture and promotes social responsibility.
4. Relationship Skills
SEL practices offer a way for teachers to incorporate relationship skills into everyday classroom activities. This includes things like communicating effectively with others and practicing problem-solving collaboration. Supportive relationships and communities are extremely beneficial for children and will continue to be essential for them into adulthood.
5. Responsible Decision Making
Making choices in a constructive manner is a skill that is advantageous for everybody, but K-12 education is an important place to begin their development. Students can think about the consequences of their actions in a low-stakes environment. Educators can encourage learners to make reasonable decisions based on realistic information.
Benefits of SEL
Social-emotional learning holds many benefits for students, regardless of their age or progress in education. The importance of social skills has real-world implications and can guide the learner in a positive direction, even long after they leave education.
There are provable advantages to the brain development of a young student who engages in SEL. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “social context, interpersonal relations, and emotional well-being” are essential to student learning. The APA has developed 20 important psychology concepts to use in education, three of which intersect with SEL:
- Principle 7: “Self-regulation assists learning, and self-regulatory skills can be taught.”
- Principle 14: “Interpersonal relationships and communication are critical to both the teaching and learning process and the social-emotional development of students.”
- Principle 15: Emotional well-being influences educational performance, learning, and development.”
Impact on student learning
Using SEL as a foundation for academic learning can create a positive environment for students of all ages to grow and thrive. CASEL recommends using a developmental lens to create age-appropriate ways to foster and assess SEL competencies. When learners are able to come to school and interact in the classroom, the outcome typically has a positive impact on academic performance and achievement.
How do you teach social-emotional learning?
Incorporating SEL into already existing classroom activities and curriculum may seem challenging at first to some educators, but it’s important to integrate these skills into schooling. Because it’s not a separate subject, SEL often has to be integrated into the already existing curriculum in a classroom. However, each educator or school district may take a different approach to teaching SEL concepts, depending on what works best for their situation.
For example, it works better in some classrooms to have a dedicated portion of the day to learn more about self-awareness and empathy. Again the strategy should keep in mind what developmental stage the students are in and adjust accordingly.
On the other hand, it could be more effective and efficient to include SEL in already existing lessons throughout the school day. For example, there is an opportunity to teach social and emotional skills when a student is experiencing frustration with a particular assignment or if there is an interpersonal conflict with a classmate.
Important considerations for social-emotional learning
Demographics, class sizes, and capacity vary drastically across the nation; the same SEL methods aren’t going to work the same everywhere. This means that the teaching methods that work for one teacher may not apply to another, which is why it’s so important that unique SEL strategies are created depending on the requirements of the individual classroom.
If this seems overwhelming, take a step back and realize that there are external resources that can guide an SEL-focused lesson plan. For example, a school that has more disadvantaged students might need more support than a school in a high-income area. A study published in Frontiers in Education reports that SEL programs only work if the educators understand the “intersectionality of different forms of deprivation that students might experience related to their individual and background characteristics.”
Because of this, the development of the SEL programs needs to incorporate students, teachers, and parents who understand the different socio-economic backgrounds present in the school. In addition, a good SEL program will also train the educators correctly for sustainable SEL implementation. An investment in training teachers will go a long way in creating a supportive learning environment for both educators and students.
Do you provide resources to help boost the SEL curriculum in school districts or classrooms? Agile Education Marketing helps clients understand the current need in education for SEL solutions. Ready to get started? Reach out to our team today to inquire more.