About Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, is a critical movement sweeping across the nation. SEL is changing the way schools approach education by taking into consideration the whole child. It is also geared to encourage and support the way parents raise their kids and prepare them for learning. So, what is this movement, and why does it matter to you?

What is SEL?

According to the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, is defined as:

“…the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attributes, 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.”

Ultimately, SEL is the process through which we develop the skills to manage our own emotions and recognize the emotions of others. This increase in awareness is what leads us to:

  • Understand socially acceptable behaviors
  • Develop empathy for others
  • Control urges and impulses.

The SEL Framework

According to CASEL, the framework of social and emotional learning consists of five core competencies, or areas of focus, that contribute to the overall development of SEL. Development in these areas help children and adults to embody social and emotional learning and learn to recognize and control their emotions, learn empathy for others, and control urges and impulses.

  1. Self Awareness – The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.
  2. Self Management – The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.
  3. Social Awareness – The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
  4. Relationship Skills – The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating with others, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.
  5. Responsible Decision Making – The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety cockers, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well-being of self and others.

So what?

Social and emotional learning has many short and long-term benefits for individuals and society as a whole, including a sharp decrease in the school-to-prison pipeline. CASEL describes some of the benefits of SEL instruction as:

  • Better Academic Performance – achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction
  • Improved Attitudes and behaviors – greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior
  • Reduction in Negative Behaviors – decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals
  • Increased Emotional Stability – CASEL has reported that students have experienced “fewer reports of depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.”

As SEL instruction becomes commonplace within our education systems, the lives of our students will be improved, our education system refined, and our communities strengthened.


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